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If you ever wanted to know who won an ISDT Gold Medal on a clutchless Tiger Cub, or what Steve McQueen’s toughest two-wheeled challenge was, then this is the book for you…
Written in the author’s usual accessible style, Off Road Giants is a series of short biographies of well-known figures from the golden age of British off-road motorcycle sport. Although previously seen as individual articles in ‘The Classic Motorcycle’, they work extremely well as a collection of glimpses into that wonderful era. Each is based on face-to-face interviews and each one includes illuminating direct quotes from the subject.
Seventeen significant 1960’s trials and motocross personalities are covered, including such stars as Triss and Bryan Sharp, Ivor England, Gordon Jackson and Bud Ekins. The book is lavishly illustrated with well-chosen contemporary photographs, many previously unpublished.
Each personality is treated individually, with the course of their career summarised. Highlights are the amusing anecdotes and personal reminiscences which bring each account to life. The many stories that emerge contain answers to such intriguing questions as:-
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Apart from the personal stories, the book gives an insight into just what it took for an individual to compete successfully at international level back in the Sixties. One recurring theme is how dependant 1960’s factory riders were on their own resources to continue in competition. Most of them had other jobs and usually had to provide their own transport to events, and none were paid vast sums for competing.
Off-Road Giants is an enjoyable book to read in one go or to dip into when the fancy takes. If there is any regret at all it is only the great names from that era who are not included. That is hardly a criticism as the work depends on the face to face interview and not all candidates for the Westlake treatment are necessarily available. We can only hope that a second volume is planned.
Above all it is the author’s genuine enthusiasm for the subject which really makes this book work. Andy started watching motocross in 1961 and was completely hooked. He was fortunate enough to see all of his heroes in action. By careful research and asking the right questions he really catches the flavour of the time. It is in some ways a historical record, but first and foremost it is a good read and a must for anyone with an interest in the heroes of 1960’s off-road motorcycle sport.
Reviewed by Colin Sparrow
Off-Road Giants by Andy Westlake
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