Sunday, December 1, 2013

Anthology of Motorcycle Travel Literature

I stumbled upon this book whilst killing some time bumbling around the 'net. It seemed like it might not be in print any more and I saw that there was a copy being offered on Amazon for £80. I'd never come across Lulu press before but I clicked through and discovered a rather wonderful print on demand service. You choose your book, pay for it, they print it out and it is with you about a week later.

The Anthology of Motorcycle Travel Literature provided excellent reading matter on a country cottage holiday with no tv and no internet. There are three early motorcycle travelogues within the anthology, each of which is virtually unobtainable in original copy (though since first publication there have been a couple of reprints of Adventures of a Despatch Rider).

The first reproduced story is that of Captain W H LWatson and his 'Adventures of a Despatch Rider' from 1915. The book tells his story from signing up to battle weary veteran. It's got to be said that it gives the impression that DRs were from the privileged classes. He makes the decision to join up before conscription and decides that despatch riding is a good bet so pops in to a shop and picks up a new bike (a Blackburne which he thoroughly endorses) and rides along to sign up. The picture painted is of educated young men enjoying great adventure, suffering great hardship, displaying heroism and being fortunate enough to be away from frontline combat. It's a fascinating and well written book depicting life in French and Belgian towns and villages as they are thrown into the maelstrom of war.

Lady Warren travels as sidecar ballast in a Dunhill sidecar attached to a 1918 Triumph around Algeria and Tunisia. Interestingly she finds many places she goes already touristed, after all, at the time they were French colonies and only a hop across the water from France. The roads she encounters are in general good repair though not so good that there isn't considerable damage to the Triumph in the course of the journey. Of the three books, Lady Warren's is possibly the most 'of its time'. Her preoccupation with finding a hotel with full bathtub facilities is mildly wearying but her prose and humour keeps you reading on.

The last travelogue in the trio is CK Shepherd's 'Across America by Motorcycle'. He is a war veteran seeking adventure who travels across to the States in 1919, buys a motorcycle and rides across America. The machine he buys is a Henderson. Slightly disappointingly to me, as a Henderson is on the list of dream machines, the bike turns out to be a barrel of woes breaking down on a regular basis and with shyster dealers keen to scam and shrug off warranty claims! Though Shepherd must have been well off he travels on a shoestring and often sleeps at the side of the road. The roads of the day in the States seem to have been truly appalling and the motorcyclist seen as a second class citizen.

As if the fine content is not enough the cherry on top is that the Anthology is in aid of charity - Riders for Health. More details here:

Andy you can buy it here (it would make a great Christmas present):

No comments:

Post a Comment