Speed – the one genuinely modern pleasure

While the title suggests that the subject revolves around recent times, Mat Oxley’s book is focused on the challenges facing speed freaks and petrolheads around a century ago (and earlier), with the very first record-breakers playing a large part in the content.

Written in Oxley’s usual easy-going and enjoyable prose, it contains a fascinating insight into normal life of the early 20th century, as well as shining a light on those peculiar folk who chose to take a highly-tuned motorcycle and throw it through the scenery.

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In doing so, it fully details the early days of motorcycling speed, when racing wasn’t allowed on the roads of Great Britain, and the headlines were made by fellows on radical machinery circumnavigating the concrete bowl of Brooklands and the rugged roads of the Isle of Man TT.

There’s also some fascinating detail on the ‘murderdromes’ of the United States, the board track races that lasted barely a decade, but that whipped up the American media into a frenzy with the “hair-raising fight for blood and supremacy between riders”, as the Los Angeles Herald screamed.

The search for speed couldn’t be more different on either side of the Atlantic, with not only the circuitous shenanigans at Brooklands, but also record attempts on public roads in France and Hungary, yet despite this various racers competed on both sides, and in the famous Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races and in top speed events.

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Much of this was for manufacturers’ bragging rights – certainly the reason why Jake De Rosier brought his Indian to the TT – but a surprising amount was by private individuals eager for fame and a healthy dose of adrenalin.

The book also contains some truly astounding imagery with pictures from the Mortons Archive, and from private collections around the globe, with some astounding images of the likes of D H Lawrence, Bert Le Vack, George Brough and Owen Baldwin – with Oxley’s impeccable journalism bringing plenty of personal detail that goes beyond the sensationalism and scandal that we’ve become used to with mainstream media.

A truly fascinating and inspirational read for anyone with any interest in vintage and veteran machinery – it covering the period up to the political events leading to the Second World War – or for anyone with a penchant for speed, for that matter, it costs £25 and is available from Mat himself atwww.matoxley.bigcartel.com

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