ReviewsChasing Dakar - A rider's guide to Adventure Riding, Rally Preparation and Racing - Paperback
(by Jonathan Edwards with Scot Harden)
While most of love to watch the television coverage of the Paris-Dakar rally, very few of us will actually attempt the gruelling race across the North African desert.
But you don't have to be a prospective racer to enjoy this book by the KTM North America's team physician for the Paris Dakar race. Dr. Edwards goes through a variety of topics from conditioning to nutrition to get set for the big race, and many of the excellent points he makes are valid for anyone planning to take on a major road trip on the motorcycle, through rough terrian - like downtown Detroit.
If you're planning to undertake a ride through Death Valley in California or into the Outback in Australia, this book covers the survival strategies that make the difference between winning the race and riding in the back-up support truck.
Even if your plans don't involve anything more daring than putting your feet up with a cold brew at your side, this book gives you an excellent perspective on the exciting world of extreme rallying and racing.
Rated: * * * *
The World's Fastest Indian (DVD)
( Anthony Hopkins, Dianne Ladd. Produced and Directed by Roger Donaldson, Magnolia Pictures 2005)
The heartwarming true story of Burt Munro, a 68 year old New Zealander who set the world's land speed record for streamlined motorcycles under 1000cc in his largely home-modified Indian Scout in 1967, this movie is of interest not just to motorcyclists but also to anyone who loves to cheer for the underdog.
We are introduced to the engaging eccentric Burt Munro who lives in Invercargill, a small town in New Zealand as he casts his own pistons in his garage and heat treats them by dunking them in water - the same water that he uses to make his tea.
Burt's lifelong dream has been to take his modified 1920 Indian Scout to the Bonneville Salt Flats to see if he can go faster than 200 mph. The movie follows his incredible journey from his sleepy hometown in New Zealand across the ocean to L.A and the by road to Utah, to Bonneville.
Much like a quest in a role-playing video game Burt meets and befriends a number of characters on his journey, some of whom are jackasses and some who are genuinely good people. Burt's journey to Utah as a metaphor for life is probably a fair way to view the movie.
For me, and I believe for any gear-head motorcyclist, there are some special moments. When young Tom asks Burt if he's ever scared of crashing and dying, Burt says "No, but in those 5 minutes I would have lived more than most people live in their entire lifetimes. You have to take a risk now and again". That's the motorcyclist's credo right there.
Another is when after a number of trials and tribulations, Burt arrives at the Salt Flats in the waning hours of sunset, he muses to the Vietnam vet airman who has been his traveling companion for a while "I've waited 25 years to be here. This is Holy Ground". Pure magic.
If you like your motorcyle lore writ large and the characters from the record books to come alive, this movie has your name all over it.
The tear that ran down my cheek when Burt is not allowed to run his bike in Bonneville because he didn't register weeks ahead, is because I got a speck of dirt in my eye. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
This movie is the best thing you can do on a cold fall afternoon, once the bike's been put away. Or a warm summer evening after the riding is done.Whenever. I would defintely add this one to your movie collection.
Rated: * * * * *
Buy it now from Amazon.com by clicking on the DVD jacket below
Girl on a Motorcycle (DVD)
(Alain Delon, Marianne Faithfull, Produced by William Sasson, Directed by Jack Cardiff - Warner Brothers 1968)
A beautifully photographed cult motorcycle movie from the 1960s this movie was first released in the US in 1968 as Naked Under Leather, severely edited for an R rating of that time. The original European version is now available in Widescreen format in all its uncensored glory for motorcycle enthusiasts to enjoy.
Marianne Faithfull plays a newly married girl who despises her new husband as much she still still adores her ex-lover played with elan by Alain Delon the French heart-thob of the 1960s. Having been gifted a new Harley-Davidson Electra Glide (the precursor to the modern day Road King) she longs to see her beau.
She sets off from her home in France to see her lover in Heidelberg, Germany across the highways of 1960s Europe traversing some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.
There is a fair amount of erotic imagery that the motorcyclists I know would enjoy. But if you belong to the benighted group of motorcyclists that believe that the image of the unclothed human female form is objectionable, then you'd better not see this movie. Fair warning.
But if like me, you like women and motorcycles (not necessarily in that order) this movie is for you. If women on motorcycles is your thing, then you absolutely must see this movie.
A little bit of trivia: When this movie was being made, Marianne Faithfull was the current girlfriend of Mick Jagger - yes, of the Rolling Stones. So the movie houses packed the crowds in, hoping to catch an eyefull of Mick's current squeeze.
I wouldn't look for a great deal of narrative in this movie. Just relax with a beaker of your favorite brew and let the movie transport you to another more innocent time.
Marianne Faithfull is easy on the eyes and is not too taxed by the demands of the director. Alain Delon does a fabulous job as the 60s notion of the "other guy".
Bad news - you won't find this movie at your local Blockbuster. Better buy it from Amazon.com here by clicking on the DVD case below. .
Rated: * * * *
Running with the moon - by Jonny Bealby
(Paperback, 352 pages, Published by Arrow 1st Edition)
The author, Jonny Bealby is enjoying a vacation in Kashmir with his fiance, when she comes down with a strange viral fever and quickly succumbs to it. Grief stricken at his loss, Bealby is back in his native England and at a loss to find meaning in his life, until the idea of a trip around Africa on a motorcycle strikes him.
He and his friend set out from England, down through France and across into Tunisia in North Africa on a pair of Yamaha 600cc Tenere dual sport motorcycles. No expensive preparations, no support trucks following with spares, no camera crew to record their every misadventure - just 2 young men on a journey of their lives.
No sooner have they started their journey than fate conspires to make decisions for the pair, causing the journey to assume a character not originally anticipated by Bealby.
Jonny Bealby is clearly an accomplished writer, who along with his love of motorcycling is also a sensitive observer who has recorded the adventure without bravado or self-pity, the two vices of most adventure motorcycle writers. From the prologue describing the death of his fiance to the heart-warming epilogue, this book causes the romantic in every motorcyclist to cheer for Jonny when luck goes his way, and to commisserate with him when fate deals him another blow.
Not that this book is just a romantic paean to his lost love. It is a hearty motorcycle adventure book for the most calloused Iron Butt rider as well. Well paced, it tracks Bealby's progress around the coast of Africa, through swamps, deserts and trackless wilderness to the conclusion in North Africa.
So enjoyable is the book, that it does leave you wishing there had been more than the 352 pages. Strongly recommended for every motorcyclist, especially for the cold winter months approaching. Once the bike has been winterized and put away, stretch out in front of the fire in your favorite armchair, with this book and a mug of hot chocolate.
Rated: * * * * *
Buy it from Amazon.com by clicking on the picture below
The Long Way Round - by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman(Hardcover 320 pages, published by Atria, Ist Edition)
Ewan McGregor, the star of the Star Wars movies and most recently 'The Island' documents his travels from London to New York, along with his friend and fellow actor Charley Boorman on BMW GS bikes. The title refers to the fact that they go from London to New York, following an unconventionally long route - through Europe, Asia Minor, Russia,and across the Pacific Ocean to Alaska, Canada and into New York.
Their description of the ride is good and the writing style is easy. Ewan and Charley take turns narrating the journey and this device presents the reader with their differing viewpoints. The sometimes disturbing bouts of depression that McGregor seems to slip into (either because of homesickness or other causes) cause his narration to become somewhat maudlin at some points.
The book is presented as an adventure story by two celebrities, but in reality is somewhat less so. In exchange for sponsorship and for the broadcast rights to the movie of their journey McGregor and Boorman are followed by a BBC camera crew, a well equipped support truck and sundry fixers who ease their way through nettlesome border crossings in Russia and the Ukraine. So, not much of an adventure then. The book also falls somewhat short on the riding aspect of the journey, lapsing instead into fairly trite situations where two wealthy young men from Britain are bemused by the food they have to eat in the less developed parts of the world. There seems to be little in the way of discovering other cultures, sharing in the lives of common people and really experiencing the landscape of the counties through which they travel - which to many is the very essence of motorcycling and motorcycle touring.
But if what you're looking for is not a hard-core motorcycle touring book, but a breezy armchair travelogue not aimed at the motorcyclist but a larger audience, you will like The Long Way Round. Said another way, this is a book you could lend your non-motorcyclist mate after you're finished, without boring him or her to tears.
Rated: * * *Buy it from Amazon.com by clicking on the book cover below