We’ll be the first to admit. When you think about motorcycles, you probably aren’t thinking of any literature beyond your repair manual. While we don’t often pair reading and motorcycles together, the fact is that there’s something about motorcycles that offer a level of introspection you won’t find anywhere else.
Since the first motorcycle was made in Germany in 1885, countless writers, academics, journalists, and artsy types have taken thought-inspiring journeys that they’ve then put to paper. Here at Ruhnke’s Xtreme Cycles in Odessa, we’re always thinking about our favorite form of two-wheeled transportation, so when we’re not riding ‘em, you better believe we’re reading about ‘em. Here are a few of our favorite books about bikes.
Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
Hunter S. Thompson is perhaps best known for his work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the 1998 film with Johnny Depp, but one of his more controversial works explored early motorcycle gang culture in 1960s California.
Thompson spent more than a year embedded with the gang and watched as the club evolved from a group of small-time miscreants and gear heads to nationally recognized villains. More than just a discussion of the fearsome Harley Davidsons that these outlaws rode, Hell’s Angels is an exploration of shifting cultural mores, urban blight, drug culture, and identity, all set to the burbling rumble of a 74-cubic inch HD engine.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
If you’re looking for a guide on how to achieve enlightenment while aligning your front forks, you won’t quite find it in Robert Pirsig’s 1974 discussion of philosophy. What you will find, however, is a sprawling fictionalized autobiography of Pirsig’s journey from Minnesota to Northern California during a summer road trip with his son.
As the pair moves further west, Pirsig explores heady topics like romantic and rational lines of thought, and how the motorcycle perfectly embodies both schools. In his discussion of quality, he balances these ideas as he delves into the history of philosophy, the philosophy of science, and ultimately into an exploration of his own descent into insanity. The book can be challenging to read, in part because of how it was written, and in part of the content it discusses. But it does captivate with detailed explanations of life spent in the saddle of a Honda CB77 Super Hawk in 1970s America.
Long before Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman set across the globe in their series Long Way Round, Ted Simon loaded up his Triumph Tiger and set off on the journey of a lifetime. In the 1970s, the idea of an ADV bike was still a distant dream, but that didn’t deter Simon from riding more than 78,000 miles through 45 countries over the course of four years.
Jupiter’s Travels is considered by many to be a masterful example of the travel genre of literature. Rather than viewing his experiences as a series of rendezvouses with various towns and cities, Simon instead found that “the interruptions were the journey.” Through mechanical failures, some perilous moments, and many thousands of miles on which to reflect, Simon offers up some truly interesting insights into culture, status, and religion. For those who have yet to ride and are looking for inspiration, this book might just do it, as Simon had never ridden a motorcycle prior to leaving for his journey.
The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles
There’s no denying the lasting appeal of a motorcycle. Melissa Holbrook Pierson is a tumbling celebration of all things motorcycles and explores the history, science, and culture of the machine in vivid detail.
While the books listed above are often focused on the relationship between “man and machine,” Pierson’s work offers a fresh perspective, examining the stories and challenges of the women who ride. The Perfect Vehicle does an excellent job of dissecting the type of people who ride and offers up the idea that they are often not the ones you might expect. Part life story, part social commentary, part post-ride reflections, this book captures the enduring allure and appeal of our favorite ride.
Your Own Story Starts at Ruhnke’s
Tired of turning pages and would rather be twisting throttles? Ready to exchange miles of pages for miles of blacktop? Sounds like you need a bike of your own.
Ruhnke’s Xtreme Cycles is Odessa’s first choice for quality motorcycle shops. We carry the brands you know and trust, like Harley Davidson, Honda, BMW, and more. Stop by today and check out our selection of new and used motorcycles!