Motorcycle Types Motorcycle Apprentice: Matchless in Name and Reputation | Rider's Library Review

Motorcycle Apprentice: Matchless in Name and Reputation | Rider’s Library Review

Motorcycle Apprentice: Matchless in Name and Reputation Review

Motorcycle Apprentice: Matchless in Name and Reputation | Rider's Library Review
Motorcycle Apprentice: Matchless in Name and Reputation

Most books about classic motorcycles provide a great deal of insight into the performance and technical details about the bikes themselves. These books are loaded with images of the bikes themselves, and perhaps some action shots.

Bill Cakebread’s book, “Motorcycle Apprentice: Matchless in Name and Reputation” is unlike any we’ve seen—and we’ve seen quite a few considering the length of our Rider’s Library. Cakebread takes the reader inside the factory where AMC (Associated Motor Cycles Ltd.) built Matchless, AJS, Sunbeam (1938-43) and Norton motorcycles.

Smitten with motorcycles at a very young age, Cakebread joined AMC as an apprentice in the factory in 1958. With remarkable detail, he recalls his five years learning nearly every aspect of the manufacturing operation. It is this very rare insight that provides a detailed understanding of how some of the classic British motorcycles were built in what was considered by many the golden age of the British motorcycle industry.

Cakebread describes operations in each of the factory departments backed up with detailed images of the machine tools in use and even includes factory layout diagrams for each of the Plumstead factory’s four floors and roof-top shops. He includes a brief history of the company from its earliest days in the 19th Century when it started out manufacturing Matchless bicycles.

“Motorcycle Apprentice” includes fascinating insight into life in London in those days, as well. Working families didn’t have a lavish lifestyle and a motorcycle with (or without) a sidecar was often the family mode of year-round transportation when the cost of automobile ownership was out of reach.

Despite the low wages of an apprentice and some very difficult challenges in the workplace, Cakebread forged ahead completed his apprenticeship and advanced his skills to the level where he won great respect and a place in the AMC Design Office, working under Horace Watson and Charles Udall. During that time, Cakebread worked on the still-born Norton P10 800/850cc DOHC twin and watched as AMC slipped toward its end. By 1966, Cakebread had moved on.

This remarkable book affords insight into the life and times of the people who built those classic Matchless, AJS, and Norton motorcycles that now capture the imagination of vintage motorcycle enthusiasts, as well some rare technical background on the bikes themselves and how they were built.

Motorcycle Apprentice: Matchless in Name and Reputation
From Motorcycle Apprentice

Book Data:

  • Title: Motorcycle Apprentice
  • Author: Bill Cakebread
  • Published: 2008 and 2016 Paperback. 128 pages. Measures 8.2” x 9.75.” 102 color and B/W images.
  • Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England. Distributed in North America by Quarto Publishing Group, USA. Contact Quarto via e-mail at:, by phone: 1-612-344-8100 and online at:
  • ISBN: 978-1-787110-49-6 MSRP: U.S. $35.95; U.K. £19.99; CAN $46.95

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