Back in the 1920s, there were more motor cyclists than car drivers, records were being broken every month at the Brooklands race track in Surrey, roads were empty and motorbikes constantly broke down. Arthur Bourne, who used the pseudonym ‘Torrens’ for readers of the best-selling weekly The Motor Cycle, was in the thick of the game. He had the good luck to be Engineer to The Auto-Cycle Union and the-then, not yet 26, editor of a famous motorcycling journal.
This is his story of what it was like to ride hundreds of miles round Britain on reliability trials – essential for manufacturers to claim that their bikes were worth buying – and how he provided weekly guidance for thousands of youngsters on two wheels. He writes of Brooklands, and of TT races on the lsle of Man; of his encouragement to young engineers like Edward Turner and Phil Vincent; and of how, in the Second World War, he enabled the airborne forces at Arnhem to be equipped with lightweight motorcycles that could be dropped by parachute or flown in by glider.
For anyone interested in motorbikes and the people who rode them, when British manufacturing was at its apogee, this is a unique testimony. Motor cycles were fashionable. The Duke of York, later to be George V1 and his wife Elizabeth, later known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, were among the enthusiasts. lt was an exciting era, recalled by ‘Torrens’ near the end of his life, in a good journalist’s prose. Behind the Scenes in the Vintage Years is a unique and fascinating record of an unrepeatable era in British motorcycling and engineering history. It contains many black and white pictures which bring this area of the past to life.
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A fascinating insight into the life and times of a key figure in the motorcycling world during the boom years between 1928 and 1951. Arthur Bourne (Torrens) was editor of The Motor Cycle during this period and contributed significantly to reporting on all that was happening in this rapidly developing and increasingly popular activity. He was an avid participant in motor cycling and was at the forefront of developments in this highly technical area. He also was instrumental in the development of the 'lighweight motorcycle' used extensively by front-line troops in the second world war, resulting in the production of over 12,000 of such machines. His son, Richard Bourne assisted by his brother Robert, has done an excellent job of editing Arthur Bourne's memoirs of these exciting times and has produced a very readable and interesting account of his life and work illustrated by many photographs and extracts from the magazine A personal history, but at the same time capturing the developments in the world of motorcycling during the industrial and social changes taking place during his lifetime and in which he played a key role. A fitting tribute to a remarkable man and a damn good read. It will be of interest, not only to motorcyclists but to a much wider audience. Buy it!
by Grant Roberts