Sunday, October 01, 2006

Complete Idiots Building and Riding Bikes

Book Reviews

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Choppers
By Russ Austin and Michael Benson
Alpha Books
Penguin Book Publishing
ISBN #1-59257-452-1

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles
By Darwin Holmstrom and Charles Everitt
Alpha Books
Penguin Book Publishing
ISBN #1-59257-303-7
That’s just what we need, more Idiots on motorcycles
When The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles (3rd Edition) crossed my desk I heard a collective groan, “That’s just what we need, more Idiots on motorcycles.” Upon reading, I discovered that it was singularly the best basic guide ever published on the sport. Motorcyclist magazine alumnus Darwin Holmstrom and editor Charles Everitt had created a textbook that should be required reading for anyone thinking about standing near a motorcycle, let alone riding one. But thanks to the title all I could see was a wave of Idiots on gleaming new motorcycles heading right for me.

So you can imagine my dismay when I opened an envelope on my desk to reveal a copy of the newly minted: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Choppers.

Now understand that I’ve no qualm with choppers. In fact I think they’re cool. Very cool! And don’t feed me any handling, braking, ride-ability crap about them. The thing is that a Chopper is supposed to look cool. That’s its main job. Coolness is Number One! All else is superfluous. Besides, every motorcycle on the market is more motorcycle than any of us really need so why not have a cool one?

As for Idiots it’s no secret; we all know a few, and we all are a few. A psychology exploited in marketing philosophy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide series. The CIG’s savvy publishers have developed a style and that simplifies learning regardless of your own personal level of idiocy. Information is presented in small chunks with the most basic details first and later more advanced information is piled on. All the time cleverly disguised footnotes salted throughout the text act as mnemonics.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Choppers was written by Russ Austin, a custom builder and owner of Precious Metals Customs in Atlanta along with Michael Benson, a former car magazine editor and professional CIG writer. The duo do a fair job of explaining all the pitfalls and warning of the pratfalls involved with chopper building, buying and maintaining with a couple of secret handshake moments thrown in for good measure.

Austin’s warnings to the neophyte builder are born of his own sweat and scars which he makes abundantly clear, and at the same time he makes no bones about promoting his shop, private brand parts and personal philosophy which causes a large part of the book to read like a sales brochure. Not to be seen as all ego Austin does come clean on the source of his inspiration, necessity, admitting that his signature style of fender-free choppers was born of a painter who failed to deliver a fender in time for his first bike showing. He quickly fabricated a seat bracket and rode to the show sans fender. The crowd loved it, he took home the trophy and has avoided fenders ever since.

Overall, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Choppers provides the chopper-challenged a good platform of basic verbal information but it fails miserably on presentation. The few photographs included are too small to see details, have cluttered backgrounds and poor lighting. The photos in the color section look like the bikes were rolled out of the showroom at high noon for a snapshot then rolled back in. Choppers, especially such unique ones, deserve better. Choppers are the most creative, pictorial and coolest movements in the history of motorcycle culture. Worse, the section on Culture is the smallest in the book which is no surprise as there are pages of descriptions of motorcycles without images and boxes with bike builder biographies devoid of portraits. Such treatment leaves this reader wanting.

Buy this book if you’re admittedly absolutely totally ignorant about choppers, what makes a chopper or makes a chopper rider tick and need to know for some overwhelming reason like keeping up with the boys at the biker bar or avoiding that lost deer-in-the-headlight face when going to a custom bike show. You should also buy this book if you’re planning your first chopper build even if you’re already a top-rate tech because one piece of advice from the Guide will save you hours of cursing and confusion on something you probably never even thought of, which more than justifies the $19.95 cover price.

Now if your chopper desires extend merely to daydreaming and drooling over photos of cool bikes then your twenty bucks is better spent on some glossy custom bike magazines because the photographs are better and there might be partially clad or even totally naked girls in some of them.


Ride Far , Ride Fast and Ride Well!


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