For many years now this 7″ x 10″, 156 pages long hard back book first published in 1979 by Hamlyn & written by motocross racer & well respected motorcycle journalist Mr Frank Melling has been a constant source of amazement to me. Why I hear you ask, well keep reading & I will tell you why dear reader. I don`t know about you but like so many other people I love real books, I don`t care what the Hi-Tec computer companies of the world come up with next nothing will change my thinking that sitting quietly on a comfy seat with a proper book in the hand is best. When looking for a book to read I am pretty good at spotting what I call a proper book especially when looking at books written for the motoring enthusiast be it a publication about classic motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses or tractors, a few seconds is all it takes to spot Good-un or a Wrong-un. Glossy books with titles like “WORLDS TOP 100 FASTEST BIKES” just make we walk right on by, No it`s titles like “THE DEVELOPMENT & PRODUCTION HISTORY OF …” or “THE COMPETITION HISTORY OF …” that always make me stop & take a peek inside, don’t get me wrong other books that look somewhere near sensible also get my attention. A quick glance at the chapter titles & photos soon reveal if the publication is going to be a half decent reference book or not, so 20 years ago when I came across a dirty looking copy of “MOTOCROSS THE BIG LEAP” sticking out of a cardboard box on the floor at the Stafford Classic Bike Show I decided to have a closer look, mainly because any book that is written about motocross is quite a rare thing to find. A quick spin through the pages suggested that it was a promising read & the astronomical asking price of £4.00 was quickly handed over & on my merry way I went, it`s only when I got home & started to read the book that I realised just how good it was….
For a kick off the author Frank Melling is a long time motocross rider, he started in the 1960s as a clubman racer riding 2-strokes & then graduated to a home built Tribsa, as far as I understand he kept racing well into the 1980s so he knows his stuff alright. Since the early 70s he`s been a successful motorcycle journalist having written for both British & American bike magazines as well as writing quite a few books. Motocross the big leap, takes you right back to the start of the sport & gives a detailed account of how things slowly evolved, the story of all the main characters in the world of British & international scrambling as well as the manufactures they raced for are looked at, it`s then on to how the sport became more professional, the coming of the powerful 2-strokes from the likes of Husqvarna & Bultaco, the sweet handling Maico bikes, the ill fated titanium BSA, the very early Suzuki / Cheney framed machine, a look at those super light weight factory Suzuki`s & the early mono bikes from Yamaha as well as a couple of last minute pages on the CCM & VE Hagon Yamaha project. The book signs off at about 1977-78 just before Noyce won the world championship, although Graham who at the time was double British champion & riding for Honda does supposedly write the books opening foreword page. Talking of Noyce one of the most interesting parts of the book for me is the detailed account of how the young Graham beat the worlds best on a pretty much standard production Maico 400 during the GP held at Dodington Park near Bristol. But what makes this publication stand out is as a young writer / journalist / motocross racer Mr Melling actually tested when new most of the bikes he writes about in the book including the Suzuki / Cheney machine & although it`s a few years later after a rebuild the famous titanium BSA. The book has plenty of good clear black & white period images as well as a few colour sections. All in all with out doubt this is one of the best scrambling / motocross reference books I have ever come across, no matter if you are live in England, USA or mainland Europe if you are a motocross enthusiast you will enjoy this title.
It`s a sad fact that today a lot of the original riders from the 1960s & 70s are having to hang up their boots for good thus the vintage motocross scene here in the UK needs younger riders to come into the sport to keep it alive, some may cross over from modern motocross in search of easy victories others may choose to join are ranks because they are genuinely interested in the period & the simpler mechanical machines. What ever the reason if they come to the sport not knowing much about the history I suggest they find a copy of this book & have a steady read through, it`s certainly an education on the subject of motocross evolution up to the end of the 1970s. O you may be wondering why the book has constantly amazed me for the last 20 years, it`s not the fact that it`s such a good book, no it`s the fact that not many people seem to know much about it & what a gem it is, another point is that other off-road books that have been out of print for many years are steadily climbing up in value, £50 or £60 is not an uncommon asking price for some titles. You even see books that have only been out of print for one or two years change hands at the £100 mark but for some reason this book has stayed well under the radar & has remained a real bargain buy. Only a few moments ago while writing this article ( December 2016 ) I ran a search on ebay for “MOTOCROSS THE BIG LEAP BOOK” & a good clean copy sold last week on a Buy Now listing for just £5.50 plus postage, this is not a one off, I don`t think I have ever seen a copy sell for more than about £10. So do yourself a favour & get a copy of this book now while you still can. All the best Mr J