The Best Motorcycle Books and Movies
Motorcycle books and movies are your friend this time of year. Western Pennsylvania is home to some of the most beautiful riding terrain in the world. It is also home to some of the most fickle weather conditions in the world. Last February, we were able to sneak out for a quick ride here and there. I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year. I’m afraid we’re stuck until it warms up and some of this salt is washed off of the road.
That said, there are many ways to get your motorcycling fix during the winter months.
I’m an advocate of reading about motorcycling. I’m looking right now at the shelf in my office where I have carefully cataloged subscriptions to more than 25 magazines. I also have a special box of vintage ’70s Easy Rider magazines that I’m saving for my boys — when they are old enough.
Next to my collection of magazines, is a bookshelf loaded with some great stories and how-to advice. The book that I’m currently reading is called “The Old Man and the Harley.” It was a Christmas present that I haven’t been able to put down.
It’s about a son who takes his aging father on a last ride across America and discovers a riveting national history. The father originally took the ride in 1939 on an old Harley-Davidson from the New York World’s Fair to San Francisco’s Glittering Golden Gate International Exposition.
It is a truly amazing book. If you’re into American history, it’s a good read. If you’re into American history and motorcycles, then this is a must read. When I finish the book, I’ll be sure to share my reflections in a forthcoming column.
There are other books that are less nostalgic but very helpful. There is the updated and expanded “Proficient Motorcycling” book by David L. Hough, which is very informational, and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles,” now in its fourth edition and endorsed by Jay Leno.
If reading isn’t your thing, motorcycles are no stranger to the silver screen. There have been many great movies over the years about motorcycling. Check out:
- “The Wild One” (1953) : Marlon Brando rides a Triumph into town, and thousands of guys buy black leather jackets the next week.
- “Easy Rider” (1969): The greatest motorcycling movie ever made, despite some weird, incoherent sequences in New Orleans. Peter Fonda was never cooler. Dennis Hopper writes, directs and stars alongside him as they ride in search of America.
- “On Any Sunday” (1971): Bruce Brown’s Oscar-nominated documentary about motorcycle racing across the world, featuring Malcolm Smith, Mert Lawwill and the great Steve McQueen.
- “Mask” (1985): Cher stars as a motorcycle enthusiast with a deformed son in this Peter Bogdanovich film. Sam Elliott as Gar is the leader of a biker gang — but the good kind of biker gang, the kind with a heart. Some great motorcycles and a kinder, gentler look at motorcycle culture.
- “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991): James Cameron’s second “Terminator” film is memorable for the scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger walks naked into a biker bar and announces, “I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.” Beautiful!
- “The World’s Fastest Indian” (2005): Roger Donaldson’s dramatic version of Burt Munro’s attempt to set the land speed record on a 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967. Anthony Hopkins gives a great performance as Munro, a man whose obsession led him to risk everything to reach his goal.
I hope some of those books or movies get you warmed up and thinking about your motorcycle all snug and cozy in the corner of your garage.