With the days slipping by before Christmas, it’s time to start planning those perfect stocking fillers. And with Northern Hemisphere days shorter and colder, it’s the ideal time of year to find some inspiration for that next big trip. To help, we’ve grabbed 12 of our favourite motorcycle adventure books.
One Man Caravan – Robert Edison Fulton
Back in 1932, decades before intelligent fabrics and ABS braking, Robert Fulton’s father asked whether he would return to the States from university in Vienna by ship. Fulton announced that he’d make the journey via Asia on a motorcycle instead.
His 22-country, 18-month odyssey is a remarkable account of traveling overland pre-World War II. Fulton makes the journey on a Douglas Twin in the days when it was acceptable to carry a loaded revolver hidden in your skid plate.
Jupiter’s Travels – Ted Simon
Arguably the godfather of motorcycle adventure travel, Jupiter’s Travels is Simon’s first book and the account of his four-year circumnavigation that began in 1973.
Commissioned by the London Times, Simon set off on a 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 to travel 64,000 miles across 45 countries.
An absolute must-read for any would-be motorcycle adventurer, the journey became so renowned that in 2001, at the age of 70, Simon did it again. But that’s another story…
Long Way Round – Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
The book accompanying the TV documentary that sold thousands of adventure bikes tells the tale of movie star McGregor and his best mate and actor Charley Boorman’s ride from London to New York.
The journey, inspired by Jupiter’s Travels, sees the duo escape McGregor’s celebrity lifestyle and head out into the unknown, accompanied by just a cameraman and two 4x4s carrying their fixers and production team. They head across Europe into Russia and the infamous Road of Bones, across the Bering Strait into Alaska, Canada and eventually New York City. Jointly written, it’s a spiritually uplifting read about making the bike trip of their dreams a reality.
Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig
Not so much a light-hearted, easy read as an exploration of the meaning of a journey in a literal and philosophical sense, this bestseller has sold over five million copies worldwide.
Published in 1974 and subtitled An Inquiry into Values, Zen and the Art… it chronicles a month-long journey from Minnesota to California taken by Pirsig and his son in 1968.
Persig confesses that: “It’s not very factual on motorcycles”, as he goes on to study relationships, values, madness and, eventually, enlightenment.
Lois on the Loose – Lois Pryce
Former BBC employee Pryce packs in her career to ride solo from the northernmost tip of Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America.
Armed only with the Spanish words for ‘caution’ and ‘cheese’, she bribes her way through borders, spends a night in a Mexican brothel and crashes her bike in the wilds of Patagonia.
Pryce tells a good story and remains narratively upbeat, despite the many obstacles she encounters.
The Motorcycle Diaries – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
The most famous book on this list, thanks to its freedom fighter author and the subsequent film adaptation, The Motorcycle Diaries, is the story of two young men from Buenos Aires who set out to explore South America on a 500cc Norton in 1952.
Traveling through Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela, the book records Che’s two-wheeled exploits and his gradual radicalization amid the poverty, hunger and disease he witnesses, eight years before the Cuban Revolution in which he would play an instrumental role.
A Short Ride in the Jungle – Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent
Setting out from Hanoi on an ageing Honda Cub, Bolingbroke-Kent spends two months riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail, one of history’s greatest feats of military engineering.
Through the mountains and jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the former producer of TV series World’s Most Dangerous Roads sets about recording the trail before it’s swallowed by redevelopment.
The result offers a unique insight into a little known side of South East Asia.
Uneasy Rider – Mike Carter
Like so many explorers before him, Carter’s journey begins with too many drinks and a promise he can’t remember the following day.
But the Observer journalist sees through his 20,000-mile European trip, even overcoming small details like never having ridden a bike before.
A witty account of a middle-aged man’s attempt to overcome a recent divorce and ‘find’ himself, or something, on the road, Uneasy Rider is a self-deprecating tale of a 27-country jaunt, with more than a few exploits along the way.
Running With The Moon – Jonny Bealby
Jonny Bealby travelled the African continent to find meaning in his life after the unexpected death of his fiancée.
The resulting book, Running With The Moon chronicles the journey as Bealby takes on the challenge of a lifetime while still heartbroken and disillusioned.
Written with energy, courage and honesty, it’s a romantic record of one man’s journey to overcome both his history and the road ahead.
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook: A Route & Planning Guide – Chris Scott
So popular is this handbook for would-be travellers that the seventh edition was released in February, 25 years after it first appeared.
With everything you need to know in one comprehensive resource, Scott and 30 globetrotting contributors make this a no-nonsense, indispensable manual.
Topics include planning, budget, bike choice, gear and equipment, and life on the road including borders, satnavs, filming, and wild camping. And, arguably, the most important aspect of many great adventures… how to keep the other half happy.
The Long Ride Home – Nathan Millward
Devastated after being dumped by his girlfriend on the other side of the world with cash running short, Nathan Millward had little option but to jump on his old Australian Postal Service bike and head home to the UK.
What follows is a triumph over countless adversities through 18 countries, 23,000 miles and nine months… with just two days to plan. Affable and self effacing, Nathan is living proof that where there’s a will there’s definitely a way to change your life for the better.
Ghost Rider: Travelling on the Healing Road – Neil Peart
When life kicks you where it hurts, it’s hard to regain perspective.
But the former drummer with Canadian rock band Rush takes readers on a no-nonsense emotional journey as he tries to make sense of the tragic loss of his wife and daughter within 10 life-changing months in the 90s.
Using diary notes and letters written during a 55,000 mile odyssey through Canada, the States and Mexico, he gradually acquires a new sense of purpose that only motorcycling can bring.
Thought provoking and in turn humorous, this is an exploration not only of some of the finest scenery in the world but also the human condition.