My first impression upon receiving the small paperback Travelling with Mr Turner by Nigel C Winter was that this should be a quick and light read. Opening it, I found that a smaller than normal typestyle makes the book’s slim 160 pages a quite lengthy read. It’s not light, but light-hearted; and while physically small it is thick with substance.
TWMT chronicles the author’s replication of renowned designer and Triumph executive Edward Turner’s 1953 ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Turner rode the famed route from Cornwall to the farthest reaches of Scotland aboard a Triumph Terrier with a full entourage, while the present-day author rode alone on his modern Triumph Thunderbird.
Rather than giving a rehash of pubs and vistas along a route that any of us could ride, Winter weaves together his trip report with Turner’s own chronicle. He includes biographical insight into Triumph’s famous designer and leader, along with a history of this most iconic of motorcycle companies. And yes, he does mention the pubs and vistas along the way, but incorporates them with rich local history and culture.
Not being a student of Triumph history myself, I had to augment the book with a stack of RealClassics and other reference material; I would expect a true Triumph devotee to be familiar enough with the company’s models, milestones and men to be able to drink the story in without pause. I had some difficulty following the story line in places, because of somewhat unnatural breaks in the chapters and prose. But what slowed down my reading was easily overcome by the substance of the narrative - Winter is a good story-teller, writing with detail, wit and self-deprecating humour, and the book is peppered with classic quotes and poetic clauses that elevate the tale.
I can heartily recommend TWMT to a number of different audiences. Triumph fans will enjoy the fresh anecdotes; Turner admirers will look deeper into the man himself; distance riders will appreciate the locations and lessons discovered along the way; and classic motorbike nuts will delight in the references to a time when the old British bikes we treasure now were the best the world had on its platter.Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]