Step back about three decades and Australia could have been accused of being one of the worst countries in the western world when it came to recording and appreciating its motorcycling history.
If you had the misfortune to be researching a historical piece, there really was a dearth of decent material outside the usual magazines focused on the here and now plus a few dusty collections of brochures and race programs.
The situation has changed for the better and motorcycle-racer-turned-author Jim Scaysbrook has been a major contributor. He has penned a couple of broad-ranging histories of riding in this country, plus several race-focused titles such as a history of the legendary Castrol Six-Hour production race. This time around he’s turned the focus on his own life which, by all appearances, still has several laps to run.
Scaysbrook is one of those riders a lot of people in the sport have heard of, or even tripped over, though he has yet to gain the household-name status of the Gardners, Doohans and Stoners of this world, despite enjoying a highly successful career. Which sort of begs the question: why would you read an autobiography of someone you may or may not have heard of? There are a couple of very good reasons.
One is he has literally been there, done that, eaten the breakfast cereal and worn the T-shirt. From most kinds of leisure riding and competition, through punting an endurance racer at the Isle of Man to competing in an AMA motocross event in the US, he’s had a go at most things motorcycling.
Another is that he brings to life the experiences of a whole post-war (WWII) baby-boom generation. The story starts in Sydney in the 1950s and runs through the gamut of contracting polio, recovering, wrestling with the possibility of being called up for Vietnam, rubbing shoulders with many of the track legends of our time, through to getting into motorcycle publishing. All this is seen through the rare prism of being part of a second generation of deeply ingrained bike nuts.
For me, a real highlight is the photography. Rather than just being something to stop the words banging together, the images add a real sense of personality to the story – particularly the 1950s to ’70s material. Meanwhile, the text is amiable and written with good humour.
You can get a preview online at AlongForTheRide.com.au
and can buy it for $59, including shipping. The format is an A4 hardbound, coffee-table style, published by Independent Observations, numbering 268 pages. That’s very solid value for money.
PRICE: $59 (includes shipping)
MOTORCYCLE TRADER’S RATING SYSTEM (out of 5):
First Class: *****
Damned good: ****
Worth a look: ***
Keep looking: **
Give it a miss: *