Legend has it that Spannerman only reads workshop manuals but we’ve asked him to give us some clues on what he’s reading during his summer break. What a surprise – they’re all motorcycle books…


Being There Hugh Anderson

For those who live under a rock, Hugh Anderson was raised in Ohinewai, near Huntly, in the Waikato region of New Zealand. He joined the ‘Continental Circus’ as racing in Europe was known in 1960 and had a spectacular professional career, rubbing shoulders (literally, and often at 200km/h) with the likes of Hailwood, Tom Phillis, Surtees, Bob McIntyre, Jim Redman, Derek Minter, Taveri, Phil Read and just about everyone else of note from that golden era.

The result was around a hundred wins and places in international events including four world championships (50 and 125 titles in 1963, 50 title in ’64 and 125 title in ’65) and eight podiums at the Isle of Man including two TT wins. All this is on top of his NZ successes before he left and after he came back on his ‘retirement’ from the international scene in 1966.

He was awarded an MBE in 1994 for services to motorcycling and was inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame this year along with Jorge Lorenzo and Max Biaggi.

Being There covers arguably the most interesting time in the history of motorcycle racing. Don Cox’s excellent book, Circus Life, examines the Commonwealth racers in this period in broader strokes but Anderson’s book delivers an intimate insight into one man’s amazing adventure.

It’s the story of a small-town New Zealander with the drive to be his best against the backdrop of the Japanese flexing their muscles for the first time in an industry previously dominated by the British and Europeans.

Anyone who thinks the eventual success of Japanese two-strokes was an easy path needs to read how Anderson learned the hard way to always ride with his fingers resting on the clutch lever.

The style of writing is humble, self-effacing and honest. Such is Anderson’s nature that there isn’t much gossip.

Almost everyone he met liked him and he liked them in return. The astute reader may, however, pick up that Anderson wasn’t that impressed by Phil Read’s racing ethics.

In contrast, Ernst Degner, the East-German designer who escaped in spectacular fashion before teaching Suzuki how to make race-winning two-stroke engines, taught Anderson how to ride faster than him on race tracks. It was an era of gentlemen.

Being There is available from Pitstop online (pitstop.net.au) for just $9.99 with an Australia-wide postage rate of $6.95. This is around a quarter of the normal rrp and anyone you give it to for Christmas will thank you for it forever.


The book pictured here is actually titled Motorcycle Chassis Design: the theory and practice. It’s my own copy and was first published in 1984. It was good enough to be reprinted many times, lastly in 2006, but it has been long sold out and your only chance of acquiring an original print version now is through second-hand book shops or swap meets.

While chassis design is technically complex, Tony Foale’s book (with Vic Willoughby) was written to be comprehensible to the general public and it certainly worked.

It provided me with a framework for understanding motorcycle chassis design which forms the basis of my knowledge of it today.

Times change, of course, and a new edition of the book was released in 2002 and updated in 2006. Titled Motorcycle Handling and Chassis Design – the art and science, it has five times the amount of original text and three times the illustrations. I’m still a fan of the original version as it’s more comprehensible – it provides a technically accurate framework on which to hang what you learn from experience.

Gossip is the hard copy of the new book is now also sold out but you can get an e-version for 49 euros and Tony will give you a 38 euro discount on the proper book when it re-arrives in print form.

Read it and your mates will start listening to you again on Friday nights at the pub.

Motorcycle Handling and Chassis Design is available from swap meets and second-hand book shops as well as in e-form from motochassis.com for 49 euros (approx AUS$80).


Burt Munro Motorcycle books

Do I have to explain to anyone who Burt Munro was? Many of you will have seen the very entertaining movie starring Anthony Hopkins but nothing beats the Tim Hanna book for accurate detail.

Munro was already in his sixties when he took his heavily-modified 1920 Indian Scout to the Bonneville salt flats and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hanna’s book reads like a thriller and you’ll relax into his comfortable style and not want the story to end. It’s not a history but a dramatic recreation, albeit highly factual and accurate. Hanna is also the author of John Britten, the best-selling biography of the late New Zealand motorcycle engineering legend. Tim rides himself so he gets what motorcycles are about and writes with great empathy.

One of the problems with movies is they compress stories. The Penguin edition of One Good Run gives you over 300 pages to enjoy the subtlety and nuance of Bert’s life and times. No, ‘Bert’ isn’t a spelling mistake – it was his name until he went to America and changed the spelling to make it easier for his hosts.

The book provides a far better understanding of how overwhelming the task Munro took on actually was. It’s a great read.

One Good Run is available in from Amazon.com.au for $22.28 but it only has five copies left. It’s also available as an eBook from a variety of sources from $10.


Round Oz Ride motorcycle books

As the images in this excellent book reveal, its author, Peter ‘Kog’ Godfrey looks like an extra from Lord of the Rings who was made to stand out in the sun for too long.

His ruddy complexion and below-average height, however, disguise many virtues. You can’t judge a book by its cover and, in particular, literally, you shouldn’t judge this book by its cover. It’s so much more than a description of a ride covering 17,750 kilometres in 40 days.

Kog’s 19 year-old son, James, decided to join him at the last minute on his 10 year-old Ducati 600 Monster.

On the surface, the ride by itself is entertaining enough but there are other, deeper stories. The first is of a man on an unending journey towards some form of enlightenment. Then there’s the story of a father attempting to understand how to experience a relationship with his son that would satisfy them both.

Lastly, there’s James’ story: a young country boy beginning his own journey into the world and wrestling with conflicting drives in his quest to understand love – family love, love of the world and, most importantly, love of himself.

As you’ve gathered, this isn’t a ‘how to’ book about riding around Australia but it does have lots of practical advice and information. If you’re a truth-seeker, though, you’ll get much more out of it.

If you stayed up late watching Chanel 10 TV in September and October this year, you would have seen a seven-part series based on the trip largely using Kog’s Go-Pro footage.

Round Oz Ride – a father and son journey is available from www.greengrasspub.com.au for AU$70 including postage.


Croz motorcycle books

I’m currently half way through my second read of Croz – Larrikin Biker. I read it when it was first published by HarperCollins in 2010 and, frankly, I didn’t believe it.

I had the chance subsequently to work a bit with Croz and as I got to know him better, I realised just about every word in Larrikin Biker was probably true.

What makes it seem like fiction is how incredible the story is.

It starts with a crash on a customer’s bike when he was scratching out a living as a nobody in the motorcycle trade in Auckland in 1972 and finishes with him walking away from the 500GP circuit in 1982 having got within inches of becoming world champion.

Coming second is still bloody excellent and Croz has never lost a night’s sleep over what could have been.

In the interim, he achieved legendary status on Moriwaki Superbikes in Britain and blitzed the Isle of Man TT in the both the Senior TT and the F1 World Championship.

Croz’s story is even more amazing when you realize most of his high-profile international achievements were in just four years.

He arrived in Britain in 1979 with just his leathers and 150 quid and returned to NZ four years later as arguably the most recognized motorcycle racer in the world.

His autobiography is searingly honest and often hilarious at the same time. Unlike Hugh Anderson, Crosby is happy to name names and there would have been many nervous colleagues of his when the book was first published.

While the international component of the story is a focus, there’s much joy to be had from his recollections of racing in NZ and Australia in the early years and the industry characters he interacted with on the way. Auckland in 1972 was a different place and Croz’s insights bring it to vivid life.

If you, like me, read this book ten years ago, now might be the time to revisit it. The original edition pictured here was a sellout but it’s still available in a bigger format and it’s a bit cheaper. Croz – national treasure.

Croz – Larrikin Biker is available from graemecrosby.co.nz for $35.

If you like motorcycle travel writing you should read…

Anything by Brian Rix and Shirley Hardy-Rix: including Circle to Circle, Two for the Road and The Long Way to Vladivostok. These are real-world stories by a couple who actually did it. Two for the Road is probably the pick of the three but they’re all good. Just google their names for availability.

The Long Way to Vladivostok

ULTIMATE ROAD TRIPS: This is Lee Atkinson’s guide to Australia and while most of it was completed on four wheels, it’s a remarkably useful guide for anyone planning a motorcycle trip.

It also doesn’t hurt that Lee’s partner is Bill McKinnon, ex-editor of Two Wheels. Available now in all good bookshops.

Ubuntu motorcycle books

UBUNTU: Twenty-eight years old Heather Ellis rides solo through Africa on a Yamaha TT600. I’m so pleased she isn’t my daughter but it’s a great read, regardless. Heather-ellis.com

THE ROAD GETS BETTER FROM HERE: Adrian Scott’s epic adventure where he starts with no riding experience, wrecks his bike and breaks his foot on the first day (in Siberia no less). He survives largely on the generosity of strangers but you expect the worst as each page turns.

Motorcycle books to avoid:

ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE: It’s not really about motorcycle maintenance and isn’t even particularly informative about Zen. It might get a boost shortly as it’s on the table in James Bond’s loungeroom in Jamaica when he’s talked into going back to 00 work in the soon-to-be-released movie.)

LONG WAY ROUND: I couldn’t read past the page on which Charlie begs for accommodation in a Russian village on the basis that he’d “been in these clothes all day!” Poor sookems.


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Peter Williams
Peter Williams
3 years ago

Charlie will be gutted after that declaration. ??