What Are Your Favorite Motorcycle Books?

Motorcycle BooksREADING ABOUT MOTORCYCLES IS DEFINITELY NOT AS FUN AS RIDING THEM. Regardless, much can be learned from books and magazines to increase your riding pleasure.  Over the years I have continued to digest a quantity of motorcycle magazines each month and I revel with each new issue that I receive.

I have also found occasion to read a number of motorcycle books. Some books are focused on manufacturers and their history. Others are books about places to ride. This latter kind I find enjoyable, although they are not the type of books I would buy myself (they are given to me as gifts), as I prefer to plan my riding adventures by looking at maps.

However, I have been asked which are my favorite motorbike books, and although I own a bunch, and have a few I would call “favorites,” I was more intrigued by the notion of what other riders considered as their favorite motorcycle books, which could prompt an expansion of my motorbike library.

To prime the literary pump, so to speak, here are a few of my favorite motorcycle books and it would be ideal if you would add yours below:

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Although not really a book about motorcycles, per se, the foundation of the novel is based upon a father and son cross-country motorcycle tour that occurred in the 1960’s. (The book was published in the 70’s and became a critically acclaimed best seller).

A Twist of the Wrist, by Keith Code. Although I own both books (Volume 1 and Volume 2), I was particularly impressed with Chapter 15 in Volume 1 (“How to Fall”) which offers the most unique insight into motorcycle safety in regards to crashing. You can read more about it here: Have You Planned Your Next Motorcycle Crash?

David Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling series: Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well and More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride. These books are practical references about riding and rider safety. No matter how experienced and skilled a rider you may be, it’s hard for me to imagine any rider, whether newbie or old-timer, not finding value in these books.

OK, enough from me, add your motorbike books below.

What are your favorite motorcycle books?

53 thoughts on “What Are Your Favorite Motorcycle Books?

  • I enjoy the technical, how it works, side of motorcyes so for me Kevin Cameron’s “Top Dead Center I and II” are good reads. Mr. Cameron has a way of taking something complicated easily understood. Also he provides interesting insights of the people who are involved in all things motorcycle.

  • David Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling series: is definitely the best of the bunch however I have noticed after reading it the first time I was frightened by the percentage numbers. I got the idea that for every 5 people who ride motorcycles, 15 die. I know David is just trying to report Hurt report numbers and the percentages only apply to each situation, and you cant really add them cumulatively such but it took a little while for that to sink in.

    Also a lot of David’s advice directly conflicted with the Pennsylvania motorcycle drivers manual and test. (Like where in the lane you should ride is the big one that comes to mind) So in my mind this book should not be read until after you passed your permit test as the conflicting information is misleading. After experiencing the rides, Davids way of thinking is much better, than the commonwealth’s and will have a better chance if keeping you safe, but it still does conflict.

    None of these books is 100% for any situation, and should be taken as such. In Northeastern PA you spend more time dodging potholes than worrying about lane position so I see that as in interesting reality.

  • Going Postal – Nathan Millward’s account of travelling back to England from Australia on an ex-Australia postbike called Dorothy.
    Touching the World – Cathy Birchall and Bernard Smith recount the observations of a blind pillion and her driver travelling around the world in 25 000 miles.
    Twisting Throttle Australia – Mike Hyde circumnavigating Australia while trying to understand the Aussie accent and laconic humour.

    As an Australian, I find it interesting seeing how others see my country, especially when I’ve been to all the places mentioned within Australia.

    Taking up riding later in life, I can see how hours on the road on one’s own, experiencing nature closer than in a car, bus or train, can concentrate thoughts and lead to ramblings and observations which can be very interesting. One thread common to these, and many other motorcycling books, is the kindness of most people. A definite plus to motorcycle travel is getting up close and personal to the people you meet (but NOT if you’ve been wearing the same gear for a week or two).

    The more I read, the more I am getting the bug for motorcycle travel myself.

  • Hells Angel by Sonny Barger. I listened to the audiobook version of it recently. Quite entertaining book about the Hell’s Angels MC.

  • My favorite book so far is Changing Pillion by PJ Barker,an Australian auther. The story is about a motorcycle journey accross the US.The book is an entertaining read with plenty of action,steamy sex and gritty characters’ plus motorcycle action.

  • Every biker and lover of the ride should read “The upper half of the motorcycle” by Bernt Spiegel. Brilliant!!! I always thought Keith Code had everything nailed, but Spiegel surpasses every known author with his scientific knowledge of both the motorcycle and the human mind.

  • BEAN’RE, MOTORCYCLE NOMAD by Timothy Remus

    So who is BEAN’RE ? He’s a little bit of all of us, or who we would like to be. This is a true story of a colorful, gentle and charming character who is the self proclaimed “Mayor of Fun” for the motorcycle world. He travels from rally to rally meeting as many bikers as he can and ending up becoming friends with all of them. His philosophy is not to be laden down with material things, but to concentrate on how he can get to the next place on his bike.

    The book is filled with interesting stories, photographs and testimonials from friends like Billy Lane and Bob Seeger Jr. So if you see a long haired biker wearing a top hat and purple pimp suit coming down the road, don’t say I didn’t warn you.



  • My favorites, not mentioned yet by anyone; Touratech catalog and the Aerostich catalog. Wish books for me to look at and imagine how I can make the exotic aftermarket parts for my own odd ball bike.

  • A bunch of books mentioned that I have read, and great suggestions here for new reading!

    Since the usual suspects have been mentioned, I will list my most recent reads, both of which are enjoyable…

    “Around the World on a Motorcycle: 1928 to 1936” by Zoltan Sulkowsky. Very cool tale about traveling the world on a Harley, back before there were dealerships in every town and overnight internet deliveries for parts to get you out of a jam.

    “The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling’s Endless Road” by Melissa Holbrook Pierson. Recounts the adventures, and attempts to figure out what drives the folks who ride long distances, for no other reason than they have an overwhelming call to the road, and the miles they can put under their tires…

  • I have read most of the books listed, but my favorite read has not yet been listed.
    Uneasy Rider by Mike Carter is well written and a fun read. He does what most of us dream about. He leaves his work behind for 6 months, buys a motorcycle ( and learns how to ride it) and travels 20,000 miles across western and eastern Europe. It is a lot like Blue Highways on two wheels.

  • Not so much for learning, but really fun reads, are the “Life Is A Road” series. Written by a rider for riders they are tales of his trips with a LOT of riding tips thrown in, but without being the travelogues that abound nowadays.

  • just started TRAVELING WITH MR. TURNER outstanding, about triumph from 50’s to 70’s and the english mental state .. but lessions learned on what not to do can be applyed to all of usa .not just bikes.. you must make something , a country can not stand on service jobs….or wall st. stock brokers..as a people we must make something usefull… any way read it. great motorcycle read http://www.classic books .com.. paper back

  • They’ve all been mentioned, although there is a kind of sequel to Pirsig’s “Zen…”, called “Zen and Now” by Mark Richardson, a book about re-tracing Pirsigs’ route in the book, and with many of the same experiences, although not as erudite and hard to follow, like “Zen” was/is. Good read, and captures the road and the experience.

    Anyone want to retrace the route, maybe next summer?

  • I thought I would share the motorcycle section of my bookshelf with you all. Although I liked them all (except one), some were better than others. I marked my favorotes with the (*) before the title. They’re listed in order of height, from tallest to shortest, because that’s how they’re sitting… 😉
    So, what’s YOUR shelf look like, or what am I missing?

    (*) 2007 Gran Premio Cinzano di San Marino e Della Riviera di Rimini (Official Programme)
    Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well by David L. Hough
    More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride by David L. Hough
    Side Glances, Volume 1: 1983-1992 by Peter Egan
    Side Glances, Volume 2: 1992-1997 by Peter Egan
    (*) The Upper Half of the Motorcycle: On the Unity of Rider and Machine by Bernt Spiegel
    Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques by Lee Parks
    Twist of the Wrist: The Motorcycle Roadracers Handbook (Vol 1) by Keith Code
    Ride Hard, Ride Smart: Ultimate Street Strategies for Advanced Motorcyclists by Patrick Hahn
    The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Guide to Motorcycling Excellence: Skills, Knowledge, and Strategies for Riding Right (2nd Edition)
    Riding in the Zone by Ken Condon
    Long Way Round: The Illustrated Edition: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
    Long Way Down: An Epic Journey by Motorcycle from Scotland to South Africa by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
    Leanings: The Best of Peter Egan from Cycle World Magazine by Peter Egan
    Leanings 2: Great Stories by America’s Favorite Motorcycle Writer by Peter Egan
    (*) Stayin’ Safe: The Art and Science of Riding Really Well by Lawrence Grodsky
    Street Strategies: A Survival Guide for Motorcyclists by David L. Hough
    Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart
    Against the Wind: A Rider’s Account of the Incredible Iron Butt Rally by Ron Ayres
    Against the Clock: The incredible story of the 7/49 by Ron Ayres
    (*) Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps and Corsica by John Hermann (pages falling out from overuse)
    (*) Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps & Beyond by John Hermann (the replacement)
    Motorcycle Journeys Through the Rocky Mountains by Toby Ballentine
    One Man Caravan by Robert Edison Fulton Jr.
    The Tao of the Ride: Motorcycles and the Mechanics of the Soul by Garri Garripoli (This one is horrible, I only keep it for comedic value, and a possible gag gift someday)
    Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Guide to Better Motorcycling by Philip Coyne
    Adventure Motorcycling Handbook, 5th: Worldwide Motorcycling Route & Planning Guide by Chris Scott

    Books I used to have, but believe my daughter stole (& I want back!):
    (*) Jupiters Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph by Ted Simon
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig
    The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles

    Books in the garage:
    Clymer BMW R850, R1100, R1150 and R1200c 1993-2005 (Clymer Motorcycle Repair)
    Clymer Suzuki Gs500 Twins, 1989-2002: Service, Repair, Maintenance

  • I’m a long-time motorcycle rider and author. I spend way too much time with my head buried in motorbike books (mostly repair manuals – I own an old Beemer), but I love novels about bikes so much that I actually wrote one. It’s called Dead Spot, and it’s available on Amazon.

    Dead Spot’s protagonist drives an old BMW R80. If you love classic rides, check it out.


  • American Borders: A Solo Circumnavigation of the United States on a Russian Sidecar Motorcycle by Carla King
    The Longest Ride: My Ten-Year 500,000 Mile Motorcycle Journey – Emilio Scotto
    Jupiters Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph – Ted Simon
    The Vincent in the Barn: Great Stories of Motorcycle Archaeology by Tom Cotter and David Edwards
    Long Way Down: An Epic Journey by Motorcycle from Scotland to South Africa by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
    Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
    The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
    The Motorcycle Diaries : Notes on a Latin American Journey -Ernesto Che Guevara
    Standard Catalog of American Motorcycles 1898-1981: The Only Book to Fully Chronicle Every Bike Ever Built by Jerry H. Hatfield
    Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books by Edward Bishop
    100 Years of Motorcycles (Twentieth Century in Pictures) by Ammonite Press
    Storm: A Motorcycle Journey of Love, Endurance, and Transformation (Travelers’ Tales Footsteps) by Allen Noren
    She’s a Bad Motorcycle: Writers on Riding by Geno Zanetti
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

    What I have on the shelves or e-reader…I find it difficult to part with books as I tend to use them over and over

  • if your into hunter s. thompson… read ” song of the sausage creature ” a bit dated on the hardwear but timeless in the heart and mind. and if you don’t understand it no one can ever explain it to you…opening line ” there are some things nobody needs in this world, and a bright-red, hunch-back, warp-speed 900cc ducati cafe racer is one of them-but i want one anyway, and on some days i actually believe i need one. that is why they are dangerous ”….. or theres this ” balls,” i said ” never mind the track. the track is for punks. we are road people. we are cafe racers.” read it all and feel the truth

  • all bike books tell you how, thats good thats good. but only one tells you why and that one is ” McQUEEN’S MACHINES ” buy his life style with cars/motorcycles he is what we want deep in our hearts to do. he had the $ to do it. he was a rider who was an actor. he raced cars and bikes, worked on them, crashed them and fell off them. never wanting to be judged as a movie star rider but as a driver/rider just like every one else. a motor head true and true from day one. he was concerned about having the right caster and camber settings than whether his brake calipers were painted to match the car or how big the subwoofers were, like some of the so-called celebrity car /motorcycle types you see on t.v. these days… read the book it will tell you why you ride.

  • There is a plethora of well written books on motorcycle adventures and instruction.
    My favorite adventure book(s) were Glenn Heggsted’s book terror on 2 wheels and another day everywhere. His first book was incredible. I was not able to put it down. His second, one of the best travelogues I’ve read. I read peter Egan’s books, and they were phenomenol. very rich in American iconic culture and very informative, I also read Karen Larsen’s book, Breaking the limit. It was very well written and thoroughly enjoyable.
    proficient motorcycling by Hough was my first book. Great instructional, and eye opener. It taught me things I never even thought of. Be safe and God bless. Scott

  • It’s hard coming up with a book that no one has mentioned yet. Every book I immediately thought of was mentioned in the comments, and the ones I didn’t know about I will certainly take note of. Neil Peart wrote a book involving biking? I have to get that.

    “Zen and the art of…” is the book that first made me truly desire a motorcycle.

    I would just like to give an honorary mention to Hunter S. Thompson’s “Hell’s Angels”, for my two cents, as well as the indispensible “Adventure Motorcycling Handbook” by Chris Scott.

  • A classic adventure touring book:

    “10 tears on 2 wheels” by legendary Helge Pedersen

    “In 1981, Pedersen bought a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle. In order to prepare it for a lengthy journey, he added a 40-liter fuel tank and other bits and pieces. Finally, as Helge had imagined so many years earlier, he was on his way to a foreign land—Africa, where he traveled alone for two years”

  • Great suggestions by all and I’ll be trying to get a copy of a few soon. I read one called “Ride Hard Ride Smart ” that was good at getting the cranium thinking in the biking mode. Not sure who the author is but probably easy to find on amazon etc.

  • Peter Egan’s Leanings, David Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling, Peter Egan’s second, More leanings, I forgot the title but the book about the Booze Fighters Motorcycle Club.

  • The book I have is “more Proficient Motorcycling” by David L. Hough , a great book. It has definetly helped me to become a better rider. Practice does make better. My favorite magazine is “Rider”

  • My recommendations are “Sport Riding Techniques” by Nick Ienatsch and “Smooth Riding The Pridmore Way” by Reg Pridmore. Messages from these two books and the skills practice that must follow have kept me upright.

  • The Perfect Vehicle by Melissa Holbrooke Pierson. History, riding experience and passion combine to make this volume a must read.

  • A BIG + 1 on David Hough’s books. I recommend them to ALL new and returning riders. Too bad my brother never took my advice and wrecked my DR60 last week. LOL

  • I’ve been riding for a year and a half (30.000km – second motorcycle now) and I was lucky enough to find “Proficient Motorcycling” by David L. Hough a few days after I bought my first bike.
    I don’t know if it is the best book available, but I’m sure it is a great book, and maybe one of the best for a begginner, since it focus on survival and pleasure, rather than on performance. I’ll never know for sure, but I suspect Mr. Hough has saved my bones and/or life more than once.

  • Top motorcycle book on my list is definitely ‘ TUNING FOR SPEED’ by Phil Irving. Though the book was written a long time ago it is still refered to by me when tuning my classic bikes. I’m not trained as an engineer but this book make me look like one. Friend asked where I got my training and i always said ‘Phil Irving School’ and they nod like they know where the school is.

  • “Jupiter’s Travels” — Ted Simon
    “Motorcycle Misadventures” — Carla King
    “Two Wheels to Adventure” — Danny Liska

    Classics, every one.

  • As soon as you asked the question, I knew the answer… Leanings by Peter Egan. We share a love of the blues, hanging out with our motorcycle buds and sometimes just sitting, thinking about what it will be like to get out from under a foot of snow and get on the road when springtime finally rolls around.

  • Read many of the already mentioned and agree – I consider almost any book even remotely motorcycle related a great read; to the growing list, I would add Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road and Landscape With Drums, A Concert Tour By Motorcycle.

    Also, at the risk of appearing to romanticize the outlaw lifestyle, which I don’t, some of the books of that genre are excellent, gritty reads: a couple to consider are William Queen’s Under and Alone and Hell’s Angels: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, co-authored by Barger and Keith Zimmerman. Not totally related is Bill Hayes’ The Original Wild Ones: Tales of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club.

  • xseleven heaven. like somebody said,”it’s a good read”. I,ve got 2 xs 11’s, 79 & 80. 95 horse multi, fast, handles good, besides my 2 goldwings, buell blast, old kaw’s. I,m 57 & am thinkin about maybe a faster bike. Just added a yam v-star 1100.bought 4 bikes last year, I think I’m nuts.

  • My favorites are:

    Total Control – High Performance Street Riding Techniques by Lee Parks

    Sport Riding Techniques by NIck Ienatsch

    Both books explain basic and advanced riding techniques while emphasizing safety.

    I have read both books cover to cover and still refer to different sections of the books regularly.

  • Several of my faves have already been mentioned, with Zen leading the list, but I noticed The Long Way Round by Ewan Macgregor and Charlie Boorman is missing. Reading their exploits first adds quite a bit to the shows, and makes the whole experience that much fuller.

  • I have two recommendations.

    “The Old Man and the Harley” by John J. Newkirk.
    The book centers around the author’s father’s motorcycle trip across America in 1939 to visit both the World’s Fair in New York City and the San Francisco Golden Gate Exposition.

    “The Perfect Vehicle” by Melissa Holbrook Pierson.
    A book about the magic that makes a motorcycle more than just transportation.

    Neither book is perfect. Both lose their focus in several places when introducing issues that don’t really belong to their stories, but when they are at their best you will feel the footpegs under your feet.

    Most writing about motorcycles substitute enthusiasm for writing skills. For all their flaws both books are well written.

  • As well as some of the above, I really enjoyed these 3:

    Lois on the Loose, Lois Pryce. This girl rides a Yamaha XT 225 from Alaska to Argentina. Gutsy.

    Race to Dakar, Charlie Boorman About his attempt at Dakar race 2004. The book has a lot of insights not in the DVD.

    The Life and Times of a Good Keen Man, Barry Crump About Barry’s years in Australia hunting crocs, and his ride across Europe to India on an old BMW 750/5. It’s available at Amazon.

  • After forty five years of motorcycling it still holds as much of a thrill getting on the open road as the time I cocked a leg over my first bike,
    I am the proud owner of two bikes, not new but well loved, a 10 year old Honda ST 1100 Pan European the sedate ride with a bit of zip for when my wife wants a gentle ride and a 10 year old Honda VFR800FI our adrenaline rush for when we want that bit of zing.
    Amongst my favourite m/c books are, in no particular order, as follows ;-
    Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance,
    The Bikers Bible by Graham Allardice
    Twisting Throttle Australia by Mike Hyde (A Kiwi hilarious trip around Aussie on the seat of his pants)

    Take care and be cool from NZ

  • Like most people I have standing obligations that prohibit experiencing first hand my own round-the-world journey. As such most of the MC books I read are travel monologues or adventure blog ride reports. Typically the travelogue/ride report genra tends toward the monotonous we rode here, saw this, ate that, slept there sort of diatribe. A particular book that shatters that stereotype and found me re-reading with pleasure is “Breaking The Limit” written by Karen Larsen. Sure the book is a travelogue with well written prose but beyond the motorcycle journey there’s so much more… enjoy!

  • I am a new lady rider as of Spring 2009 and here are my favourites:

    David Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling. Awesome book that helps me understand the physics of a motorcycle and and riding. Every rider should own this book. I plan to read this book over and over!

    Ride Like A Pro Companion Book to the DVD. This book gives more details for the exercises in the DVD. I do these exercises for my parking lot practice.

    The Chrome Cowgirl: Guide to the Motorcycle Life by Sasha Mullins. The best book out there for lady riders. A fun read with lots of great info for women. Yes you can ride and still be glamorous!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *