This strange and never-ending winter has beaten us into a corner. The rare occurrences of decent riding weather have kept us indoors, staring at the ever-growing pile of helmets, jackets, gloves and other goodies that are the grist for webBikeWorld reviews.
So what’s a motorcyclist to do in weather most foul? Spark up the fire, grab a cuppa and dig in. To the pile o’ motorcycle books, that is!
We’ve featured a surprisingly popular but irregular series of book reviews covering rare, out of print and hard-to-find motorcycle books over the past year or so, and here’s another gem to add to the pile.
Exotic Motorcycles – A Tester’s Privilegeby Vic Willoughby is becoming a classic. I’ve seen it for sale in at least 3 different used and antique bookstores at $65.00 or so. I got this one for a steal at Lee Cowie’s Motorsport Publications for $24.95, and it’s brand new old stock, in perfect condition. Maybe I should have bought a couple?
I guess you can call me an Anglophile, having loved all things British since my knee-high days in the ’60’s. John Steed, John Drake and, of course, James Bond were my idols, and I devoured those black & white Ealing and Shepperton productions the way normal kids attacked their Neccos.
I’m not sure what it is about these films, but to this day I am still fascinated by them. Maybe it’s the anti-Hollywood-ness of it all; after all, they are deliberate, understated and comparatively low budget productions that got the utmost from some of the best character actors to ever grace a screen.
British authors weren’t far behind, and motorcycling attracted more than its share of true writers, devoted to the sport and to their craft. I don’t think motorcycle sports writing in the U.S.A. has or will ever come anywhere near the British knack for this subject for some reason.
Vic Willoughby was one of the best around and Exotic Motorcycles is probably his most famous work. The premise is simple: Willoughby rides 24 wild and crazy motorcycles, from the comic Volkswagen powered Drag-Waye, with its extreme rearward sit-down riding position to Walter Zeller’s TT winning BMW.
Each chapter is short enough to capture the reader’s interest but filled with just the right amount of detail. The book is filled with very nice black and white photographs, many of which illustrate motorcycles that are either very rare or have never been seen before (before the book was published in 1982, that is).
Willoughby is a wonderful writer, and he covers the background and history of each bike before providing a brief narrative of his ride. There’s so much to learn here — about motorcycle history, about extremely rare motorcycles and about engineering at the extremes.
This is not your “normal” motorcycle book and that’s what makes it so good. Exotic Motorcycles can really be thought of as a mini-coffee table book whose chapters will be enjoyed over and again for many years.
Motorcycling has a rich and complex history and enjoying books like this one can only deepen one’s respect and admiration for the pioneers of the past who have brought us the wonders that we have today.