Rider’s Library: British Motorcycles 1945-1965
Suppose for a moment you are at a large farm auction here in the U.S. and from under a dusty tarp emerges a motorcycle quite unlike anything you have ever seen.
It is clearly decades old, yet futuristic, like something out of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, streamlined, art-deco—smallish and shrouded in mystery. It gathers a crowd and speculation as to its make, model and origins runs wild, with guesses ranging from a one-off, hand-built prototype like the Traub to an ultra-rare Italian job of some long-forgotten brand.
Even the sellers really didn’t know exactly what it is or where it came from—only that grandpa hauled it home from overseas when got out of the Navy in the mid-fifties.
If you were one of the fortunate motorcycle aficionados who really knows your stuff because you own a copy of Rinsey Mills’ new book, British Motorcycles 1945-1965 from Aberdale to Wooler, you would know exactly what it is.
You would immediately recognize that whimsical machine as a 1950 Bond Minibyke manufactured by the Bond Aircraft and Engineering Company, Ltd., of the U.K.
The Bond Minibyke is but one of hundreds of motorcycle models and marques that Mills covers in his monumental work on British motorcycles from that golden age of motorcycling when Britain’s motorcycles ruled the pavement as surely as its ships had once ruled the waves.
His 600-page book covers 36 British brands that includes the well-known names like Ariel, BSA, Matchless, Norton, Royal Enfield, Triumph, Velocette and Vincent. But, even more interesting than those are the much-less known, long-extinct marques like Aberdale, BAC, DMW, FLM, Norman, OEC, Tandon and others.
Mills not only covers those brands with period illustrations, advertising, photography, technical detail and loads of fascinating background on the people that built them and companies themselves, he provides some very pithy—and often humorous—comments on the strengths and weaknesses of those various and sometimes very quirky machines. For example, on the Bond Minibyke, he had some choice thoughts:
“Poor John Ellis, landing himself with this contraption—even in this improved format. His desire to become a motorcycle manufacturer must have temporarily deprived him of all reason, or maybe Mr. Bond was simply a very smooth talker, as the Minibyke must surely be a strong contender for, if not the winner of, the Beastliest 1950s British Motorcycle Award. I’m not at all sure that one of these was ever submitted for a full road test but I cannot imagine that its designer’s initial claims of 50 mph and 200 mpg would have been realized. Still, they were finished in an attractive shade of blue.”
I don’t know—personally, I think the thing is kind of cool in a Bat Cycle kinda way. I think if I ever saw one at said farm auction, I’d probably bid on it—though not too high.
British Motorcycles 1945-1965 from Aberdale to Wooler, by Rinsey Mills is an absolute must for any serious collector or fan of the British brands, but it is also terrifically entertaining and informative reading for any motorcycle enthusiast, history buff, student of industrial or product design or fan of the bikes of that golden age for the Brit bikes between 1945 and 1965.
- Title: British Motorcycles 1945-1965 from Aberdale to Wooler
- Author: Rinsey Mills
- Published: 2018 Hardcover. 600 pages. Measures 8.0” x 10.75.” 1500 images.
- Publisher: Herridge & Sons, Ltd., Lower Forda, Shebbear, Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5SY, U.K.
- ISBN: 978-1-906133-61-0
- MSRP: U.S. $90 U.K. £60 CAN $110