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Seek out old moto books: Part 1

What can we learn from the past?

There's much to be said about what we can learn from others who have ridden more than the average through the years. In the old days, pretty much any worthy education about motorcycle touring came by way of magazines and the really smart guys were able to get themselves book deals.

Today we have the internet which is filled with massive volumes of information to better your ride. It is also filed with massive volumes of mis-information if you spend your time wallowing through social media sites taking your lessons from others who may not even ride 4,000 miles a year. How would you know?

As a moto-journalist myself who has authored columns for magazines and published books on the subject of touring, I have a fair amount of books here at the Crow's Nest that I refer to from time to time for fresh ideas. There's no plagiarism at play here, I simply read a few paragraphs and see where that takes my mind. Since we all don't think the same way, you can do that as well with varying results. The way I think about rain gear may vastly differ from your thought on rain gear. This is also fun to do with just the index pages, before you ever start reading a book.

Recently I was enjoying a cup of tea with an old hand at motorcycle touring, Gregory Frazier, lamenting some of the better books over the decades about the subject. Some of you know Dr. Frazier from his columns that appear across a number of print magazines today and the countless number of books he has written over the last three decades. To get to know him intimately, you'll want to be at The Rally in the Gorge this summer.

During tea, I vowed to do this short column and note my favorites. I figure that you, the reader, may have a few favorites of your own. So I'm limiting this first part to just five books. If you want to share yours with me, you can email me from here, or post up on the SoundRiderMag Facebook page.

The Complete Motorcycle Nomad (Roger Lovin, Little Brown Co., 1974)

Someone must have written a guide to mc touring before 1974, I just haven't come across it yet. This one was gifted to me by David L. Hough. Oddly, if you've ever read Fred Rau's Motorcycle Touring Bible, you will experience a bit of déjà vu. when you pick up this gem that predates it thirty years. According to one source, that's not as odd as it seems since Rau's publisher has a way of handing an author a book outline and saying 'go write it.'

Mr. Lovin's book focuses on how to set yourself up to tour for endless days. But back in 1974, that was using decidedly different gear than what's available now. Everything is different when you consider things like luggage, camping gear, cooking gear, navigation and, of course, apparel. But hey, you bought the book for entertainment and you will learn a thing or two right down to Weatherloading. Not sure what that means? Get the book

Ride It: The Complete Book of Motorcycle Touring (Ken Craven, Haynes publishing 1977)

Oh yeah, all us moto-journalists want to write The Complete Book. So once we all sit down in the same room together, agree on the outline together, write the book together and edit it, happily, together... Don't count on it anytime soon.

Mr. Craven was a British rider who not only toured around the globe during his career, but also was an innovator of fiberglass panniers and top boxes. In the countless photos that make up easily 70% of the content of this 192-page hardback, you will see those very panniers in use throughout different countries. But like all good moto journalists, Craven had a number of tips 21st century riders should contemplate as they evolve their ways. Which is not to say all his tips are the way to go. In a number of cases that would be the contrary - like that photo of his body naked from the waist up suggesting this is "Keeping cool in America."

It too is an entertaining read as you wind your way through the ages to now. Did you note yet? - I've listed each book in chronological order.

Motorcycle Sex (Greg Frazier, Arrowstar, 1994)

I opened up my copy today to find an autograph to me dated 6/17/00 Kirkland. Good thing it's there because otherwise I would not have remembered picking up this book during a book signing years ago at the long-gone Cascade BMW.

The first book by Dr. Frazier makes fun of just about anything you can do motorcycling. Are you a racer? Be sure to read the chapter Racing: Bungee jumping without a bungee. Do you pull a trailer? Be sure to read the chapter entitled Trailers: Pulling a boat anchor. By virtue of the book title, Frazier gets away with all the tongue-in-cheek observations and criticisms, keeping your interest glued and making this one a hard book to put down.

Since this book, Frazier has been around the world five times, he's written a number of other books and remains an active, not-dead-yet, moto journalist today. In case you were wondering, his doctorate is in Economics.

Blood Sweat and Gears: Ramblings on Motorcycling and Medicine (Flash Gordon M.D., White Horse Press, 1995)

Bring on the San Francisco practitioner who will teach you more than just how to apply anti-fungal ointment or bandage a bloody knee. But buyer beware, modern medicine is decidedly different today than it was even just 20 years ago. Or is it?

Flash's first book is worthy of a read because it does lend insight into things most riders don't contemplate when they think of taking their fairy-tale-like journey. All sorts of things can crop up along the way. Dr. Gordon's lessons on things like the differences between the various over-the-counter painkillers, dealing with road rash and treatment of hemorrhoids are truly things that many riders will need to deal with at some point, but few other moto authors are qualified to discuss. Most of the columns that make up the book appeared in City Bike magazine.

His second book, Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear includes a number of his articles published by Motorcycle Consumer News. Keep an eye out for that one, too.

MotoRaid (Keith Thye, Elfin Cove Press, 1999)

I'm pretty sure when former Ride West BMW owner, Keith Thye set out in the late 90s to recount his 1963 journey, it was just supposed to be that. But packed in there are lessons for every rider who fantasizes about going abroad, whether it's dealing with various border crossings, getting sick in a third world country, avoiding theft along the way, and - perish the thought - being locked in prison. But Thye and his high-school chum got to experience it all and then some with the level of bikes, gear and road quality available in the 1960s through Central and South America. It's a must-read primer for anyone contemplating such a journey - even today.

Happily, we can report, Thye and a collective of several others repeated the route fifty years later in 2013 in far less time with a few less 'adventures.'

Now - you may be interested in acquiring a few of these books, which for the most part are out of print. Online book stores are the obvious place to start, a general internet search can help and be sure to drop into your local used book store while you're at it. Have fun!

TM/April 2016


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