Short Way Up by Steve Wilson

August 31, 2015

Few people would choose to ride an unfamiliar old British bike on an epic journey across South Africa. Steve Wilson took the plunge: Roy Workman read the book...

I spotted this book written by Steve Wilson whilst wandering around my local branch of Yorkshire Trading, and it was very reasonably priced. I have met Steve a couple of times, once at the London Motorcycle Museum when Steve was signing copies of one of his earlier marque-history books.

This book is not a history at all, but is instead about Steve having a final adventure on two wheels before his bus pass kicks in. This time he intended to ride 5,000 miles from Cape Town to Zambia’s South Lugangwa, and back, all on a 55 year old Ariel VH500 – and with no back-up at all. He had lots of help from friends and colleagues in the UK in getting the machine ready for the off, but it was a close run thing getting the machine ready in time. Steve was hoping on this journey to raise money for schools supported by the area’s safari operators.

Ariels on Now...

Steve arrived in Cape Town and had to wait for his Ariel single to arrive by sea. He was soon introduced to local motorcycle clubs and during his journey he met some very capable classic motorcyclists who were able to help keep the wheels turning on the bike. The machine struggled a bit and gave Steve a hard time. Living in the UK I think Steve was surprised at the distances between some towns over there. Never the less he had a great time, and the wildlife that he saw makes for interesting reading. There are some great pictures to look at.

Some of the riders in South Africa called Steve ‘Captain Crackpot’ for undertaking this run on his own with no back up at all. Luckily he was helped by local riders on his travels and another group called themselves the SWAT, which translates to the ‘Steve Wilson Assistance Team.’

This is a nicely written book which I feel would be of interest to the classic motorcycle enthusiast. I imagine that Steve will remember this trip for some time!

RC Reviewer Roy Workman


‘Short Way Up: a classic ride through Southern Africa’ by Steve Wilson, ISBN 978-1844256853 is normally available in hardback.

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