Books for the serious motorcyclist

I’m back! For my first post back from vacation, I decided to review some books that might be of interest to the motorcyclist who is looking to take his/her riding skills to the next level. A couple of months ago, while riding on one of my routes I’d stopped to take some pictures and stretch my legs, when another biker went by on his BMW motorcycle. The twisty country road had a speed limit of 55mph, but the recommended speed for the sharp right turn up ahead was 25mph. I saw the guy make the smoothest turn I had ever seen at a speed that would have definitely taken me onto the oncoming lane had I been the one riding the bike. He placed the bike near the centerline, braked gently till the turn-in point, leaned the bike into the turn and accelerated through the apex of the curve in one fluid motion that left me asking myself why I wasn’t cornering nearly as fast or smoothly on my bike. That was before I fully understood countersteering, the ‘delayed apex line’ for cornering and the importance of rolling on the throttle in a curve to conserve traction. Later that day, I went online, looked up a few popular motorcycling books on and put in a request for them at the university library. I received the books a few days later and read them over the past month.

Two of the books, A Twist of the Wrist I & II are geared toward people with who intend to race bikes. I glossed over them but found them to be very technical, without much information for the street rider. However, I have come to consider Proficient Motorcycling and More Proficient Motorcycling by David L. Hough a must read for both current and aspiring motorcyclists.

David L. Hough is a rider with more that a million miles of motorcycle experience, so he obviously knows a thing or two about riding. I recommend reading the books in sequence, beginning with the first book, Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well. The chapters begin with an example of an accident or an incident involving a fictitious rider (with names like Panicky Pete, Motorhead Mike and Knee-dragger Nellie!) and then he proceeds to analyze the mistakes the rider made. Hough talks about motorcycle dynamics, making panic stops, conserving traction during cornering, urban traffic survival, effective steering and group riding practices, all peppered with interesting anecdotes and examples drawn from his personal experience or that of his friends.

In More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride, he focuses on the mental aspect of motorcycling, with practical steps that could increase the riders focus and reduce reaction time. He explains countersteering and cornering in more detail, discusses road hazards to motorcyclists and explains how to deal with them. Both books have plenty of photographs and diagrams. The writing style keeps the reader engrossed, with a dash of dry wit making some of the more serious content very readable. Bottom-line: If you are serious about your motorcycling, consider buying or at least borrowing these two books. They are priceless and could quite possibly save your life when you are confronted with an emergency while riding. One other book by David L. Hough worth checking out is Street Strategies: A Survival Guide for Motorcyclists. This is more like a quick reference book, with material condensed from the Proficient Motorcycling series. While none of these books can replace the hands-on training provided at a motorcycle safety course, they go a long way in increasing the rider’s understanding of motorcycle dynamics, thus making it easier to practice the right technique while riding or choose the right course of action in an emergency.

Do check back soon for my next post. Happy reading and happy riding!!


One Response to Books for the serious motorcyclist

  1. Anonymous says:

    didn’t get very far in the proficient motorcycling book, but it seems like a good book.

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