The Speed Kings Book Perfect For The Socially Distanced

The Speed Kings Book Perfect For The Socially Distanced

First time hefting The Speed Kings, you’d be forgiven for assuming it is just a coffee-table book to add to your motorsports library. The Speed Kings, at 375 pages and a whopping 4.6 pounds, is so much more than a coffee-table book. The Speed Kings is actually three books in one that presents the reader with an in-depth, well-researched and visually-stunning history of America’s Motordrome Racing.

The first book inside The Speed Kings deals with the history of bicycle velodrome racing when motorcycles were introduced to “motor pace” bicycle racers. The author wisely includes this bicycle-racing background because it was bicycle velodrome racing that led to the birth of Motordrome Racing. This section could stand alone as its own book.

The second book is what I’ll call the coffee-table edition. The book is structured so that the reader can turn the pages reading only the photo captions and sidebars. I strongly recommend resisting the urge to read the book this way on your first pass (and believe me, you will read this book a few times). The book stands on its own as a photo and caption book, but the most enjoyment and reward comes from investing the time to thoroughly read what I feel is the third book in The Speed Kings.

The third book is an in-depth historical retelling of the relatively short, controversial and tragic history of Motordrome Racing. I didn’t expect to get sucked into a sport that ended 50 years before I was born. Wrong! Events happen quickly and unexpected twists and turns occur in every chapter. This non-fiction book is more surprising, interesting and entertaining than any fiction I’ve read this year with its cast of great characters and shocking events that will have you shaking your head in disbelief (like the track “safety improvement” that turns out to be anything but). “Truth is stranger than fiction” proves to be more than a cliche throughout The Speed Kings and holds the reader’s interest.

The Motordrome saga includes descriptions of the sport’s heroes, woefully-inadequate equipment (especially tires), insanely-fast speeds, bitter rivalries, espionage, crooked promoters, arrogant officials, deep friendships and, unfortunately, heart-breaking tragedies.

The three-books-in-one Speed Kings is a worthy addition to any motorsports library. While not a cheap read ($75), I found it worth every penny. The book can be ordered directly from the publisher by clicking here.

Two thumbs up: I agree with Jay Leno, standing with the book’s author Don Emde. The Speed Kings is a great read and a serious reference tool for any self-respecting motorcycle enthusiast.
Prized possession: This 1915 Indian Twin Motordrome Racer sold for $49,500 in 2018 at auction. The writing was on the wall (no pun intended) by 1915 that Motordrome racing was on the decline. These bikes were adapted for races like the Isle of Man TT and dirt track ovals.
New respect: Vintage Motordrome race bikes, like this one on display at The Two Moto Show, were never very interesting to me. That’s all changed now. The Speed Kings has taught me a new appreciation for these race bikes and the men who piloted them.