These 8 books, most true stories of famous motorcycle rides, will inspire you to hit the road or at least look at in a different way. Usually you hear a lot about where to go and less about how to get there – aside from getting there cheap and quickly. You might not often think about motorcycles as anything more than for local travel but those two wheels and a motor can reconnect you with the joy – and act – of traveling.
Ted Simon rode around the world on a Triumph motorcycle during the early 1970s and wrote one of the best travel books ever. Jupiter’s Travels is his account of the trip, 78,000 miles over 45 countries. Before the trip Simon was already writing as a journalist and Jupiter’s Travels flows on every page. In 2001, when he was 70 years old, Simon took the trip again – a similar route on motorcycle – and wrote Dreaming Of Jupiter. His observations from the first trip to the second one 30 years later are truly fascinating.
Long Way Round
One of my favorite travel books, this is a motorcycle trip around the world by two actors. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, inspired by Jupiter’s Travels, set off on their BMW bikes and head from London to New York. Long Way Round is a series of journal entries written separately by the pair and recounts an adventure with some interesting characters along the way (particularly in Ukraine). It’s not deep writing but very raw and gives you a sense for the joys of the long open road.
- There’s also a Long Way Round DVD that’s fun to watch after reading. (Who doesn’t like seeing what people described in books really look like?) Most of the footage is shot on cameras placed in the bike helmets and small hand held cameras.
The Motorcycle Diaries
The trip of Ernesto ‘Che” Guevara and Alberto Granada in South America is a book (and subsequent film) which is one of the most common mentioned when talking about travel. With The Motorcycle Diaries, as well as the other books mentioned, you begin to realize the road changes the riders in a way that travel by plane or train does not. The motorcycle cannot be separated metaphysically from the traveler and the trip is where Guevara transformed into Che. The Motorcycle Diaries is a powerful read and inspirational tale.
A Few More Great Motorcycle Travel Books
- One Man Caravan – Robert Fulton goes around the world by motorbike…in 1932.
- The Rugged Road – Two women, Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron, with a motorcycle and towing a trailer go from London to Cape Town in 1935.
- The Longest Ride – 10 years, 500,000 miles, 1 Argentinean named Emilio Scotto has one hell of a ride.
Two Books To Read If You’re Considering Your Own Motorcycle Adventure
You’ve been inspired by the trips in these books and found out why you need to take a motorcycle road trip at least once in your life. These are two books you can read if you’re considering taking your own trip (writing your own book optional).
- Sahara Overland, 2nd Edition: A Route and Planning Guide – Specific to riding across 9 countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Niger, and Chad.
- Adventure Motorcycling Handbook – You’ll need to know how to maintain, repair, and improvise with your motorcycle.
Ever since reading these books, in particular Long Way Round, I’ve made an RTW trip on motorcycle one of my dreams and life goals. These books will help you ignite your wanderlust and remind you of the joys of actually traveling. There are so many things you miss when moving by plane, car, or train that you can still reconnect with by getting closer to the road.
[photos by: Pez King, THEMACGIRL*, psd]
Thanks for spreading the word on motorcycle travel. I’ll be heading out on my bike adventure this year (once I can sell my house). Hopefully I’ll leave early enough to head to Alaska and then be heading south for a long time. Maybe we’ll see each other out there.
Just read your blog, looks like an awesome ride. Keep in touch and maybe we’ll cross paths somewhere.
Oh, you youngsters! There are two movies that epitomize motorcycle touring:
“The Wild One” (Marlon Brando)
“Easy Rider” (The ultimate mover of youth on wheels)
Well, not as tourists, but they sure sold a lot of motorcycles!
haha! I love The Wild One, I’m a sucker for Brando movies. I need to watch Easy Rider again, it’s been ages. Thanks for reminding me I’ll find it on iTunes now.
In 1984 I was at Ayer’s Rock in Australia and met a doctor from Alaska traveling around the world on his BMW. He had flown to Germany and bought it new. Then he commenced a 2 year tour that took through Europe, North Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, Canada, the U.S and home. BMW’s ran great and parts were available almost everywhere or they could be shipped to wherever he was in less than a week. I lost touch with the guy but he wrote a book about it. I’ll keep Googling and see if I can find it.
Kim- Please, Please see if ya can’t find that info! I would die to read about that one. Just got back from a trip with a bunch of riders who were on BMW’s and they almost talked me into getting one to! lol
They were such great bikes (1200cc) and would love to do my own tour on one for a year or two.
Anyways, would be great if ya could find it.
I’m looking forward to that too Kim if you can find it. My ultimate bike is a BMW 1200 or 650 sport touring. Well built and reliable – that sounds like about great trip. The thought of disconnecting from the world for a few years for a motorcycle trip sounds enticing.
Anil- I’m mad at ya dude! I was just about to write an article just like this for my website! lol I’ll put it off for a month or so then bring it back up but bravo to ya as it’s a sweet post!
I just got back from riding with some Venezuelan bikers on a road-trip through Ecuador. I’ll be writing about it on my blog soon but until then you can check out the photos (100+ of them) at my Facebook Fanpage for http://www.foggodyssey.com:
Those guys for sure got me hooked! If you ever want to take a year around the world on a motorcycle let me know man and I’ll join ya! I have already came up with some plans of my own and thought about it. Was about to do in this April but a rider that was going to go with me bailed, so just put it to the side for now. It’s still on my list of dreams to do.
Those pictures look amazing beyond words! I can’t wait to see your motorcycle post, I’ve got a few more tucked away, really I could write and write about it.
Btw, I love the BMW bikes. The bike I’d ultimately like to take RTW. I’m in the early planning stages of a trip like that I’d hope to do within a few years. I’m thinking of a few shorter regional trips like Turkey and the Middle East perhaps. I’ve got quite a bit of traveling to do this year but am going to set aside a day to hit the drawing board on this one.
I’ll definitely let you know when I do!
Mike’s gone now but I’m trying to find out if the book is still in print. BTW: Here’s a neat site if you haven’t already come upon it.
Kim- Thanks and have looked at that website before, as it’s got good info. Have you seen the website about the couple who holds the record for longest duo trip on a motorcycle? It’s called The Ultimate Journey (see link below for website). 4 years and a 100,000 miles later Guinness’s World Record gave them the title.
That site is chalked full of info on how to exactly travel the world on motorcycle and was basing my travel plans off theirs.
Kim, T-roy, those links are incredible – thanks for sharing. Only makes me want to go all that much more.
Jupiter’s Travels is one of my all-time favorite travel books and the first to really stoke the fires of my later travel obsession. As an avid biker, I’ve lusted at the thought of riding a bike RTW. I can’t afford it for this turn around the world, but maybe next time….
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook is indeed a great choice for anyone considering long-distance motorbiking. It’s comprehensive and full of information. I’d also highly recommend http://www.advrider.com/forums/ for info, inspiration and an awesome community.
Thanks for the link, I’ll head there now to check it out. I’ve been planning a RTW motorcycle trip and it does take quite a bit of planning and cost. Depending on the length of the trip it can get expensive quick – I’m still trying to work around the costs and get a final number to work with.
Anil, glad to help with that. Write us an email if you need advice and you can read about what we did here: [EDIT]
I love books/movies like this…yet I can’t say that I’m ready to set out on my own 2 wheel adventure – riding in and around Saigon was adventure enough for me!
…and that was quite an adventure! I loved your series the motorbike diaries 🙂
The long way round and the long way down were both fantastic. I met a couple of guys in Laos who had been inspired by them and were riding all over Asia, through Europe and finally back to the UK.
They get some flack as not being ‘real enough’ and for the support crews but I like the rawness of the books and the emotions both convey. It really hits home when you’re on the road a lot.
What a great collection of motorcycle books! Thanks so much, they definitely ignite wanderlust…Now I’m waiting for the perfect greener motorcycle.
Have you seen the latest Star Trek movie? Some pretty cool floating bikes there, pretty sure 100% clean fuel too 🙂
I read the Motorcycle Diaries right before I watched the 5-hour Che movie by Soderbergh and now I’m dying to travel to South & Central America.
I tried so hard to find that Che movie when it was out in theaters. I’ll have to do some searching online, how was it?
There you go!
There is nothing like planning a motorcycle trip, doing the research, packing and then riding. Agree, The Longest Ride is a great read.
Just finished riding Japan and had a great time.
For those want to ride and see Japan by motorcycle, “Motorcycle Japan – A Rider’s Diary”, http://www.motorcyclejapan.blogspot.com
Thanks for sending the link. Are you selling the ebook? I couldn’t see a way to get to the link.
I’m afraid the motorbiking thing goes over my head a bit although my husband’s a raving fan – always talking about riding across America
You could listen to the podcast onNotes from Spain about doing the enduro India
I’m right now trying to work it into my next major move before heading to the US for a few weeks. The US is such a good place for a road trip, you should do it with your husband!
I’m not a motorcyclist, but my husband would love these. Of course his Harley now sits in my living room. It has morphed into a grand piano. He threatens to turn it back into a motorcycle if I don’t start playing the piano more.
I was looking for a couple of books to tie me over until my next trip..
Back in 2006/7 I rode solo from the U.K to Thailand via China, then from Thailand onto Singapore then shipped to Australia..
I also did a second trip that was meant to be from the U.K to Shanghai but due to a few problems I ended up shipping out from Almaty Kazakhstan..
For me there is nothing like the freedom I get from traveling through the mass open expanses and changing terain to cleanse the soul..
Keep safe and happy travels j
That sounds like an incredible trip! Or trips actually 🙂 Anything upcoming in the works?
I just read your post and thought you’d be interested: I run a website called Bikes and Buddies , which tells true stories of motorcycles, friends, family and the open road. The website has tales ranging from setting a motorcycle on fire with Gilby Clarke of Guns and Roses, to almost hitting a turkey that craps on the rider, to destroying a mini bike with the band members of Green Day. They are funny and insightful stories about people and culture of two-wheeled travel.
Thanks and take care,
Hi Kevin, thanks for letting me know I’ll check it out. I’m curious, where are the stories collected from?
I write them myself. In fact, I’m posting a new one tonight called “Pops Owens vs. the Wolfman” that has a nice Halloween feel for the coming fall.
By the way, I would have answered earlier, but never got your query though email. I just so happened to come back and visit your site.
Thanks Kevin for responding, I guess my reply got lost somewhere online as happens from time to time. I appreciate it and will check out your new post soon 🙂
I just posted a new story “Pops Owens vs. The Wolfman” in celebration of Halloween. It’s about a son, his father, and the old man’s unwillingness to wear anything beyond underwear.
Thanks, I’ll head there now: http://www.bikesandbuddies.com/2012/09/07/wolfman/#more-812
From scanning through the responses you might all be interested in a collection of motorcycle writing I’ve put together which was published earlier this year entitled SONS OF THUNDER : WRITING FROM THE FAST LANE (Mainstream). Its a combination of polemic, review, poetry (yes, poetry), history, travel writing and cult of the personality stuff (T.E. Lawrence, Valentino Rossi)
This from a GS rider who simply doesn’t satisfy the wanderlust enough!
Thanks for sharing.
Well, I know my comment will only get to a limited part of your readers, but if there are any Romanians who want to read about wanderlusting on 2 wheels, I know 2 books (in Romanian) about this.
The first one is Vand kilometri (I Sell Kilometres) by Mihai Barbu, about his solo trip to Mongolia on his motorcycle called Doyle.
The second one is 285 de zile in cautarea verii (285 days looking for the summer) by Alexandru Maruseac, about his and his girlfriend’s (now wife) 2 wheels adventure in the Americas (North, Central and South).
Thank you for the additions to the list, I’ll have to see if there are any English versions…
Hei! Great to see this. We will let you know when the English versions are published (paperback or ebook).
Mi moto Fidel: motorcycling through Castro’s Cuba
Throughout the course of his three-month, 7,000-mile odyssey through Castro’s Cuba, Christopher Baker—thanks to his attention-getting vehicle—enjoyed instant entrée to a people both deprived of and obsessed by chrome and motorized wheels. Baker’s dazzling narrative introduces readers to a tremendous variety of Cubans in this penetrating and spellbinding travelogue—from tobacco growers and prostitutes to fishermen and impassioned dissidents. Revealing a vivacious people in the throes of a slow and painful transition, Baker takes us through his own gradual but profound change of heart about Castro’s regime. Mi Moto Fidel is a rare work of warmhearted humor and considerable insight that mines the depths of Cuba’s troubled history and politics…and shines an unprecedented light on this stubbornly enigmatic country.
Folks, I rode a 250 Honda around the world in 1978/1980. If there are any bits of advice I care to pass on, they are: don’t plan, just go. Don’t worry about money; it’s cheaper to travel than to stay at home (unless you live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I guess). You don’t need a 1200cc BMW. In fact, a big bike can be a hindrance. And go with an open mind to have your own journey, not one you’ve seen on TV or read about. Go now – The Bear
Adding two book on motorcycle journeys in India
1) One Life To Ride : A Motorcycle Journey To The High Himalayas by Ajit Harisinghani
2) Don’t Ask Any Old Bloke For Directions: A Biker’s Whimsical Journey Across India by PG Tenzing
Both books are written by persons who took to road to getover mid-life crisis .
Thanks for the recommendations!
Cool page Anil! Have you written your book too? Post it on my page when you do! Even better do an audio book… Ride safe: ChrisBlueman.com #AsphaltAndAngels
Thanks! No books on this yet but another one may be in the works 😉