When it comes to motojournalists, Jim Reynolds is one of the profession’s senior statesmen. A long-time contributor to the U.K.’s Motor Cycle News covering drag racing and later writing about classic bikes for Classic Bike Guide, Reynolds has ridden and written about some of the greatest and many of the not-so-great bikes of the last several decades.
If anyone would be able to recognize the best of the post-war British makes and models, it would be Reynolds.
“Best of British Bikes” by Reynolds was published in 1990, so it may be something of a challenge to locate a copy, but for the classic motorcycle enthusiast, it’s worth it.
But Reynolds doesn’t rely entirely on his own knowledge; rather, he taps into the experience of owners of many of the machines. In addition to the street view offered by owners, the book includes highlights of racing events for some of the models included.
The book is organized alphabetically in nice bite-sized four-page chapters devoted to each make/model covered, with 18 brands in all and multiple models covered for nine of them. The lavish use of black and white photos give the book itself a vintage feel.
The makes that were from larger manufacturers (and which tended to have larger export numbers to North America and the Commonwealth) are covered in most depth: Triumph, Norton, BSA and Royal Enfield. But less common brands outside the U.K. are represented, as well, such as AJS, AMC, Ariel, Birmingham Scotts, Dot, Douglas, Francis Barnett, Greeves, James, Panther, Sunbeam, Vincent and Velocette.
The sheer depth of history the British motorcycle industry has is shown in the background information Reynolds provides on some of the manufacturers. For example, Scott built its first motorcycle in 1902; Dot Motors started building motorcycles in Manchester in 1903—the same year Harley-Davidson was launched in Milwaukee. Norton kicked off in 1908, Birmingham Small Arms Co., makers of the BSA produced its first motorcycle in 1911.
Reynolds finds space in the narrative to explore some of the key events in British motorcycle history and to cover some of the remarkable machines that made it all happen. From rugged Norton side-valve singles built for the British military in WWII, to the radical Ariel Square Four designed by Edward Turner and the world motorcycle land speed record smashing Vincent V-twins, Best of British Bikes tells the story of the rise and fall of the British motorcycle industry, its many achievements and great stories of individual owners and their machines.
Title: Best of British Bikes
Author: Jim Reynolds
Published: 1990 (1st edition)
Publisher: Patrick Stephens Limited, Thorsons Publishing Group, Wellingborough, Northhamptonshire, NN8 2RQ, England