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Common Tread

Stealing Speed to be reissued

Sep 07, 2015

A few weeks ago I was talking bikes with my dad over breakfast. We had ridden to a small café, our regular Sunday spot, when he asked, “Have you ever read Stealing Speed?”  

For those of you not familiar with the book, Stealing Speed is a work of non-fiction by author Mat Oxley. Oxley traces the development of the two-stroke engine from a weapon of war in Nazi Germany’s deadly V2 rockets, to a near-defunct technology in post-War Europe, to its dominating presence in Japan’s motorcycle industry in the 1970s and beyond. Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction and this is a tale that proves that old adage in spades.

I confirmed to my Pops that not only had I read it, but I also own a copy and would be happy to let him borrow it. He politely declined and commented that he would prefer to buy a copy for himself to add to his ever-growing library, a tune he quickly changed when he looked up the book on Amazon later that afternoon.

As it turns out, Stealing Speed went out of print a few years ago and prices for the book have skyrocketed. Paperback copies have recently been selling for north of $150 while hardcover editions are cresting $2,000. Having paid $12.99 for my copy a few years earlier, it was clear my ship had finally sailed in. I only wish all of my investments were this fruitful.

Prices are currently sky-high to purchase out-of-print editions of "Stealing Speed."

In an effort to combat these inflated prices, Oxley has decided to reprint the book on his own and make it available for purchase on his U.K. website. He is offering the new hardcover edition for £14.99, which is a shade over $20. He also is offering the book, shipped anywhere in the United States or Australia, for a flat rate of £25.99, or roughly $40.

If you are interested in motorcycles, engineering, racing, Europe, Japan, World War II, The Cold War, mysteries, or spy novels, then this book is for you. It’s a well written, informative, fast-paced story that teaches you something along the way. The old saying holds true: How do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you came from? Stealing Speed helps to explain how we ended up with the motorcycles we have today.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go sell my father my copy of this book before he reads this article.