MOST men contemplating retirement might consider more time on the golf course – but born-to-be-wild Steve Wilson chose to roar across Africa on a 1950s mean machine.

He has spent a lifetime writing about his passion for the two-wheeled wonders and marked this 5,000-mile trek with his latest book.

The dramatic account of his adventure in 2009, the year he turned 66, is entitled Short Way Up, and has been published by Haynes.

Mr Wilson made his first major motorbike journey to Greece after he left school.

He said: “Since then, I’ve ridden all round the UK, Europe and Morocco on Norton, BSA and Moto Guzzi twins.”

The father-of-one’s book recalls numerous mecha-nical breakdowns on the journey from Cape Town, South Africa, to the north-eastern side of Zambia – with one taking place in the lion-inhabited National Park of Botswana.

In his foreword, Mr Wilson, who made the trip on a 1950s Ariel, writes: “This is a motorcycle travel book and, because old bikes can go wrong, there may be a little more technical detail than the general reader might welcome.

“But then again, there were dimensions to the journey, and the reasons for undertaking it, that go a bit beyond the ‘one-man-and-his-bike’ narrative that rider readers will expect.

“And for the old bike enthusiast, there are plenty of excitements as the far-from-perfect old Ariel pulls off some real feats of endurance, and carries its short-winded old rider out of a couple of tight spots.”

When a companion was forced to drop out for the trip, he made the decision to go it alone, riding his classic motorcycle from Cape Town to South Luangwa in Zambia and back again.

Mr Wilson recalls one particularly hair-raising day where his bike spluttered to a halt in the middle of the lion-haunted National Park in Botswana, just 25 miles from the Zambian border.

After a final kickstart revived the bike, the writer crossed the Zambezi river on a pontoon and continued his journey, short on fuel and in fading light, with no front and rear lights.

Eventually, the rider was escorted along dark roads to Livingstone in the lights of a loaded goods lorry, even attracting attention from local police who shouted warnings at him through a loudhailer.

On his outward journey, Mr Wilson travelled through South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.

On his return, he travelled from Zambia, through Zimbabwe to South Africa.

In doing so, he raised money for community development charity Project Luangwa, and Haynes Publishing has pledged to donate 50p for every copy of Short Way Up sold.

For more information visit Mr Wilson is also author of the six-volume British Motor Cycles since 1950.

He also wrote Triumph Bonneville, in Haynes’s Great Bikes series, and Down The Road, a collection of his best writings about classic motorcycles, which became a cult classic.

Short Way Up published by Haynes, price £19.99.