This book is an unbeatable resource for tracing the history of motorcycle and scooter brands and models. Over 1000 are photographically illustrated with notes, and a directory covers every known motorcycle brand and model, listed alphabetically under country of origin. Whether your interest is in classic models, racing motorcycles, or stylish new machines, you will find them all here.
"Before the automobile there was the motorcycle. And even after . . . the motorcycle put the world on wheels." Automobiles were made for the rich until Henry Ford came along. For everyone else, the motorcycle was the thing.
The first part of the book features wonderful photographs (always a side view, and sometimes front and back as well; for racing machines there are usually racing views; and mechanical views where innovations occur) along with brief descriptions of the manufacturer and model. Here are some of the motorcycles featured: Adler MB200; AJS Model D; Aprilia RSV 250; Ardie TM500; Ariel Square-Four; Armstrong MT 500; Ascott-Pullin 500cc; and Autoped (a motorized child's scooter) -- and those are just in the A's.
Motorcycles with two pages of coverage include the Bimota TESI 1D; BMW R32; Harley-Davidson JD28; Henderson; Hilderbrand & Wolfmuller; Honda CB750; Indian Scout; Kawasaki ZZ-R 1100; Norton Manx; and Triumph Speed Twin.
My favorite profile was of a reconstruction of the original Daimer Einspur, the first motorcycle.
Other motorcycles that received one page of coverage included: ABC, Ace, Adler MB200, Ariel Square-Four, BMW Rennsport, BMW R1100GS, Brough Superior Dream, BSA Bantam, BSA Gold Star DBD34, Buell S2-Thunderbolt, DKW SS250, Excelsior Auto-Cycle Model K, Honda 50 Super Cub, Indian Single, Kawasaki Z1, Laverda Jota, Megola Racing Model, MV Agusta 350 GP, MZ RE125, Ner-a-Car Model C, NSU Kompressor, Pope, Rokon Trail-Breaker, Scott 3 3/4, Sunbeam Model 90, Suzuki GT 750, Triumph 3TA, Vespa 150, Vincent-HRD Series C Black Shadow, and Werner.
Just to show you the kind of detail available to you, let me share the one-quarter page listing for the Zundapp GS125. This machine had a capacity of 124cc, and power output of 18bhp@7,900 rpm. It weighed 100 kg, and the estimated top speed was 65 mph. "The letters GS stand for Gelande Sport -- Gelande meaning 'terrains.'" This bike was a favorite in Enduro-type events in the U.S. in the 1970s. This machine had good off-road capabilities with fair speed when necessary, in a form that was legal for on the road as well. Enhanced versions of the 1972 bike photographed "won the world 125cc Motocross Championship in 1973 and 1974." The photograph notes that the Zundapp engine was also sold to other manufacturers, and points out the high-level exhaust system and the head lights.
The directory is a real treasure trove of information. Did you know that Bulgaria, Ireland, Israel, Romania, South Africa, and South Korea have each had one motorcycle brand?
Here is a listing for an early U.K. bike: "Silva 1919-20 Early scooter with front-wheel drive provided by a 118 cc atmospheric-inlet-valve Wall Auto Wheel." Also, if a designer left one manufacturer for another, that is noted. So you can see the development of one person's work, as well as that of a firm.
Clearly, a limitation of any work like this one is the availability of models to photograph. Mr. Wilson was fortunate to have the assistance of The Motorcycle Heritage Museum in Westerville, Ohio for this purpose. But you may be disappointed because your favorite model is not here. That is an unavoidable weakness. You don't see all the old automobile models when you visit the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village either.
I am very impressed with what has been accomplished in this book. It is hard to imagine doing more in a volume of this size, and at this price level. I encourage you to give the book to your friends who love motorcycles.
After you have finished enjoying the book for the first of many times, I suggest that you review the development of motorcycles. Has your own riding taken advantage of all of those advances? Perhaps you need more than one motorcycle so you can engage in a fuller range of activities. Here's a good place to start thinking about what your next motorcycle will be.
If you love Harley-Davidsons, I also recommend Mr. Wilson's outstanding book, The Ultimate Harley-Davidson.
Enjoy the freedom of the open road!