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Classic Motorcycles: The Art of Speed

New book by PNW moto-journalist needs to be on everyone's coffee table

Bikes like Militaire, Mars, Megola, and author Pat Hahn are all names few moto enthusiasts have ever crossed paths with. And that's good, because there's always more to learn about the history of motorcycles.

Hahn is no new comer to writing books about motorcycling. But this time he got to have a lot of fun doing research in an area that breaks new ground for his otherwise rider-education focus.

The new book, Classic Motorcycles: The Art of Speed is a stunning hard bound coffee table book that dives into a unique collection of motorcycles rarely seen. Hahn shares credit for the book with photographer, Tom Loeser, who's stunning use of 'light-painting' style shooting makes the book all that much better.

There's no introduction to the book. It gets right into the heart of its three-part breakdown with the opening segment, The Experimental Years. Here Hahn brings to light rarities and innovation that was happening in the background, as simpler designs by Harley-Davidson, Excelsior and others were capturing the marketplace. Instead, these lesser-known bikes were breaking ground in a different way.

Take for instance, The Militaire, a bike that surely had its ups and down throughout its 10-year existence. When they finally got it right, WWI took them down. A sleek runner with wooden rims looked great when parked, but it was no match for the yet developed outlying roads across the world. But when it came to design, it was nothing short of beautiful.

Then there was the Mars, whose horizontally opposed boxer engine was placed into line with the frame, not like what you see on a BMW today. In the book, the book is very photogenic in white lit under Loesers' special technique.

If Dan Gurney's Alligator or the Honda Helix had a grandparent, it was probably the 1922 Megola. This stretch scooter-like lounger had its five-cylinder engine placed into - where else -- the front wheel.

These three bikes are just the beginning of a book that showcases innovation across 100 years of bike building, closing up with the 1994 Britten V1000. Possibly another bike few of us have experienced. Hahn's in-depth research brings little known facts to the surface about these little known models as well as others featured in the book.

For photographers, Loeser isn't shy to give away the secret to his art, utilizing two pages to explain the technique. The average bike took 5 plus hours to shoot. And then there was editing and selection time. Wow.

The 1922 Motosacoche featured in the book, shot using Loeser's light-paining technique.

Along the rear interior cover, one more deserving credit is given to Virgil Elings, owner of the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum where many of these rarities are housed.

As you read along and enjoy the text and photos, you'll no doubt begin to envy the duo for the fun they got to have researching and shooting each bike.

TM/March 17

Classic Motorcycles: The Art of Speed is published through Motorbooks International and available online through www.quartoknows.com


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