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Two-wheeler reads for Father’s Day

Two-wheeler reads for Father’s Day
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A band of early speed enthusiasts aboard their modified Harley-Davidsons appear in the new Motorbooks publication Ton Up! A Century of Cafe Racer Speed and Style by Paul d’Orleans.The Vintagent

Father’s Day is just around the corner. For those who need a gift for a dad who shows gearhead tendencies, there’s nothing better than a good book.

Here are two suggestions for dad, and first up is a great book that would best be shared with children. Bumper’s Garage is a tale written by Texas-based Geoff Holladay and finely illustrated by Mark Morgan. It’s aimed at kids, but all who appreciate tools will enjoy the story. I’ve long been a proponent of encouraging youngsters to learn about the wonderment of tools. With a few simple hand tools many mechanical problems can be overcome, and a mentor usually helps provide the early education.

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In Bumper’s Garage Book 1, young Steve Auburn is set to deliver newspapers when he’s sidelined by a broken chainring on his bicycle. His dad, Dean, who himself is a gearhead, recognizes the problem. Dean suggests they visit Eli Baumer – a man who “…can fix anything.”

They load the broken bicycle into dad’s Ford Ranchero and head to an old shop where Dean introduces his son to Baumer, his own one-time mechanical mentor. Steve and Baumer begin searching through old crates looking for a replacement chainring. Caught up in the treasure hunt, Steve realizes he’s late and will miss his deadline for delivering the papers.

That’s when Baumer – who insists Steve call him Bumper – throws the cover off an old Vincent motorcycle, fires it up and helps get the deliveries done. Back at the shop, they finish fixing the bicycle and as Steve is leaving, Bumper says, “You know, if you ever get tired of that paper route, I could sure use a hand around the shop.”

This has set the hook in young Steve, hopeful that one day he’ll be handy enough with tools to able to fix anything that’s broken, just like his mentor Bumper.

And author Holladay has set himself up to continue a series of mechanical adventures with Steve and Bumper – as the title suggests, this is only Book 1. Bumper’s Garage, published by Long Pull Press, is available only via web order at www.bumpersgarage.com . My copy, which was US$14.95, took a few weeks to be delivered. That said, even if it doesn’t arrive in time to celebrate Father’s Day, it’s well worth the wait and is definitely worth sharing with younger folks.

While Bumper’s Garage is, as Holladay says on the dust jacket, “…a motor culture origin story,” the next suggested title is also an origin story.

In Ton Up! A Century of Café Racer Speed and Style, author and motorcycle historian Paul d’Orleans traces the history of the need and quest for speed aboard powered-two wheelers throughout the decades. For those wondering about the title, ton-up is an expression used to describe traveling in or on a vehicle at 100 m.p.h. or more.

In this well-researched book, d’Orleans starts the story in the years before mechanized transportation.

“The culture of youthful, reckless speed did not begin with the motorcycle,” he writes in the Introduction. “The fastest travel for thousands of years was the horse, and subcultures of fast horsemen populate the folk tales of many societies.”

From this point, d’Orleans traces motorcycle development from its infancy through its continuing evolution and the search for speed from the 1910s through every decade of the 20th century – and well into the 21st century with electric machines.

While discussing professional racing, the book also covers what would have been ‘regular’ street machines and the people who rode and modified them, stripping them of excess parts and tuning them up with the express purpose of going fast.

Published by Motorbooks, Ton Up! is densely packed with supporting archival motorcycle images, many of them never before published.

The 1930s: Promenade Percy and the Bob Job was the third chapter, and it was a favourite of mine. In it, d’Orleans writes, “The term ‘seaside promenade Percy’ first appeared in the letters section of motorcycle magazines in the 1930s to describe fans of café racers. The promenade in question was Southend-on-Sea, 30 miles east of London, which was a popular hangout for young riders, who made a spectacle of themselves with their dandyish gear, polished up bikes, and engine revving.”

Sounds like some things never change, as riders today with happy throttle hands continue to blip idling engines at traffic lights – making a nuisance of themselves and tarring many ‘cyclists with the same brush.

Either book would be a welcome addition in the library of an enthusiast. Happy Father’s Day to all dads, especially those with mechanical minds.
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