10 Motorcycling Books Every Rider Should Read

10 Motorcycling Books Every Rider Should Read | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

It’s raining cats, dogs, and various other small mammals—a motorcycle ride is simply out of the question. A good motorcycling book can still let you scratch that two-wheeled itch from the comfort of your couch.

Riders and non-riders alike have written a lot about motorcycles, presenting unique views about our favorite vehicles. These books can take us to exotic locations, teach us about bikes’ technical details, and offer glimpses into different riders’ mindsets.

Here are 10 motorcycling books that deserve a place on every rider’s bookshelf.

The Razor's Edge—Jeff Hughes

To many riders, a motorcycle represents speed first and foremost. One of them is Jeff Hughes, an established speed demon and moto journalist.

The Razor’s Edge is a collection of Hughes’ stories originally published in the Sport Rider magazine. These 53 tales chronicle his love (and self-proclaimed addiction)  to sport bikes and pushing them to their limits.

In his stories, Hughes shares his views and insights on motorcycling, particularly when it comes to going as fast as possible. He often courts danger and disaster as he flies down the highway in his never-ending quest to find the ultimate high-speed thrill. He also doles out advice on what speedy riders should and should not do.

Not every rider can or should ride as fast as Hughes. But this book lets you take the pillion seat on his sport bike—if you dare.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance—Robert Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one of the most legendary motorcycling books ever written, and for a good reason. On the surface, it details a summertime bike trip Pirsig, his son, and a couple of friends took across the U.S.

Yet, this book is much more than that. Over the course of the book, the acts of riding and maintaining a motorcycle transform into philosophical explorations of the fundamentals of the human experience.

Blending science, religion, philosophy, and common everyday logic, Pirsig details his travels while questioning everything about the people he meets and, above all, himself.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was an instant classic upon its publication in 1974 and its just as famous today. If you ride motorcycles and haven’t yet read this book, get it on your reading list now.

(PS: After finishing the book, check out our ZenMoto article series where John Flores follows Pirsig’s route on his own quest to inner peace.)

McQueen's Motorcycles—Matt Stone

A motorcycle or a car accompanied Steve McQueen in practically all of his roles. But even off the silver screen, the King of Cool’s penchant for two-wheelers was the stuff of legend.

Throughout his life, McQueen maintained a sizeable stable of various bikes. In this opus, Matt Stone details the star actor’s love affair with motorcycling, with a focus on the bikes he owned.

From Harley-Davidsons to Triumphs, Stone presents each bike in its historical context. Accompanied by high-quality photography, he explains when and how the motorcycles related to McQueen’s life.

Whether you’re a fan of Hollywood stars or just interested in reading about great motorcycles, this book has something to offer you. Of course, if you’re into both, you’re in for an unparalleled reading experience.

These Are the Good Old Days—Fred “Bro” Smith, Wayne Hosaka, Steve Kukla

Get ready for a ride down Memory Lane. These Are the Good Old Days is filled with motorcycling stories covering the past 70 years.

Fred “Bro” Smith recalls his experiences racing bikes in the ‘50s, while Wayne Hosaka tells us tales from the ‘60s and Steve Kukla returns to the ‘70s. These articles were originally published in the S&S Off-Road Magazine but have now been collected into one convenient volume.

These Are the Good Old Days is a must-buy for veteran riders who experienced the stories’ events themselves. Who knows, maybe they’ll stir a memory that has sat forgotten on the shelves of your mind for decades.

This book is a worthy read for new motorcyclists as well. It’ll help you connect with the past and understand how we got to where we are now.

The Motorcycle Diaries—Che Guevara

Before he became Che, Ernesto Guevara was a 23-year-old medical student who embarked on a motorcycle journey of a lifetime. Astride a coughing 1939 Norton 500cc motorcycle dubbed La Poderosa—Mighty One—he traversed the South American coast up to Peru, Colombia, and eventually Miami, FL.

The Motorcycle Diaries recounts Guevara’s thoughts over this immense undertaking. He comments on the rigors of traveling by motorcycle with his severe asthma, the incredible sights he saw, and the various injustices he witnessed.

This book is equally a motorcycling travel story, a description of Latin America’s underbelly in the 1950s, and a tale of how a promising doctor transformed into a revolutionary.

How to Build a Motorcycle—Gary Inman

Have you always wanted a custom motorcycle but never quite knew where to start? Fret no more. How to Build a Motorcycle is your guide to the world of custom bikes.

This in-depth guidebook goes over every aspect of customizing motorcycles. It teaches you how to choose a project that matches your skills, how to find a suitable base bike, and how to crack it open to tinker with its parts.

The lessons in this book are charmingly illustrated by Adi Gilbert, a famed bicycle and motorcycle illustrator whose work has appeared in Harley-Davidson commercials and bike magazines.

How to Build a Motorcycle is a fantastic starting point for any aspiring gearhead dreaming of their first custom. Even if customs aren’t your thing, the step-by-step instructions and fun drawings can help you understand your standard stallion better.

The Motor-Cycle of the Past

What is a motorcycle? We all think we know the answer, but to truly understand two-wheelers, we must look into their past.

The Motor-Cycle of the Past collects various books, pamphlets, and magazine articles between a single cover. Dating back to the early 1900s and beyond, these rare works offer us modern riders a glimpse into what our forebears thought of their machines.

This volume includes explorations of the mindset of early riders, travel stories, and more. It highlights in a unique way how advances in motorcycle technology have changed our perception of them—and how some things have always been and probably will remain the same.

The Moment Collectors

We all have our favorite motorcycling moments. In this book, 20 authors share theirs from rides all around the world.

The Moment Collectors features stories that truly span the globe. From the frigid Alaskan highways to the beaches of Mexico, from the Mongolian plains to the peaks of the Andes, there’s no environment these globetrotting riders don’t tackle.

Their recollections of their travels tell of the joys, challenges, highs, and lows of what they encountered on the road. In addition, the book contains 70 illustrations and 20 photographs to bring the stories to life.

The Moment Collectors is one book that no one interested in international travel—two-wheeled or otherwise—should miss.

Into Africa—Sam Manicom

Before Sam Manicom embarked on his cross-Africa motorcycling trip, he had to solve a small problem. He had no idea how to ride a motorcycle.

This bizarre premise sets the stage for what you can expect from Into Africa. Having learned to ride in just three months, Manicom plunges on an astounding 22,000-mile moto expedition from Cairo to Cape Town.

Rolling, swerving, and drudging through 14 countries, he encounters the complete scale of human experience, from absolute joy to crushing misery. He doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties and challenges, but he also doesn’t detract from the humor and generosity of the people he meets.

There’s a reason Into Africa is an award-winning motorcycle travel story. It brings an incredible undertaking to life in a way few books can.

Jupiters Travels—Ted Simon

Ted Simon is a man of many talents. He has restored a 13th-century French ruin, developed new organic agriculture techniques—and he has ridden a motorcycle around the world.

Jupiter Travels is Simon’s recounting of his motorcycling journey across the globe, an incomprehensible feat in the 1970s. He spent four years on the road, motoring through 45 countries over 78,000 miles.

During his journey, he encountered peaceful country villages and cities torn apart by civil wars. He spent nights among peasants and presidents, sometimes sleeping on the floor of a rural hut and other times on a prison bench.

Jupiter Travels is one of the most influential motorcycling travel stories of all time, having inspired Ewan McGregor and many nameless intrepid moto adventures alike. There’s no way to describe this book in detail in the space we have here—you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

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