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19th March 2004

The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle by Hugo Wilson

Buy a copy from Amazon Like any RealClassic reader, from time to time you will have a question. Or indeed be asked a question and think to yourself 'I have no idea, wonder where I can find an answer to that?' If so, your first port of call should be the rather less than humbly titled 'The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle' by Hugo Wilson. A bold title, but does it live up to the name? I opened the pages and found out.

First thing you see is a photo of an Indian Scout, which if you are like me a fan of the marque, gets the experience off to a good start! But what about the rest of the book?

From Yamaha to ZundappThe book is split into two sections: the Photo Gallery and the Reference Section. The former is filled with stunning photographs by Dave King (oh for a modicum of his talent) and deals with a selection of models from major (and sometimes not so major) marques from all over the world. This section runs in alphabetical manufacturer order, making it easy enough to track down your chosen subject. Wilson provides a short introduction of each manufacturer covered in this section, then follows up with a short model history for each bike photographed.

I would recommend taking two goes at this section - first time, just look at the pictures (they are worth the price on their own). Then have a second, in depth run through, taking on board Wilson's words. The amount of information he manages to include within a couple of paragraphs is amazing. You will find little gems that you would miss on a less involved read. Dragging the book out to write this review today I noticed how Royal Enfields were sent to the US, rebadged and rebranded then sold
as Indians during the 1950s - an unintended irony!An Indian for Bob

You have to suspect that choosing certain models over others was down to availability of bikes to be snapped at times, but by and large the selection for each marque is a reasonable choice.

While the photo section can be taken as a 'quick flick' or a more in-depth study, the reference section requires strong coffee and time to shut yourself away in the shed and settling down for a good long read. Nothing less would do Hugo Wilson's hard work justice. He has researched the history of over 3000 marques, sorted into country of origin (no wonder they gave him the job of Editor of the World's No 1 Classic Bike magazine... TP) (Oi! I'll not have a word said against a man with a Moto Morini 3 and a baldy head... RealMart).

The space and detail devoted to each marque depends on their lifespan obviously, but if a manufacturer has a long and varied history, Bridgestone to Brough Superior it will be here, with major changes or developments detailed and dated. Wilson has also ensured that where the same name has been used, if it is a separate company, each one is dealt with separately. Likewise, manufacturers with a chequered history of boom, bust and relaunch will have their story told as one company.

Finally, as if all of the above was not enough, a glossary of motorcycle terms (wonderful for both the anorak and the mechanical ignoramus) and a page of contact details for a number of the major current manufacturers rounds off the vast and impressive body of information.

So does 'The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle' (odd, I always thought it should be spelled encyclopaedia? Perhaps the only mistake in the book?) live up to the title? Yes it does. There are books out there that deal with a smaller part of the subject in greater depth certainly, but this book contains a wealth of information that only an expert
writer and researcher could have compiled.

If you can only have one motorcycle book, have this one? From a relaxing flick through some beautiful photographs, to finding out yet another little snippet to bore your pals in the pub to providing the base for more detailed reading or research of your own, this book does it all.

Bob Pickett

The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle by Hugo Wilson

  • Published by Dorling Kindersley (I think. TP) ISBN 0789401509
    Buy a copy from Amazon

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