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Shiny Side Up by Ron Davis: A Review

Shiny Side Up Book Cover

If you’re a motorcyclist and you enjoy reading about motorcycles, then there’s a good chance that you’ve already worked your way through the classics. You can’t go wrong with Jupiter’s Travels, Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries should be on every rider’s bookshelf, Long Way Round is always an inspiring read, and I think pretty much everyone who’s into motorcycles has tried to slog their way through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at least once.

Zen is great, but it’s not an easy read. However, if you’re looking for something Zen-like but more accessible, a little lighter, and packed full of anecdotes that you’ll nod your head in agreement with as you turn the pages, then Ron Davis’s Shiny Side Up: Musings on the Improbable Inclination to Travel on Two Wheels is a solid choice.

Rather than one continuous narrative, Shiny Side Up is a series of vignettes, musings, and snapshots from a life spent on two wheels. Penned by Ron Davis, a veteran motorcyclist with over fifty years of riding experience who has managed to juggle life as both a full-time teacher and as a writer, Shiny Side Up should appeal to riders looking for confirmation that they’re not the only ones thinking half of the nonsense that goes through one’s head when they’re on the road.

Ron’s words should especially appeal to BMW riders. As a regular columnist and associate editor for BMW Owners News, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that he’s a fan of all things BMW, but there’s more to his musings than boxer engines and Beemers. What makes Shiny Side Up an appealing read is that it offers something for everyone.

For example, there are tales that will remind riders of their own touring experiences and all of the weirdness that occurs when you’re out on the road; but there are also delightful “we’ve all done it” moments such as spectacularly failing to properly load a motorcycle onto a trailer, and educational sections that can educate new riders about the jargon that goes with this ever-attractive pastime.

While it’s written for the average motorcyclist—no matter what gender, generation, or nationality—there’s no escaping the fact that Ron is a Wisconsin native, and there are certain references that might be wasted on the outsider, but that doesn’t stop readers from being drawn into the moment. And one of the best features of the book is the fact that it’s a collection of articles rather than one flowing narrative…so if you’re not particularly interested in the virtues of motorcycle/fishing crossover trips, you can skip through that chapter without missing anything.

In summary: Shiny Side Up: Musings on the Improbable Inclination to Travel on Two Wheels reads like sage wisdom from a trusted and reliable friend. Like all good conversations, it can go off on tangents and get a little side-tracked as it meanders its way to the point. And very much like the nature of motorcycling, it’s all about the journey rather than the destination.

If you’re in the market for a light and unpretentious read that says half of the things you’re thinking and written from the perspective of a rider who truly knows his stuff, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Ron’s book.

The Author, Ron Davis