Reading Log: Best of British

IMG_0392Great used-bookstore find. This little gem was published in 78 and samples some 30 or so British motorcycles from the post-war era through the early seventies. This volume has the most Britishness-per-square-inch of any piece of media I’ve ever encountered, full of regional idioms and generally British peculiarities.

For those of you not familiar with bikes, (or bikes of the vintage and manufacture herein) a very brief summary: British companies like BSA and AMC (along with many smaller lines) made some of the most unique and beloved bikes in the history of motorized bicycles. These machines were always interesting, but often temperamental, downright badly-engineered compared to the Japanese bikes that have dominated from the 70s on. Nonetheless, these impractical and archaic machines were so beloved -even in 78- that an entire series of these books was produced. Best of British features a short biography on each machine, technical specifications, and an owner’s testimony. It’s a unique blend of oral history and reference book, with a bit of a coffee-table vibe on the side.

Reading through a book like this might seem odd, but I love hearing about these old machines. I’ve got no particular desire to own one myself, (as much as I love old bikes and as sexy as an old Vincent might be) but the love these guys have for their objectively inferior bikes is something wonderful. It’s nostalgia, sure -many of the owner’s stories begin with them talking about how they rode or pined after something similar as a teenager- but it’s also an amazing look at the best kind of tribalism we can create in the postmodern world.

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