Motorcycle Book Reviews
Book Review: She’s a Bad Motorcycle
She’s a Bad Motorcycle is an anthology of diverse writers’ thoughts about motorcycle culture and riding compiled and edited by Geno Zanetti. Composed of writing by greats like Tom Wolfe, Che Guevara and Hunter S. Thompson, the book taken as a collection is pretty hit or miss.
Some of the pieces that particularly stand out are those written by Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Rachel Kushner and Robert Fulton. Pierson shares an excerpt from her book, The Perfect Vehicle that will surely make you want to rush out and buy the full text as soon as you finish it. Rachel Kushner’s story of racing in the Baja 1000 provides an incredible view into the sheer toughness required by those that race through the desert in search of glory and adventure. And, Robert Fulton shares his tale of riding from Damascus to Baghdad through the Syrian desert against all odds. These three sections of the book stand out as the true meat, but many other sections seem included only to fill a few more pages.
In summary, this is a great book if you’re looking for some ideas on other books to buy as you get just enough of a taste of a particular writer’s work to decide whether or not you’d be interested in the full story. However, reading it from cover to cover simply leaves you wondering why you chose this book over any one of the works that are excerpted within.
Book Review: Hear Me Roar
nn Ferrar’s book, Hear Me Roar, is a great book for any woman thinking of learning to ride and for men who want to learn about the role that women have played in the long history of motorcycling. Ferrar writes from a journalistic and historical sensibility about the media misconceptions about women who ride, the history of women in motorcycling and the stories of individual women that have found freedom, triumph and adventure on two wheels.
My favorite part of the book is the individual profiles of female riders and the historical research that Ferrar presents. Each woman she profiles, the roadracers, the motocrossers, the Iron Butt riders and motorcycle patrol officers all share incredible stories of their lives on two wheels and provide a lot of insight into the multi-faceted culture of motorcycling. The history of women in motorcycling is unbelievable with tales of the AMA stripping women of race medals, the Van Buren sisters’ 1916 cross country trip on Indians and the founding officers of the many women’s riding clubs.
In addition to the individual profiles and history, Ferrar also provides a lot of practical advice about how women should choose a motorcycle, list of organizations that support female riders and some tips on riding safely. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to any woman who wants to get into riding and I’m sure that many husbands, sons and boyfriends would find this to be a great gift for the women in their lives who ride.
Book Review: The Perfect Vehicle
This is without a doubt the best written, most compelling book on motorcycling that I have read. Melissa Pierson writes with a familiar, revealing tone about her love affair with riding, her favorite brand of bike, Moto-Guzzi and lessons learned on the road.
The opening pages of the book suck you in completely and her language will be familiar to anyone who’s ever ridden. She writes:
Riding on a motorcycle can make you feel joyous, powerful, peaceful, frightened, vulnerable and back out to happy again, perhaps in the same ten miles. It is life compressed, its own answer to the question “Why?”
So, if you’re looking for a great present for the rider in your family or would just love to have a book to read when the weather keeps you off your ride, do yourself a favor and buy a copy.
Book Review: Soul on Bikes
I just finished reading Tobie Gene Levingston’s incredible memoir and club history, Soul on Bikes - The East Bay Dragons MC and the Black Biker Set.
Levingston founded and was named President for Life of the Easy Bay Dragons in the early 60s with his brothers and friends in Oakland, CA. The stories he tells about living the outlaw lifestyle and sharing the streets of Oakland with the Hells Angels provide a great window onto a part of our community that is so rarely recognized, the all or predominantly black motorcycle club scene.
One of the best parts of the book is Levingston’s tone and style. This book doesn’t read like one long boast, full of posturing like some of the Sonny Barger stuff I’ve read. Instead, the prose is relaxed and down to earth as if the reader ran into Tobie at a rally and started up a friendly conversation about the club. Finally, the viewpoint on 1960’s history that Tobie brings to the work is priceless. The Dragons rode the same streets that saw the hippies invade the Haight, Huey Newton and the Panthers rise to prominence and the Angels make a name for themselves.