Racing Classic Motorcycles: First You Have to Finish by Andy Reynolds [Review]

Andy Reynolds racing classic motorcycles

Author Andy Reynolds’ new book, Racing Classic Motorcycles: First You Have to Finish, is about a man livin’ the classic motorcycle racing dream—with some doses of the racing nightmare thrown in.

The range and number of motorcycles Reynolds, owned, rode, raced, built, re-built, repaired, modified in his career as a part-time racer boggles the mind. In reading his book, now part of our Rider’s Library, I lost track of how many there were before the halfway point!

The marques included in that range were Velocette, Matchless, Seely G50, Vincent, Ansel-JAP, Norton, Honda, Yamaha, Paton, Triumph, BMW and probably some others I’ve missed in my list. This incredible line-up was made possible, in part by the fact that Reynolds didn’t out-right own all of them; he co-owned some and campaigned others for sponsors.

Racing Classic Motorcycles: First You Have to Finish by Andy Reynolds [Review]

Reynolds also had the opportunity to campaign great bikes on some of the greatest racing venues in the world; Brands Hatch, Cadwell Park, the Isle of Man, Goodwood, Oulton Park, Mallory Park, Snetterton, Assen, Montlhery, and many others. He also gave automobile racing a shot, observed trials, sprinting (aka drag racing in the U.S.), and grasstrack. Nothing quickened his pulse like classic bikes on the pavement, though and that’s where most of his remarkable story lies.

Racing and motorcycling are not all fun and games; they are serious and at times deadly undertakings. Reynolds’ book is not only one about the great good times he had with family, friends, teammates, and competitors but of crashes, injuries, and of the tragedies that can go along with it on and off the track.

Indeed, Reynolds relates the loss of a friend who died not of his non-racing injuries sustained in a crash on public roads, but of a serious medical care error by way of an endotracheal tube—a breathing tube—being placed in his friend’s esophagus instead of his trachea. The error occurred during surgery to repair his injured knee. The error was discovered too late and his friend suffered irreversible brain damage due to lack of oxygen, leading ultimately to his death.

After nearly 40 years in the saddle of nearly every type of race bike you can imagine, Reynolds’ own body called a halt to his racing and riding days. In 2017, a deep vein thrombosis—a blood clot—developed in his left leg and small clots in his right lung. With treatment, those problems resolved, but his doctor said racing—and even riding—motorcycles must end since preventive treatment for blood clots is the permanent use of anticoagulants. Any injury, including a closed head injury, that results in bleeding could be catastrophic.

Reynolds kept his chin up and maintained his connection with the racing scene by applying his hard-earned knowledge of classic race bike preparation to the role of being a scrutineer for pre-race inspections.

Racing Classic Motorcycles-First You Have to Finish is a true-to-life story told with humor, clarity, and passion. Reynolds is relatable to everyone who rides and is inspirational to anyone who longs to give racing of about any type a try.

Book data:

  • Title: Racing Classic Motorcycles—First You Have to Finish
  • Author: Andy Reynolds
  • Published: 2020 hardcover, 240 pages, 54 color and black & white images, page size 6.0” x 8.25.”
  • Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England (
  • Veloce Publications are distributed in North America by: Quarto Publishing Group, 400 First Ave. North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401. Books can be ordered by e-mail at: or call: 1-612-344-8100. See:
  • ISBN: 978-1-787114-81-4
  • MSRP: U.S. $25; U.K. £15.99; $32 CAN