Recommended reads

Although some of us may be able to start getting out and about for a few rides, there’s no likelihood of big congregations or events anytime soon. To keep you entertained, here’s a bit more suggested reading.

And the Wheels Went Round

This fascinating autobiography charts John Chisnall’s motorcycling career, including his decade as passenger to some of the TT’s sidecar stars of 60 years ago.


Starting out in grasstrack, by the late 1950s Chisnall was one of the world’s leading exponents of the passenger’s art.

He relates the sacrifices, trials and tribulations (and the occasional brushes with the law) of his years climbing to, and at, the top of the tree, as passenger to Charlie Freeman, Bill Beevers, Florian Camathias and Derek Yorke, participating in world title events until 1966.

Chisnall then covers his subsequent career, including his years racing a Bantam, designing and building a successful monocoque-framed Yamaha racer made for Ted Broad and to be ridden by Barry Ditchburn, and latterly as a trials rider and businessman selling CZ/Jawa and subsequently Kawasaki motorcycles.


Very well written, courtesy of co-author Tony Davis, and full of anecdotes, it gives a flavour of the Continental Circus in the late 1950s/early 60s.

Chisnall’s lifestyle, as he scraped by across Europe from meeting to meeting, was a DIY, hand-to-mouth existence, with its all-too-frequent tragedies; one chapter is devoted to some of his pals – Dickie Dale, Dave Chadwick, Ralph Rensen, ‘Wild Man’ Camathias, Billie Nelson – all cruelly lost to the sport.

But there were evidently high jinks and memories to cherish, such as being obliged to climb out of the gents’ window after his drinking companion, Peter Ferbrache, had left him to pick up the tab in a bar in Assen, knowing full well that Chisnall had no cash.


Softback, 156 pages and illustrated with a good number of previously unpublished black and white photographs, it is published by Bear Alley Books (email

Raymond Ainscoe.

Read more Reviews, Letters, Opinion, News and Features at and in the August 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!


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