Motorcycle Adventures: The Best Books Ever Written

Motorcycle travel – especially long-distance rides across countries or, if you’re really lucky, across a continent or two – are a bit special. Cars are prosaic in comparison. Trains can be overcrowded and claustrophobia-inducing. Ships and boats are slow. Walking can get tiresome. Economy flights can be punishing, business class is often too expensive. But motorcycles, now that’s something. The freedom to go where you please. The convenience of not having a fixed itinerary. The sheer romance of packing just the essentials and riding off into the sunset, office cubicle be damned. Those who seek adventure often find it in far-flung lands and what better way to get there than by motorcycle. For those who may have thought of doing that long ride but need some inspiration first, here’s our list of the best books – the ones you must read.

These are the Days That Must Happen To You, by Dan Walsh

‘The world through the eyes of Dan Walsh is never less than Technicolor, and always uninhibited, rebellious and on the edge. Not since the days of Jupiter’s Travels has one man embarked on such an angry, narcotic-fuelled bike trek around the world. Dan travelled the length and breadth of the world on his BMW F650 GS Dakar. Along the way he visited Buenos Aires, where ‘revolutionary’ means the angry poor invading the presidential palace, not a really small phone that’s also a camera. He’s been mistaken for a bum in New York, bashed by deadly tequila in Mexico, contracted typhoid in a dilapidated Bolivian hotel, and visited ‘the most beautiful road in the world’ in Peru. Soaked in adrenaline and coruscatingly funny, Walsh is the rightful heir to Ted Simon as the pre-eminent biker-rebel of our generation,’ says the publisher’s note. ‘Riding a bike removes the need for clutter, toys, rubbish that other men have to take on holiday. If I want adrenaline, I’ll rush a giddy overtake, not rent a jet ski,’ says Walsh himself. ‘I get my bum pinched by a tranny, my pocket picked by a grifter and got a gun pulled on me by a one-eyed, one-armed midget who’s upset ’cause I winked at him. These are the days that must happen to you,’ he adds.

‘Dan Walsh, a staff writer for Bike magazine, walked out on his life and took to the road on an unfashionable BMW. He wanted to escape the claustrophobic clutter of grown-up life. He rode to South Africa and back, and then from Toronto to Buenos Aires. He had no GPS, maps, spares, puncture repair kit, no insurance and no licence. He was kidnapped in Kenya, held hostage in a cage behind a brothel, slung in jail, got lost in the Sahara and rode through a minefield. He gets into fights, drinks too much and fools around with a gangster’s wife in South America until told to leave the country sharpish,’ says the Independent. ‘Walsh’s writing is raw and impressionistic, vibrant and unrestrained, baggy like a burst mattress. He is an engaging raconteur, searingly honest about his shortcomings, but remains defiant to the end,’ it adds. Take our word for it – this is a true classic. If there is only one motorcycle adventure book you read this year, let it be this one. But no, wait, you can’t miss Jupiter’s Travels either. Or Lone Rider, for that matter. Those are next on this list!

These Are The Days That Must Happen To You, is available on Amazon

Jupiter’s Travels, by Ted Simon

Jupiter’s Travels chronicles Ted Simon’s astonishing four-year motorcycle journey around the world. It’s the book that inspired Ewan McGregor’s Long Way Round. In the late 1970s, Simon set off on a Triumph Tiger and rode 64,000 miles over four years, through fifty-four countries, in a journey that took him around the world. Through breakdowns, prison, war, revolutions, disasters and a Californian commune, he travelled into the depths of fear and reached the heights of euphoria. He met astonishing people and was treated as a spy, a welcome stranger and even a god. For Simon, the trip became a journey into his own soul, and for many others – including bikers Charley Boorman and Ewan McGrergor – it provides an inspiration they will never forget. This classic text, which has informed a whole genre of travel writing in the thirty years since it was first published, will never be bettered for sheer adventure, passion, humour and honesty,’ says the publisher’s note. ‘Brought up in England by a German mother and a Romanian father, Ted Simon found himself impelled by an insatiable desire to explore the world. It led him to abandon an early scientific career in favour of journalism, and he has worked for several newspapers and magazines on Fleet Street and elsewhere,’ it adds.

‘Officially, the journey began at 6 pm on Saturday the 6th of October 1973. The announcement was to appear the following morning in the Sunday Times. I had just stepped out of the newspaper office with a last armful of film and other oddments, and I had seen the story in proof. I really had to go. The route of my first seven thousand miles to Nairobi had become so familiar to me that it lit up in my head at the touch of a button. I knew I was utterly committed to that route by a thousand considerations, climatic, financial, geographic and emotional. War or no war, I would have to go through, but it filled me with trepidation. The only consolation I could find was that fate had obviously marked me out for something special. I felt blessed and cursed at the same time. Star-crossed,’ says Simon, in one of the opening chapters of the book. It’s the adventure of a lifetime. Don’t miss this one.

Jupiter’s Travels, is available on Amazon

For most people – heck, for just about anyone – going around the world on a motorcycle once would be enough. Not for Ted Simon. Twenty-five years after he completed his first around-the-world ride, he decided he had it in him for one more jaunt, that he must ride around the world one more time. And hence, in 2001, at the age of 69, Simon set out once more on a motorcycle, revisiting all the countries he travelled to in the 1970s. The book he wrote at the end of it, Dreaming of Jupiter, is also a motorcycle adventure classic, one we highly recommend that you read. 

Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World, by Elspeth Beard

‘In 1982, at the age of just twenty-three, and halfway through her architecture studies, Elspeth Beard left her family and friends in London and set off on a 35,000-mile solo adventure around the world on her 1974 BMW R60/6 motorcycle. Reeling from a recent breakup, and with only limited savings, a tent, a few clothes and some tools, all packed on the back of her bike, she was determined to prove herself. She had ridden bikes since her teens and was well travelled. But nothing could prepare her for what lay ahead. When she returned to London nearly two-and-a-half years later, she was stones lighter and decades wiser. She’d ridden through unforgiving landscapes and countries ravaged by war, witnessed civil uprisings that forced her to fake documents, and fended off sexual attacks, biker gangs, and corrupt police convinced she was trafficking drugs. She’d survived life-threatening illnesses, personal loss and brutal accidents that had left permanent scars and a black hole in her memory. And she’d fallen in love with two very different men. In an age before email, the Internet, mobile phones, satnavs and, in some parts of the world, readily available and reliable maps, Elspeth achieved something that would still seem remarkable today. Told with honesty and wit, this is the extraordinary and moving story of a unique and life-changing adventure,’ says the publisher’s note.

‘This is much more than the story of a ride. It’s a hugely complex examination of a life lived, opening windows of introspection into Beard’s memories of a family dominated by a quirky but clearly genius father, tempered by a smart but somehow fragile mother. Neither parent understood their strong-willed daughter, or recognized her focused intensity, a fact that helped drive her to make her epic ride,’ says Motorcycle Classics. ‘At some levels the trip was a whim, an in-your-face repudiation of the naysayers and doubters around her. Yet once committed, Beard saw the journey through. A survivor, she did as she needed to keep moving forward. Exploration and discovery are at the core of why we ride, and Beard embraced these essentials in a way few people ever have or will. That she took more than three decades to tell us about her journey [the book was published in 2018] turns out to be an unanticipated bonus. The time between the doing and the telling has given Beard perspective and appreciation, a heightened ability and deeper capacity to understand and explain the why of her journey, a question equally if not more compelling than the how,’ it adds.

MCN did a nice series of interviews with Elspeth, where she talks about her motorcycle riding adventures. Here are parts one, two and three

Lone Rider, is available on Amazon

Revolutionary Ride, by Lois Pryce

‘In 2011, at the height of tension between the British and Iranian governments, travel writer Lois Pryce found a note left on her motorcycle outside the Iranian Embassy in London: ‘I wish that you will visit Iran so you will see for yourself about my country. We are not terrorists! Please come to my city, Shiraz. It is very famous as the friendliest city in Iran, it is the city of poetry and gardens and wine. Your Persian friend, Habib.’ Intrigued, Lois decides to ignore the official warnings against travel and sets off alone on a 3,000 mile ride from Tabriz to Shiraz, to try to uncover the heart of this most complex and incongruous country. Along the way, she meets carpet sellers and drug addicts, war veterans and housewives, doctors and teachers – people living ordinary lives under the rule of an extraordinarily strict Islamic government. Revolutionary Ride is the story of a people and a country. Religious and hedonistic, practical and poetic, modern and rooted in tradition – and with a wild sense of humour and appreciation of beauty despite the comparative lack of freedom – this is real contemporary Iran,’ says the publisher’s note.

‘Even to an adventurer who had covered four continents and then some, Iran presented unique challenges. Lois donned a headscarf, dodged careless drivers, appeased the police and faced the Revolutionary Guard. But the heart-pounding moments were few. More prevalent were the positive interactions that gave her an entirely different perspective on the Iranian people; including the warmth and hospitality, openness, curiosity and zest for life. Revolutionary Ride weaves a tale that can appeal to a variety of readers: those who view this adventurer as a kindred spirit; those who merely envy her courage and aplomb; riders who relate to her descriptions of traversing unknown roads on a motorcycle; passionate travellers who long for insights into new lands and people; and thinkers who appreciate the philosophy of exploration,’ says Boomer.

Here’s a video that shows glimpses of Pryce’s ride in Iran

Revolutionary Ride, is available on Amazon

Leanings: The Best of Peter Egan from Cycle World Magazine, by Peter Egan

For anyone steeped in motorcycle lore, Peter Egan, a columnist for Cycle World since the late-1970s, needs no introduction – when it comes to writing about motorcycles and a life spent behind bars (that’s the motorcycle’s handlebars, of course), Egan is the best there is. ‘Whether riding along the Mississippi River to New Orleans for a tin of chicory coffee, or flying to Japan to test-ride new Yamahas, Egan’s insight and gift with words makes every journey a unique and fascinating experience. Leanings is a collection of Egan’s favourite feature articles and columns from Cycle World magazine. Included among the 21 feature articles are Egan’s first feature for the magazine, a story about him and his wife’s cross-country trip on a British twin, his journey on the abandoned Route 66, a history of the motorcycle jacket, and his visit to the fabled Tourist Trophy race on the Isle of Man. A selection of 27 columns are also reproduced here, covering a wide range of subjects, from the nearly lost art of the kick start, how to survive not being able to ride for an entire Wisconsin winter, and a look back at the motorcycle crash that nearly killed the great Bob Dylan. For added perspective, each feature article is preceded by commentary from the author. This is an unforgettable collection of the works of a master writer, whose simple adventures of life remind us all why we love to ride,’ says the publisher’s note. ‘There’s a real romance to motorcycling, and this is always recognized by a certain type of individual who values adventure above security and comfort. Luckily, every generation seems to produce a surprising number of these people,’ said Egan, speaking to Bike Exif.

‘Egan’s rapturous reflections are appropriate for a man who appears to have lived a blissed-out existence. Egan’s decade in California coincided with motorcycling catching a wave of popularity that didn’t end until Egan decided to unwind his career. The stars, indeed, had aligned. In today’s fractured, fragmented, diminished media landscape, it’s difficult to fathom the status Cycle World once enjoyed. Egan’s world is one of meaningful fellowship with like-minded friends, who, like Egan, restore old cars, fettle old bikes, helm old sailboats, fly old airplanes, and covet old guitars [but] what separates Egan from his contemporaries is that he possesses a writer’s voice and sensibilities,’ says Neil Graham of Adventure Rider. It’s a great review; read the entire piece here.

Leanings, is available on Amazon

There isn’t just one Leanings. The journey continues with Leanings 2 and Leanings 3, each as fascinating as the other. These, along with other books that Egan has written, are all available on Amazon.


Going the Wrong Way, by Chris Donaldson

A young Belfast man sets off to find himself, and the road to Australia. What could possibly go wrong? What, indeed. Going the Wrong Way is a coming of age roadtrip like no other. ‘Since the Stone Age, the walkabout has been an Aboriginal rite of passage. It is when adolescent boys wander aimlessly into the bush on a journey with no particular destination. During this time, they make the spiritual transition from boy to man. It’s a time for self-assessment and deep thought when he can learn about himself without the influence of his elders, friends, or family. It’s a physical and psychological journey. I didn’t look like an Aboriginal adolescent as I set off from Belfast on my café racing Moto Guzzi, but looking back, I see that the same determination drove me to set off on a journey of self-discovery. I was twenty-one and, wanted to go ‘somewhere’ for ‘some time’ and, well, for ‘something,’ says Chris. ‘[I wanted to] break free from my mediocre, middle-class existence and reach out for the unknown. Then I saw a red Moto Guzzi Le Mans in a shop window; it was love at first sight. One test-drive and I was hooked. The Guzzi had a big V-twin. It throbbed like a heartbeat, like life itself. I had to have it. My dream was to ride to Australia, continue to America, and back home and circumnavigate the world. Did I want to meet new people, learn about different religions, and interesting cultures? Nope. I just wanted to get the hell out of Belfast,’ he adds.

‘In the 1970s, Northern Ireland’s Belfast was a cauldron of sectarian strife and violence. Disillusioned 21-one-year-old Chris Donaldson, the author of Going the Wrong Way, decided to see if the world—specifically that part of it called Australia—had something better to offer. His ticket out was a Moto Guzzi Le Mans motorcycle; his passport was his Irish grit, sense of humour, and conviction that there had to be something better–a place of peace and amazing sights to see. His incredible journey grew to be much more than one long motorcycle ride. It was an odyssey that would test him in ways he could never have planned for, and would reward him in ways he would only come to understand years later. The book is as much a memoir as it is a motorcycle touring story. It is a remarkable record of a time now past that cannot be recaptured,’ says Ultimate Motorcycling.

Going the Wrong Way, is available on Amazon

adventure Allahabad Apple astrology audiobooks aviation Banaras best-of lists Bombay book marketing Calcutta corporate culture design food Formula 1 Iranian Japan journalism journalists libraries literary agents Lucknow Madras memoirs memories motorcycle travel motoring Mumbai music my life with books non-fiction Persian photojournalism Prayagraj publishers publishing retail science-fiction technology travel trends typography Urdu Varanasi wishlists

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: