For as long as man has tested its limits on two wheels they have documented their adventures. These stories are about stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Stories of battling the elements and situations beyond one’s control. Stories of discovering new places and cultures. Most importantly they are about experiencing the unimaginable freedom that only riding a motorcycle can bring. What compels a man to straddle a motor and ride atop two wheels to places unknown? What drives a person to throw away the safe and secure for the dangerous and precarious? These are tales of heartbreak and unimaginable loss that only time alone on two wheels can heal. These are stories about discovering the good in humanity despite experiencing the worst in humanity. Lessons that no matter what happens things have a way of working out.
These books can inspire any motorcyclist. Whether planning a cross country adventure or heading out to your favorite Sunday destination. They remind us how privileged we are. They remind us that every ride is an adventure and is susceptible to the same elements of adventure no matter how far or close we are to home. Every one of these books has gotten me through a long Canadian winter dreaming of when I can ride again. They have all inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and ride a little further.
So with all that being said I present my list of the top five most inspirational motorcycle books. Each of these books were chosen for the particular impact they provided. Sometimes that was humor. Other times it was unimaginable events. In one case it was the reminder that two wheels can truly heal a broken soul.
1 Ghost Rider
Neil Peart was a drummer for the world famous Canadain rock band Rush.
He had it all until he had nothing. Having suffered the loss of his nineteen year old daughter in a car accident, life became unbearable. Nothing could be worse. Then came the news his wife had cancer. Neil did whatever he could to not have the last member of his family leave, yet she eventually succumbed to the disease. Neil hit the deepest depths of despair that any man could face. Not knowing what else to do with himself, he turned to the only thing he had left. He packed up his BMW GS. On a rainy day from his retreat in Quebec Canada he threw a leg over his bike. With tears streaming down his cheeks under his helmet he rode west.
With no timeline and no destination Neil’s journey leads him as far west as Alaska and as far south as Belize central America. It is a story of personal survival told from the seat of a bike.
Along the way Neil finds a new purpose and meaning in life. It’s a reminder of the power of two wheels on a person’s soul.
2 Jupiter Travels
A classic. Ted Simon wasn’t the first to pull off such an adventure. Yet this book really pulls you into his four year, 126,000km journey. From 1973 to 1977 Ted rode his Triumph T100 500cc through 45 countries. What really sets this book apart is Ted’s ability for story telling. I was fascinated page after page to see what happens next. It has elements of how he turned from boy to man along the way. What really struck me though was how Ted got it done. Imagine, no big 1200cc bike with heated grips, abs or traction control. No GPS, thousands in expensive cases and Gore-Tex outfits. No. Ted did it all on a lowly triumph with a sheep wool collared, leather bomber jacket. We are led to believe in today’s marketing that we “need” a certain bike and accessories to achieve adventure. Ted certainly didn’t. He’s a reminder of why those who adventure on motorcycles are badasses. It’s because of the absence of creature comforts that makes the journey even more of an adventure. This is one of my favorite books of all time and one of the few I found worthwhile reading twice.
3 Two Wheels Through Terror
There are some people who’s entire life could make a novel. In Glen Heggstad’s case the book would be as thick as War And Peace. Two Wheels Through Terror is but one chapter of Greg’s life. An absolutely unimaginable one at that. From being the youngest to ever be a full patch member of the Hell’s Angels to a world class martial artist, Greg has done it all. He decided to leave that world behind and find the good in humanity. He thought the best way to do this was to travel. So he packed up his KLR 650 and headed south from his home in California. Destination, the tip of South America. Once Greg hits Mexico, the freedom of two wheel travel begins to take hold. He’s loving every minute of it. Soaking it all in. Nothing could be better. Border crossing in South America is never a treat but Greg takes it all in stride. Making his way into Columbia he is struck by its stunning beauty. It’s a wrong turn that lands Greg in a world of trouble and battling for his very life. Marxist extremists kidnap him, strip him of everything he has and hold him hostage in deplorable condition deep in the Columbian jungle. With the dream of completing his journey in obvious peril, Greg needs his street smarts and toughness if he is to stay alive and secure his freedom. Despite all this, Greg never loses his faith in humanity and is determined to not let the actions of a few dictate his view of the world.
4 Through Dust And Darkness: A Motorcycle Journey Of Fear And Faith In The Middle East
This book has something for everyone. Whether you are seeking inspiration for adventure travel or looking for the meaning of faith and spirituality, Jeremy Kroeker touches it all in this account. Raised Mennonite on the Canadian Prairies, Jeremy has a desire to experience the world. On a motorcycle. He ships his recently purchased KLR from Canada to Europe and his adventure begins. Starting in Germany, he realizes early on that his bike has a propensity to wobble back and forth. It becomes a characteristic that ends up defining his machine and its name. The Oscillator. Riding through Europe, into Turkey and eventually as far as Iran, Jeremy is struck by the Iranian peoples kindness despite him being a total stranger and an “American”. The place and its people are nothing like what he expected since back home the major news outlets depict it as a hateful, highly secular place. Nothing could have been further from the truth in Jeremy’s experience. Along the way Kroeger begins to question his faith and all that he was taught since childhood. The book delves into a bit of a spiritual awakening for the Author. Even if this is not what some readers come for when reading motorcycle adventure travel books, it still speaks to the power of what can happen when we adventure out on two wheels. At its heart, this is about the transformative nature of adventure travel and how life on two wheels does change us through the experiences gained.
5 In Search Of Greener Grass
Graham Field is an easy going free spirit from England. Young and full of life, Graham sets out on an epic ride on an Ebay purchased KLR. Starting in Europe, Field rides down through Kazakhstan, into Mongolia, Russia and eventually Japan and South Korea before calling it a ride. The book is a light hearted account of what can and does happen along the way. Graham has a way of spinning his experiences with humor. While some authors account their journeys with drama and never ending danger, Field takes it all in stride. His accounts angle towards the absurdity of it all. It’s the type of read that doesn’t frighten you away from adventure motorcycle travel. While reading this book, I kept thinking that Graham would make the perfect companion if I were to ever make such a journey. Field’s account exemplifies what it means to live a transient lifestyle. A true testament that the road less travelled is the one that produces the most interesting encounters and makes the best books. It’s a read that reminds us to enjoy it all while we are here. Stop taking life so seriously and enjoy the ride for what it is.
As a rider there is something I connect with while reading other riders accounts. Although I have travelled, It’s never been quite to this extreme (yet!). Regardless of that, I can relate to the feelings and emotions each of these authors convey in their writing. I’ve felt what Glen Hagstadd felt when he was riding through Mexico. The freedom and joy. I’ve felt the peace of a lonely road and the purr of the motor as described by Neil Peart. I know what it’s like to think there may be something wrong with my bike while far from home like Jeremy. I’m with those authors in spirit as I read their accounts. If I can’t be there physically, I can be there vividly in my imagination as I ride along with them while reading. That’s what each of these books have done for me. They not only taught me about the power of two wheels on the soul, they reaffirmed what I had felt myself. It reminds me that every trip out on the bike is an adventure that can stir up these powerful emotions. Even riding throughout my own province of Ontario has given me encounters with some characters at a small town gas station or coffee shop. Ultimately what these books have done is inspire me to ride. Not just ride but ride with my eyes, ears and mind fully open to soak in every minute of every it.