In these uncertain times, there’s never been a better chance to kick back with a good book. Or more specifically, a motorcycle book. There’s so many to choose from, and this list here is in no way something like “The 10 Best Motorcycle Books of All Time”. It’s simply a list of favorites cobbled together by the CN staffers, ones that have stuck out in our minds as a good read. With that said, here are our 10 Motorcycle Books To Read During Coronavirus Quarantine. What’s missing from your list? Please leave your comments below on what books lit your moto fire (and if you’re extra awesome, leave a link so others can click and purchase the book).
Wayne Rainey—His Own Story
There may be no finer rider of the scary 500cc two-stroke than Wayne Rainey. The man from Monterey in California was at the height of his powers when his accident at the 1993 San Marino Grand Prix left him paralyzed with no feeling from the waist down.
Wayne Rainey—His Own Story, was written way back in 1997 by long-time Cycle News contributor Michael Scott and details the life Rainey lived as the world’s fastest 500cc racer, his accident, then his next stage of life as a team owner.
Of course, a lot has happened for Rainey since the book’s release, but it’s still a must-read for any racing fan.
Can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Wayne-Rainey-His-Own-Story/dp/1844258629
Malcolm! The Autobiography by Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith is the American godfather of off-road racing. He’s won everything there is to win in the desert, often by margins that left his competitors in utter dismay, but that’s only part of the great man’s story.
In Malcolm! The Autobiography by Malcolm Smith, the man himself details his first bikes, to racing across the globe and then onto his life as a successful businessman and entrepreneur, with that trademark wide smile never far from his face.
Can be found here: https://shop.malcolmsmith.com/miscellaneous-malcolm-the-autobiography-deluxe-edition-detail.htm?productId=-9787154
Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga
Written back in 1967, Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga is the quintessential Outlaw book, centered around the most feared motorcycle gang on the planet.
Hunter S Thompson’s inimitable style permeates every page of the book, as he beds down with the San Francisco and Oakland chapters of the Angels to expose the dramas and political goings-on of the gangs. Thompson was straight up with the Angels about being a journalist, which was risky given how much the gang distrusted the media. The result is an amazing book, one of Thompson’s finest.
Can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Hells-Angels-Strange-Terrible-Saga/dp/0345410084
If we were ranking this list in order, Stealing Speed would likely be at the top. Written by British MotoGP journalist, Mat Oxley, Stealing Speed tells the incredible true story about how Ernst Degner defected from East to West Germany after the 1961 Swedish Grand Prix with the secrets of how to make a two-stroke go fast, which he sold to Suzuki. Degner had been working with Walter Kaaden from the East German MZ factory, and it was Kaaden who, after working against his will on the Nazi’s V1 and V2 rocket program of WWII, discovered the expansion chamber and its magical powers of essentially supercharging a two-stroke motor. That part of the book alone is incredible, let alone all the espionage, secrets, lies and amazing tales that follow.
Can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Stealing-Speed-Biggest-Scandal-Motorsport/dp/1844259757
Grand Prix Motocross: The 1972 Season
Former Cycle News employee Terry Pratt took 35 years to write this book, but it’s a good thing he did because the result is spectacular.
Pratt was a young man in his 20’s at the time, and spent the majority of 1972 chasing the motocross gods around Europe, back in the days when it was not uncommon to have over 100,000 people turn up to watch a Grand Prix.
Pratt documents how Roger De Coster clinched his second 500cc World Championship victory; Joel Robert’s sixth and final 250cc title, and how Bryan Kenney became the first American to score a 500cc World Championship point.
Littered with amazing pictures from a bygone era, Grand Prix Motocross: The 1972 Season will be a great read for anyone with a love of motocross history.
Can be found here: https://www.wewentfast.com/product/grand-prix-motocross-book-the-1972-season/
MotoGP Technology Third Edition
MotoGP Technology Third Edition comes from the foremost authority of all things MotoGP tech, Neil Spalding, and covers everything from the beginning of the four-stroke era in 2002, when the grid was filled with everything from inline triples to V5s, right up to the present day of 1000cc four-cylinder motors. An official MotoGP product, which means unfiltered access to the racing paddock and everything contained in it, this 304-page volume is a book for the die-hard MotoGP fans.
Filled with glorious glossy tech images of stripped-down bikes like Loris Capirossi’s fearsome Ducati Desmosedici GP3; Valentino Rossi’s various Yamaha YZR-M1s and long gone bikes like the Ilmor X3 (the first 800cc machine ever to score points in 2006) and the Team Roberts KTMs, Protons and Hondas, this book as a feast for the reader’s eyes as much as their brains.
Can be found here: https://motogptechnology.com/
The Speed Kings
Perhaps the hardest men ever to swing a leg over a racing motorcycle were the board track racers of the early 20th century. Racing high up on the wooden “murderdrome” banking wall, inches from one another at well over 100 mph, these men were hard as nails. Often there would be wrecks that resulted in severe injury and death, but that just added to the mystique. Don Emde, himself no stranger to high speed racing a legend of AMA competition, documents the evolution and demise of this very American form of racing in The Speed Kings. The book is beautifully illustrated with over 600 photos and is a worthy volume for the brave souls who tested themselves and their machines on the board tracks of America.
Can be found here: https://partsmagazineonline.com/store?olsPage=products%2Fthe-speed-kings
Sportbike Suspension Tuning
Former Sport Rider editor Andrew Trevitt’s book Sportbike Suspension Tuning: How To Improve Your Motorcycle’s Handling and Performance, is one you must have in your garage if you have even the most remote interest in how your motorcycle handles and how to make it better.
Trevitt goes about the confusing topic of how suspension works, how it’s adjusted and what to expect at the handlebars when you start fiddling with your clickers in an easy to read (and understand) style. All the basics are covered, from setting sags to understanding how geometry works and changes as you ride, with the end result making you, the reader, more proficient and confident in altering and (hopefully) improving your bike’s performance on the road and track.
Can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Sportbike-Suspension-Tuning-Andrew-Trevitt/dp/1893618455
An Age of Superheroes
Another Mat Oxley gem, An Age of Superheroes celebrates that most magical (and bone-crunching) time when MotoGP racing was ruled by wild 500cc two-strokes, and the men who tamed them.
Lawson, Rainey, Schwantz, Doohan, Gardner, Sarron and more, all names that belong in the pantheon of MotoGP greats, feature throughout this exceptional racing volume that focusses on the mid-1980s to the 1990s. This was the gunslinger time of MotoGP—no traction control, no wheelie control, no engine management software—none of that—just you, your right wrist and 170 two-stroke horses between your legs trying to spit you off. When Valentino Rossi himself says this is the era he wished he raced, you know it’s a special time. Oxley has done a brilliant job of capturing the vibe of the high money, high partying 1980s, when Sunday night was always a full-send affair, just because you made it out in one piece.
Can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Age-Superheroes-Sideways-through-Schwantz/dp/1844255832
Taking It To The Limit
Celebrated documentary filmmaker Peter Starr’s Taking It To The Limit book is look back at the 20 years he spent making over 40 feature films about motorcycle racing. The original film of the same title is the basis for the book, but the book also details some of the riders he worked with like Mike Hailwood, Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts, and Steve Baker, as well as a look into almost every form of motorcycle sport in road racing, motocross, dirt track, and drag racing.