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Bibliography 1: Pioneers

March 19, 2010

IMG_2917 The student of early motorbicycles will be well served to gather up a library of his or her own.  Public libraries and the internet are a poor comparison to actual books printed on paper, especially those written in the era concerned.  While it may seem that you can Google a marque and immediately learn all the combined knowledge of the world, it isn’t that easy.  As an example, I’ve been researching two unique vehicles c1884 and c1905 for the last several years, and found around 5-6 images of each of them, and several paragraphs of information through my library, while the interweb and modern books have only revealed about 1/3 of the info.  (and yes, I’ll share it all in future articles!  sharing knowledge is the main point of this website).

As you build your library, look around carefully.  One tactic that I use is to find a good book via eBay, then to search for it by title and author at specialized book websites.  I often get the title for 1/2 of the eBay price or less, without any bidding competition or funny shipping policies.  I prefer to not pay an extra premium for books with perfect covers or spines.  Some of my favorites no longer have their covers at all, but the pages are clean and easy to read.  If you want to collect books, you’ll disagree with that position, but I buy mine to read, not as an investment… 

Try these websites for books on Brit bikes, there are many others too for American bikes, Aussie bikes, Italian, German, etc.

ABE books

Bruce Main-Smith


Many books are available directly from the author.  I highly recommend that you purchase them directly from the author, as he/she will directly receive a larger portion of the sales price than if you buy it through a reseller.  It is also a great way to begin a correspondence with the author.

Here are some examples of books that help in my research, roughly in chronological order, and focused on British bikes.  Contact me if you would like more info, such as Publisher, Date, ISBN number, etc.

Don’t believe it when you hear that the first motorcycle was made by Daimler in 1885!  Motorized two wheelers have been around for a long time:


I love the subtitle!  This one is about the state of the art of bicycles in 1889.  Written and published in 1889, I think this one might be a reprint, but it has no publishers info…


Floyd Clymer published about a million books.  His series on Motor Scrap Books are great to read, cheap to buy and easy to find.  This one focuses on the earliest motorbikes from outside the US.


This book is a reprint of catalogues of vehicles for sale in 1903 England.  Trucks, bikes, cars, etc.


Ixion!!!  This is required material for the student to study.  He started riding around 1900, and wrote about it weekly for the next 50 or 60 years. 

IMG_2925 IMG_2926

The title says it all:  Victorian and Edwardian Cycling and Motoring from old Photographs.


One of Peter Card’s two books on early lights.  Oil, acetylene, carbide, etc.


Victor Page:  He wrote many books on the tech of the 19teens and 1920s.  The book on the left is The ABC of the Motorcycle.  Chock full of info, some on American bikes, but a surprising amount on Brit iron.  It was reprinted c1970 as the yellow book on the right.  Reprinted again about 2 years ago.  Buy the reprints for $25 new, or you can buy the 1914 originals for $300 on eBay…

IMG_2932 IMG_2929

A good primer on the ‘technical history’ of motorbikes:


Sheldon’s book is another good one:


This one was published by the Science Museum in London.  It shows details of their exhibits, with some good photos and short descriptions.  I’ve been looking for its companion: “Part 1” for the last 6 years…


Bruce Main-Smith publishes many good titles.  This one is just a series of photos of early bikes, with one-sentence descriptions.  Many photos are from London-Brighton runs in the 1970s.


Two good books from Australia:

IMG_2946 IMG_2944

Two more from Jeff Clew.  He was a prolific writer and a Velo Fellow.

IMG_2942 IMG_2943

A new book, just published last year, about now-rare or extinct bikes that were made in the 20s.  VMCC sells it in their stores.



5 Comments leave one →
  1. Lanora permalink
    March 20, 2010 9:03 pm

    Beautiful books! and thanks for the tips on finding more of them..

  2. Coupe900s permalink
    August 26, 2012 12:18 pm

    And what is the brand of the motorcycle we can see on this pic?

    • August 27, 2012 5:10 am

      Wow, that is a neat one! I don’t know the make of the bike, but it is full of interesting features: the sheetmetal frame, with chain drive and cross over shaft behind the motor, the seat position on top of the motor, and the neat pillion seat and its handlebars on the main seat. I’ll post a copy of it on the OL facebook page and see if we can find an identification.

      • August 27, 2012 7:40 am

        I put the pic on the OcchioLungo Facebook page and we had an answer in an hour! Steve Wright wrote: Ruggles, NY circa 1906. Designer Hibbert B Ruggles, see p135 Geoffrey Stein, The Motorcycle Industry In NY State. There is even a nice picture of him riding it with a lady passenger!

  3. January 30, 2015 7:59 pm

    I have that book by C F Caunter on the technical history of motorcycles. It is ridiculously indepth and handy for anyone building (or rebuilding) a pioneer machine, as the pictures laid out are clear and it lets you know what technical innovations were available at particular time periods. Best of all, you can see how interested the writer is and how much he knows about the subject.

    If you find it, grab it, haven’t found another generalised motorcycle information book quite like it.

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