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Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles
Author: Editors of Motorcyclist Magazine with Darwin Holmstrom & Simon Green
Paperback 4th edition (January 2, 2008)
Publisher: Alpha
ISBN: 1592577040
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles, now in its 4th edition, is packed with information for newbies, and even seasoned riders may learn something new.

This comprehensive book covers subjects ranging from the history of motorcycles to buying a bike, learning to ride, and maintenance.

Last Halloween, I decided to learn to ride and get my own motorcycle.

A friend taught me some basics and I spent only two short, chilly afternoons on his dirt bike before the freeze-your-behind-off weather of Northwestern Montana hit. The riding season was over.

There I was, with a craving that couldn’t be satisfied for at least another six months. Since I was just getting into the sport, I decided to use the time to learn as much about it as possible.

Thus began my thirst for knowledge on anything and everything motorcycle related.

At the start of my quest, the only things I could tell you about a motorcycle was it had two wheels, a clutch, throttle and brakes. And I knew what a V-twin was.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles is a great place to start and a handy resource. Descriptive and easy to read, there is a vast amount of knowledge to be gleaned from it.

The book is divided into five parts: “Biker Basics”, “So You Want to Buy a Bike?”, “On the Road”, “Living with a Motorcycle”, and “The Motorcycling Community”.

Each part has a summary of what to expect; each chapter begins with a synopsis of what will be covered and ends with “The Least You Need to Know” to recap what was learned.

This layout emphasizes and drives home the key points; it also makes it easy to do a quick review.

Fun facts, a little humor, and personal stories make the material enjoyable.

To quote the authors, they have added “tips and information that will help you ride better and safer without looking like a dork in the process.”  I definitely needed help in that area!

The authors take you from start to finish, in an orderly manner, beginning with a history of motorcycles and types of bikes, and concluding with races, clubs, rallies, and the lifestyle that accompanies motorcycling.

So much is covered in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles that it is impossible to mention everything in this review.

Nevertheless, some of the key subjects include engine types, parts of a motorcycle, choosing the right bike to match your skills and needs, and tips for purchasing a bike.

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Once the reader has gained an understanding of motorcycles and how they work, the material focuses on areas such as learning to ride, getting an endorsement, pre-ride inspections, hazardous riding situations, group riding, packing for trips and even dirt bike riding.

Routine maintenance and basic repairs are covered in detail, and the fun part, customization, is also discussed.

The updated fourth edition added a color insert with beautiful photos listing “recommended buys” for beginning, intermediate, and experienced riders in each category of motorcycles:

  • Tourer and Cruiser
  • Sport-tourer
  • Supersport
  • Superbike
  • Standard/Naked
  • Retro
  • Dual Sport
  • Enduro.

The appendix – in all editions – contains an extensive guide to buying new and used motorcycles with detailed summaries and pictures of almost every model available, along with the editors’ picks for “Best First Bikes”.

Several pages of updated resources and contact information for classes, clubs, and races are also included in the appendix, along with a glossary.

Very educational for a newbie, this book could also teach veterans a thing or two. I’m surprised by how many long-time riders don’t know about counter-steering and the friction zone.

These are basics taught in every Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and are building blocks for riding a motorcycle (earlier editions of the book use the term “friction zone,” while the fourth edition calls this the “biting point”).

I originally borrowed the 2nd Edition of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles from the public library because I wasn’t sure how deep into the sport I’d get or if it was just a phase.

But I became totally hooked, and the book gave me a head start for the MSF Basic Rider Course along with a wealth of knowledge for purchasing my first bike.

Going to motorcycle shops and actually knowing what I am talking about is empowering. It’s even more fun talking to male riders who are caught off guard by how much I know about engines.

Not that I’m an engine guru by any means – but how many women know the four strokes of an engine, three types of final-drive systems, and the difference between a Thumper, a Boxer, and a flat-four?

These are a few of the many things discussed in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles. It seems I’m becoming a total gearhead, but that’s okay as long as I’m not a squid.

Pictures and illustrations, sprinkled throughout the book, provide visuals for many of the topics. The only thing missing is a diagram illustrating the various engine components.

However, this book is not meant to be a comprehensive resource for motorcycle engines, but it still does a great job teaching the basics.

Now I am ordering the updated fourth edition to have on my shelf as a valuable resource.

Whether you’re new to the sport or have been riding for years, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles, 4th Edition is comprehensive, easy to read and understand, and a great resource.

Review Date: June 2009

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