MO Book Review: The Big Book of Motorbikes

When I was a kid I had a neighbor who, every weekend, would roll his dirt bike out from the garage and kick it to life. It usually took two or three kicks before that two-stroke would fire up. Then he’d just let it sit there for a few minutes, blipping the throttle as two-strokers tend to do. Ring-ding-ding. Ring-ding-ding. Ring-ding-ding. Eventually he would lift it up off the milk crate, throw a leg over it, and roar down the block. My neighbors probably hated him for it, but I remember I would stop whatever I was doing and watch that bike go flying by. 

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Motorcycle Traveler - Book Review

What would you do if you came face to face with your own mortality? For many of us, especially in this sport, it’s a scenario we think about in the abstract; we’re either going to go out in a blaze of glory doing something we love, or Father Time will continue undefeated. We don’t think, much less expect, something like cancer to get in the way of our plans. Peter Starr was one of those people, living comfortably – some would even say successfully – thanks to motorcycles.

One fateful day in 2004 would turn his world upside down. Starr was diagnosed with colon cancer, bringing into crystal clear focus how finite his life really was. It was then that he stopped giving in to the excuses he told himself and decided to check off something he’d always wanted to do: explore the world on two wheels. In his book, Motorcycle Traveler, Starr takes us through his six-year journey, crossing 12 countries off his bucket list long before that was ever a phrase.

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MO Books: MotoGP Technology Third Edition

If you had to restrict yourself to one word to describe Neil Spalding’s epic MotoGP opus, that word could be “dense.” The level of technological detail is over the top, charting all the changes of every points-scoring motorcycle since the prototype four-strokes first appeared in 2002. If you ever wanted to be a fly on the partition inside MotoGP, this is about as close as you’ll get, as Neil’s been an insider in top-level racing since well before MotoGP began.

Before that, he and Alan Cathcart persuaded the World Superbike people to run the European Supermono series in the early ’90s, where they campaigned a Ducati Supermono or two (get a sample of Neil’s excellent writing style here) in an effort to carry on the finest Cook Neilson Racer Road tradition that inspired him. Before that, Neil even ran a Yamaha SRX-6. After that, he ran a British Supersport team and now supports himself manufacturing Sigma racing clutches. Basically the man’s spent his entire life involved in motorcycle racing.

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MO Book Review - Racing the Gods: A Ducati Superbike Racer's Autobiography by Paul Ritter

Those who race motorcycles, like players in any high-risk sport, comprise a mixed group of individuals. The field may contain farm boys, scholars, artists, rodeo riders, engineers, mechanics, musicians and madmen of all sorts. In common, they may have only the abiding passion to go fast on two wheels.

Some are blessed with natural skills, while others learn slowly by trial and error. Some will excel, others will reach only a lower plateau. While racing as a metaphor for life is easily overdrawn, the parallel is there: A handful of people are always at the front, the majority occupy the middle, and a few work at the rear. Occasionally, there are transfers in the food chain, in both directions.

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