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Coming and Going on Bikes: Essaying the Motorcycle - A Motorcycle Book Review

Motorcycle Essays with Class

This article is a review of a motorcycle book called Coming and Going on Bikes: Essaying the Motorcycle by Jack Lewis. This motorcycle book is available in a Kindle edition from

Unlike most motorcycle writers, I haven't ridden since I was 14 years old. I first rode a motorcycle -- a Honda CM400T -- after I turned 51. I haven't owned 47 bikes of all makes and most models. I've only owned seven bikes after the CM400T ending with my current mount, a 2000 Honda Gold Wing trike. That meant I had a lot of catching up to do to rise to the stature of Jack Lewis, author of this set of motorcycle essays. I do have a modicum of experience with BMW bikes and I once rode in a Ural sidecar for three bone-shaking miles. I have no military experience save the two years I spent in ROTC at the Missouri School of Mines while I was studying to better myself. I have, however, been writing about motorcycling for the past 12 years on a major Website and now one of my own.

I found Jack's essays to be quite different from other writings I have reviewed. I found myself looking up the meanings of quite a few words. It reminded me of when I first started to read Time magazine many years ago. I found my vocabulary increasing every week I read Time since the writers were so erudite. Jack writes more like a fiction writer spending a lot of time painting word pictures. I can imagine that some of what Jack writes in these essays goes right over the heads of some readers. With our Internet exposure, we tend to want all the facts up front with a minimum of words and never encounter a word we don't know. That's the way I was taught to write for the Internet audience. These essays are not for the casual reader. They are meant for serious readers who also ride motorcycles.

Here's an excerpt from Stalin's Revenge that I particularly liked as he talks about the Ural:

    "Crank 'er up with the button, or use the kick lever if you feel nostalgic (and why wouldn't you?). The Ural sits panting like a puppy with a ball, slyly inviting you to play outside." -- Jack Lewis

On the other hand, here's an excerpt from Stoned to the Bone that I had to read several times and look up several words before I caught the meaning:

    "Sorrel River Ranch and Spa is a rustic cattle spread on the Colorado River, if your definition of 'rustic' encompasses that peculiarly Western novelty of tender cosseting with dulcet luxury overlaid by the thinnest scrim of a rough-hewn aesthetic." -- Jack Lewis

However, on balance, I view Jack's essays as motorcycle literature with class. I did enjoy this book of essays.

I saw the need for Jack to ride home from the war on an old BMW motorcycle easing back into everyday civilian life trying to leave behind the memories of the military way of life. This first essay, Riding Home, took up 35% of the book perhaps emphasizing that the transition was not an easy one.

The second essay, What Kills Us, meant the most to me. It spoke of the great difficulty that many returning service men and women have to find something to give them the high they often got from the war. Many feel they are super-human having survived the experience and want to continue to receive the military high they had over there. Many turn to high-powered motorcycles to replace that high. Without motorcycle training to ride these bikes, they end up killing themselves. Fortunately, the military now has recognized this and many bases force motorcycle training before a bike may be ridden. This is a subject I have dealt with for most of the past 10 years on my motorcycle forums.

Jack spoke of testing a dual-sport bike at a BMW junket with other moto-journalists. I have been on BMW demo rides and know how spirited they can be. I also know of the devotion of BMW employees to get you to buy and ride with their apparel. Be sure to read Jack's account of a real test ride offroad in Stoned to the Bone.

Jack is a real writer with vast knowledge of how to construct a story and tell it using numerous techniques. Jack is not averse to throwing in British slang and ancient words. Take some time to be a scholar and look up words you don't recognize. Your mind will thank you.

Jack decided to publish these essays on the Kindle reader distributed by Amazon. I have a Kindle of my own and received an early PDF version of these essays from Jack to review on my Kindle. This is the future of publishing. Get used to it and embrace it. Jack is a pioneer in this new medium.

Read these scholarly essays on motorcycling in Coming and Going on Bikes. I highly recommend them to you.

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