It’s always good to compare one’s motorcycle adventures with those of others. Sharing our personal experiences often highlights similarities and connects riders from all walks of life. Some riders keep their stories to themselves, others blog, a few manage the mammoth task of writing a book. Below are a three books I’ve come across recently and can recommend for some interesting biker reading.
by Elspeth Beard
In the early 1980s, Elspeth Beard became the first British woman to ride around the world on a motorbike. “Lone Rider” is the story of her epic two year trip that occurred at a time in which the internet, smartphones, and satellite navigation were unheard of.
The author describes her struggles from preparing for the big trip to hitting the road and making her dream happen. Poor health, accidents, cash issues and fatigue challenge Elspeth constantly on her journey but, none the less, she survives with brilliant resolve and stamina. The author also finds love on her ride around the globe and the book is partly about Elspeth’s effort to see clearly through the haze of youth and her jumbled emotions.
I think the book will leave a mark and resonate with many male readers. The crude descriptions of the drama a young solo female traveller has to endure in a man’s world are quite shocking and eye opening to say the least. Above all, I found the book a real page turner, something I found hard to put aside until finished. It’s a gripping account of a round the world trip on a seventies BMW airhead.
The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing
by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
John Ryan is the unwilling hero of US long distance riding. He was a well known member of the Iron Butt Association and a world record holder with a ride from Alaska to Florida carried out in less than 100 hours.
Melissa’s book is an interesting insight into the life of this extraordinary biker. John Ryan dedicated a huge part of his life to simply riding his Yamaha FJR 1300 around North America, joining dots on a map thousands of miles apart. His mission was to join those same dots in the least possible time, without excessively upsetting the law. As a result he defined the notion of endurance biking which of course entails minimal sleep, quick fuel stops, food on the go, meticulous planning.
John quite literally stopped at nothing and set the standards for endurance riding today. One thousand miles in a day was child’s play to him. A coast to coast ride took little more than two days. Attitude, mind set and will power were all part of this biking hero’s fabric. The author describes them well in her book
Melissa Holbrook also opens a window into her own personal experience of motorcycling. She has some interesting views on what motorcycles do for their riders. She also aptly describes the feelings bikers share when behind the handlebars of their very own machine.
Unfortunately I found the writer’s style hard work. Long, often convoluted paragraphs and the occasional use of slang sometimes make it difficult to quickly catch her thoughts.
by Lois Price
In these times of heightened tension between Iran and the US, Lois Price (an established British motorcycle travel author), offers a first hand view of the lives of every day people in the Islamic Republic of the Ayatollahs.
Lois sets off alone on an epic overland adventure into Persia on a Yamaha 250 trail machine from London. It’s 2013, she is full of doubt and fear fuelled by western propaganda. Abductions, bullying police, no rule of law are just some of the issues she worries about. Understandably, Lois questions the sanity of her mission, which is to simply explore Iran and discover her own truth about this isolated part of the world.
The book is a revealing account of the Lois’s trip. The people she meets, include taxi drivers, students even army generals. All help make her preconceptions of Iran crumble as she rides deeper into the country. Most of all, she finds Iranians overwhelmingly welcoming, eager to offer hospitality and shelter. Educated, fluent in at least a couple of languages and open to conversation Iranians consistently surprise Lois with support and kindness.
Of course it’s not all easy. Regime loyalists are everywhere and there are scrapes with authority Lois cannot escape. Furthermore, strict dress codes for women have to be followed just to keep the morality police at bay. There are also bored young men, high on drugs to be weary of at lonely fuel stops in middle of harsh desert routes.
I found the book interesting and it reminded me of my very own trip across Iran in 2016. Back then Obama had lifted US sanctions and Iran had agreed to the “Nuclear Deal”. It was a good time to travel.
Today things seem bleak to say the least and a US led strike on Iran seems inevitable. For this reason, before taking sides and supporting conflict, Lois’ book is a gentle reminder that one should never confuse a country’s government with its people.
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