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A biker book

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Book >> "The Harley-Davidson Reader"
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Motorcycle lovers are a different breed of people.

Who else would think it perfectly fine to bring the bike into the living room, so that it could be disassembled and repaired in comfort and in front of the TV?

Who else believes that a black leather jacket and chaps are acceptable wedding attire?

Who else thinks that “potato-potato-potato” is the best music in the world?

Ooooh. Have I just described you? Then you need to get “The Harley-Davidson Reader,” foreword by Jean Davidson, with Hunter S. Thompson, Sonny Barger, Brock Yates, and others.

Over 100 years ago, a couple of guys got together and put a motor on a bicycle. That’s the short story of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, anyhow. Fans know there’s much more to it than that. In this anthology, many famous Harley riders, dreamers, and experts weigh in on hogs, outlaws, and the need for speed.

If you could have any Harley-Davidson you wanted, which one would you choose? In “The Old Bike in the Barn, or, What My Folks Didn’t Know, Didn’t Hurt … Me” by Allan Girdler, the author tells about finding a classic Harley-Davidson motorcycle the most unlikely place, and buying it for the most astounding price.

When most people think of H-Ds, they think of menacing bikers, but these days, doctors, lawyers, manufacturers, mayors, and button-down CEOs are just as likely to jump on their bikes for a weekend excursion. In the segment called “The Good, the Bad, and the Legendary,” you’ll read about a Harley fit for a King, some of Hollywood’s biggest H-D fans, and some legendary women who enjoy the air in their hair.

And what about that Bad Biker image? In “The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders” by the late Hunter S. Thompson, you’ll read the original piece that Thompson wrote 40 years ago, after spending time with the most legendary motorcycle club of all time. A few pages later, read an article from a famous president of that very club, followed by an excerpt from a book by the man who formed the first African-American men’s motorcycle club.

As in any anthology, the articles and excerpts in this book have been previously published; many, decades ago. While I enjoyed them, I had the nagging feeling that I had read them all before.

Most fascinating for me – and for many readers, I think – are the hundreds of archival photos, movie posters, and quotations scattered inside “The Harley Davidson Reader”. And when I say “scattered,” I mean you’ll almost have to read this book twice. It’s hard to keep focused on the articles because the illustrations practically demand to be studied.

Snapshots of riders, racers, and rebels. Covers of books, and posters from old B-movies and championship races. Cartoons, catalog pages, and chopper pics.

Fall is here, and if the weather is keeping you from hitting the road, look for “The Harley Davidson Reader.” It’s not as much fun as a hog between your knees or a potato-potato-potato in your ear, but it’s pretty close.


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