Saturday, December 27, 2008

Riding with Rilke

By Ted Bishop.

Ted Bishop is an English professor at the University of Alberta. He is also an avid motorcyclist. So when an opportunity presents itself to combine both his passions, he leaps at the chance, and the result is quite an amazing tale.

At first I wasn't too sure how the motorcycle/university research pairing would work, but Bishop pulls it off and delivers a very good read indeed. Part travelogue, part literary research project, part passion for motorcycling, this book has it all.

From the portrayal of his (real life) accident to the narrative on how he developed his obsession with Ducati’s, the story has a feel of authenticity to it – been there, done that, got the t-shirt – and long-time riders will be able to relate with (mostly) fond recollection to Bishop's insights and humour. His brother’s instructions on how to bump-start a Ducati 250 cc Mach 1 took me back a lot of years (“You put it in gear, hold in the clutch, and push it. When you get running you hop on it side-saddle and let the clutch out at the same time, then hop off and keep running. It’ll catch, and then you pull the clutch back in and rev the throttle.”). And his descriptions of the feel of a truly 'great' motorcycle as you throw it through the curves and twisties of your favourite off-the-beaten-path riding roads are right on the mark. As for the agony of bad-weather riding – Bishop’s narrative had me shivering from the remembrance of water dribbling down the back of my neck on rides taken 30 years ago.

Interesting and well-written, Riding with Rilke deserves a place in any motorcycling library – right between Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Long Way Round.

No comments: