Book Review: The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel
Review by Andy Saunders
[This The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel book review was originally published in the July 2007 issue of Rider magazine]
There are few frontiers left to blaze on two wheels, but it’s still just as easy to get into trouble. Dale Coyner’s new book is about how you can have adventures on your motorcycle, with careful planning. The book is organized with sections on planning your trip, on preparing your body and your brain, and on modifying your motorcycle. The last section is the longest, and contains just about any update you can think of. Want to know the best way to improve seat comfort? Take a careful read of chapter 10.
This book is not an introduction to motorcycle touring. You can find other books out there that teach the basics. No, what the author does is to describe every item on his travel checklist—do you need this? Can you leave it behind? What does it do? How does it work?
And how does your body work on tour? Look here for hints on clothing for cold- and hot-weather riding, for ways to stay comfortable in the saddle on thousand-mile days, and ways to stay healthy on the road (best to eat often, eat light, road-food aficionados will be dismayed to learn).
Coyner’s qualifications are impeccable: a touring rider for many years, he owns a motorcycle accessory shop specializing in the installation of electronics, extra lighting and trailers on touring motorcycles. So the sections of the book dealing with these themes are drawn from personal experience—and it shows. The chapters on installing extra wiring, electronic devices and trailers are thorough and detailed.
All of which is pretty nice to know, since there’s so much stuff out there for touring these days. Enough stuff, you’d need a trailer or a sidecar to pack it all (and there’s a section on sidecars, too). The book offers some good advice—before you buy anything for your bike, take a ride somewhere, and at the end of the day, work out if you really need to add that goodie. Chances are, you’ll choose another update. Probably something to improve seat comfort, from chapter 10.
A bewildering variety of electronics is available today for motorcycles. Coyner includes a picture of a touring bike outfitted with no less than seven LCD-screen-equipped devices, but do you really need GPS, an MP3 player, a cell phone and a radar detector? Reading this book will give you a pretty good idea. The benefits of each device are explained, along with some idea of their costs. Here’s where the book will pay for itself, in avoiding mistakes that could bust your budget.
The book is illustrated with travel photos from all over the world, supplied by long-distance riders. Captions tend to be terse, but extra information is given when necessary, and there are sidebars covering just about any question you could ask.
The section on alternators is illuminating —you would expect a Gold Wing to have substantial extra electrical capacity (enough for extra lights, a full suit of electric clothing and a full stereo), but can you believe a Suzuki V-Strom only has 75 extra watts of power before the alternator is maxxed out? On the other hand, the 650cc V-Strom will carry more cargo (rider, passenger and luggage) than the Gold Wing 1800, without exceeding GVWR limits.
Along the way you’ll find cameras, painful butts, mechanical failures, tire patches, rain protection, passenger comfort and a host of other problems that beset the long-distance tourer. Still want to try it? Of course you do.
As Coyner says, “The confidence that world travelers have learned to summon on a regular basis…is something you can’t obtain from a book, it is built exclusively from on-the-road experiences.” But this book may bolster your confidence enough to get you out there, on the road to adventure.
For more information: The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel by Dale Coyner, published by Whitehorse Press, 178 pages, illustrated in color, $24.95. Call (800) 531-1133 or go to www.whitehorsepress.com