Hey, don’t look at me; I learn to do everything on YouTube! Matter of fact, I just got the AC at Casa JB up and running on the first 95-degree day of the year, thanks to a new $18 relay I learned how to replace on YT! Yaaaaay! On the other hand, I had to wade through a bunch of vidiots before I got to the good information, and there’s the rub. Even with all the new wonderbikes, the skills and mindset one needs to properly operate a motorcycle in a self-preserving fashion haven’t changed since the print era, and these books are the gold standard. Also, I think you internalize things when you’re relaxed in your comfy reading spot much better than you do on your iPhone bouncing along in back of an Uber, no? Not that you can’t Kindle or tablet some of these up if you must. Away we go.
How to Ride Off-Road Motorcycles by Gary LaPlante – $21 paperback, $15 on Kindle
I probably need to order up a copy of this one for myself. I’ve been to more than a couple of dirt schools, but still need help. “How to Ride Off-Road Motorcycles schools the reader in all the skills necessary to ride safely and quickly off-road. Chapters cover the basics, such as body position, turning, braking, and throttle control, then proceed to advanced techniques, such as sliding, jumps, wheelies, hill-climbing, and more.” Gary LaPlante is almost as old as dirt (haha, Gary, a little joke!) and offers training courses at his Motoventures 350-acre rancho in Anza, California.
Total Control by Lee Parks – $24 paperback, $12 Kindle
Lee Parks used to be just another magazine geek years ago, but not anymore: “Lee Parks, one of the most accomplished riders, racers, authors and instructors in the world [!], helps riders master the awe-inspiring performance potential of modern motorcycles. This book gives riders everything they need to develop the techniques and survival skills necessary to become a proficient, accomplished, and safer street rider. High quality photos, detailed instructions, and professional diagrams highlight the intricacies and proper techniques of street riding and the knowledge gained will apply to all brands of bikes from Harley-Davidson and Suzuki to Ducati and Kawasaki to Honda and BMW and more!”
A Twist of the Wrist by Keith Code – $20 paperback, $8 Kindle
The first edition of Keith Code’s seminal work came out in 1983, and was a must-read for any aspiring roadracer at the time, of which there were many: Some contend TOTW2 is the better, but either way, all these years later, the man, the book, and the California Superbike School are still going strong. “A world-wide best seller since it first year of publication, A Twist of the Wrist has been read and re-read by street riders, novice racers and national and world champions. Translated into more than a dozen languages the demand for translation continues. Today, riders around the globe are riding faster, safer and with more confidence thanks to the step-by-step theory contained in this book.”
Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well by David L. Hough – $9.50 paperback, $14 eTextbook
From Amazon: David L. Hough took up motorcycling in 1965 as a means to commute to work. But he quickly discovered that there wasn’t much information available to help a new motorcyclist. So he started gathering what he could find, and after several years began sharing “safety tips” with the Boeing Employees’ Motorcycle Club. That led to a long career of writing skills information for Road Rider magazine, Motorcycle Consumer News, BMW Owners News, BMW Motorcycle Magazine, and other commercial magazines. In 2000, after 40+ years of riding and writing, Hough selected the best of his work for publication as the book “Proficient Motorcycling”, followed by two other books, “Street Strategies” and “More Proficient Motorcycling.”
In 2013, with 48 years and more than a million miles of motorcycling experience, David wrote a new book, “The Good Rider.” “Street Strategies” was completely rewritten in 2014, reformatted into a handy pocket-sized booklet, and renamed “Street Rider’s Guide.”
Hough is one of only a few motorcycle journalists who has also been a certified motorcycle safety instructor, and is possibly the only journalist in the world who has designed and taught both two-wheeled and three-wheeled motorcycle courses. Hough has been honored by awards from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the BMWMOA Foundation, and was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 2009 in recognition of his efforts toward motorcycle safety.
From an Amazon reviewer: “You have to wade through a lot of prefatory verbiage to get the key points, and that makes this difficult to use as a reference. I assume this is because the material was originally written for a magazine column, where chattiness and longwindedness are virtues.”
Ouch. Good book, though.
Motorcycles and our 2nd 50 Years: An Owner’s Manual for Riders over 50 by Reg Kittrelle – $8.64
Reg Kittrelle’s done it all in his first 50 years of riding motorcycles, and he’s here to tell you that he’s far from over. Riding strong at the ¾-century mark, Reg says, “Riding a motorcycle has nothing to do with how old you are, and everything to do with how old you think you are.”
When you begin to think your riding days might be numbered, that’s when you need this highly personal, 224-pages of Reg advice, to reassure you that old age is not a disease or a condition. It is a status we’ve attained, says Kittrelle, and if we’ve lived properly, it is worthy of respect. Inside, Kittrelle takes a look at what it means to be “old” in our culture, and how it applies to motorcycle riders.
It’s an instructional too; Kittrelle takes a critical look at the food we eat, lays out a simple, no-fad exercise plan to make our riding years past 50 the best ones ever, and tackles many topics that contribute to riding longer and more competently, including accessory lighting, tools, track schools, clothing and myriad other subjects.
Sport Riding Techniques: How To Develop Real World Skills for Speed, Safety, and Confidence on the Street and Track by Nick Ienatsch – $25 paperback
Nick actually was a seriously accomplished racer when he sat down to write this book in 2003, and it shows. He learned these techniques as second banana under the wing of Freddie Spencer at Freddie’s now-defunct school, from the guy who might be the most talented rider of all time. Top three. These are now the same techniques NI teaches at the Yamaha Champions Riding School, where he’s been chief instructor for some years now. All those techniques are in here. Read the book, go to a school, you’ll be much faster and guaranteed to stay healthier.
Let’s Ride: Sonny Barger’s Guide to Motorcycling Paperback by Sonny Barger – $14.63 paperback, $14 Kindle
According to all the reviewers, this guide by the larger-than-life president of the Hells Angels (with help from journalist Darwin Holmstrom) is actually an excellent source of instruction for total beginners as well as more experienced riders – “really good at being able to stress how serious and potentially dangerous motorcycling can be without having to scare or shock the crap out of you to do it,” says one reviewer. “They do a good job of finding the middle ground between the ‘motorcycling is dangerous’ and ‘motorcycling is freaking amazing’ camps: Yeah it’s wonderful. Yeah it can be dangerous. Just don’t be an idiot.”
Really, that’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it? Don’t be an idiot. Sounds like a good read, and you can read it for free at kindleunlimited if you start a 30-day free trial.
Troy Bayliss: A Faster Way by Troy Bayliss with Andrew Trevitt – $27.43 paperback
Combine the talents of three-time WSBK champ T. Bayliss, and the analytical brain stylings of motojournalist/engineer (and no slouch himself as a racer) Andrew Trevitt, and you’ve got 176 pages of remarkable insight on the visual skills, line selection, steering, braking and throttle control that can clip seconds off your lap times while increasing your margin of error. “… if you think you’re as quick as you’ll ever be, you’ll be surprised by what you can do with minute changes in technique, body position, and mental training,” writes Bayliss, “the most important thing to realize about motorcycle riding is that it’s a dynamic skill–you will always be able to improve or change something to be faster, smoother, and safer.”
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