Let’s be honest, who hasn’t ever had a dream about winning a world championship race or an Isle of Man TT or Manx TT race? For most us, that is just a dream that remains so. Maybe the odd track day suffices to curb any desires beyond the bedroom — and makes you realise that you might not have what it takes, either in ability and or dedication!
Reading the plethora of autobiographies on the top riders and well-known names, very few give a real insight on how to start racing / what is required in time and money, preferring to concentrate on their time at the top with works machinery, which, to be fair, is probably what most people want to hear about.
Some enthusiasts though may have seen the recent interest in racing vintage and classic motorcycles as a way to have fun and take their desires to the next level at an affordable (and less competitive?) level, but there are no books to tell you what is required, or how it will affect you and take hold of your life.
Many books have been written about the classic bikes themselves, but none written about what it takes to do a season or two with classic machines ranging from British through to Italian and Japanese machines until now.
Andy Reynolds’ excellent softback book under the Veloce imprint lays it out in a brutally honest style that makes your realise exactly what you need to do to achieve your own personal goals and the support and sacrifices you need from family and friends and just how competitive it is!
In 240 pages he details all aspects of racing (especially human and mechanical), highlighting both the successes and the dangers — physical and financial — associated with motorcycle racing. In addition, he writes about the dedication needed in race preparation (both mechanical and physical) and takes an honest look at the financial sacrifices necessary to compete in the world of classic racing.
The promotional literature says it is about a man “who was fortunate enough to ride the best classic machines between 1976 & 2016 at the highest level, and on some of the best-known courses in the world.” Whilst factually true, when you read through his tale, he got the bikes and the rides through his own dedication, meticulous preparation, personal (and family) financial sacrifices, hardships, and building a network of friends, not mention a good helping of riding ability – he made his own fortune!
Born in West London, he started his working career in engineering and was something of rocker — like many others collecting a few points on his driving licence.
In the mid-seventies all that changed when he joined Hertfordshire Constabulary, moving into the Traffic section and riding police bikes, then later as a Scenes of Crime Officer. With some support from the force he went onto pursue his racing aspirations, riding at both real road and race-track circuits all over the UK and Europe including his beloved Isle of Man.
It was on the Mountain Course that he eventually achieved two of his ambitions: that of lapping the TT course at over 100mph during practice for the 2008 Senior Classic Manx Grand Prix, and finishing on the winners rostrum — thanks to a well-deserved 3rd in the 2009 Senior Classic MGP against some very big names with some heavy sponsorship.
Andy was well known for his machine preparation which brought the reliability that enabled him to finish in all but five of the 39 Isle of Man races that he entered, and it was this that encouraged others to sponsor him with some top flight machinery. It is an impressive list which includes Aermacchi, Seeley AJS and Matchless, Petty Norton, Manx Norton, BMW, Velocette, Paton, Honda K4, and Norton — JAP. Now having retired, he has restored a Yamaha TZ race bike and is sponsoring other riders whilst acting as a Scrutineer at race meetings — including the Isle of Man.
As one might expect given his police background, the text is factual and not flowery; he details his career on two wheels in 24 chapters — in the same meticulous manner he prepared the bikes — which include his times in the VMCC, Velocette Owners Clubs, the CRMC, and the Federation of British Police Motor Clubs. The factual aspect makes you realise that it is certainly one written with an amazing humility and modesty. Like all the greats, Andy Reynolds was just pursuing his own goals in a decent and professional manner and making a lot of friends along the way as result!
Whilst the chapter titles will allow you to go to specific bikes and his time with them, you do need to read this book from start to finish, it is not one to skip chapters if you want the whole fascinating story.
It is story that anybody who wants to use an old classic racer, or fancies — for example — turning an old Honda 350 road bike into a competitive race bike, should read before embarking down the slippery financial slope. Or for that matter, anybody who wants more than a track-day outing — there are no cheap solutions if you are even half serious about competing!
Certainly, it is one of the best books ever written about racing at grass roots level and something of bargain at £15.99.
Available from all good bookshops or direct from the publishers Veloce.
Author of this review: Ian Kerr MBE
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