RoadTrip America

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Biker's Handbook: Becoming Part of the Motorcycle Culture, by Jay Barbieri

Over the last couple of weeks I participated in an impromptu and unplanned cultural survey. It was the time of year for haunting waiting rooms for annual medical checkups. Knowing that I might have to wait for extended periods in those waiting rooms, I took an enticing new book along to fill the tedium: Biker's Handbook: Becoming Part of the Motorcycle Culture, by Jay Barbieri. It turned out to be an excellent decision. Virtually every woman who caught sight of the cover of the book made a point of striking up a conversation. Young, old, fit, and not-so-fit, every one of them had a story to share about her own bike or her dream of getting one. Needless to say, I never found time to actually read the book for more than a few seconds at a time while making my rounds of doctors' offices. On the other hand, while I caught the eye of several men who glanced at the book cover, none of them found any reason to start a conversation with me. The cover and format of the book practically scream "this is a man's book," so I found the ubiquitous interest of women quite fascinating.

The author seemed pretty convinced that he was writing the book for men, in the introduction he writes: "If you're reading this, it means that you are new to riding, have probably just bought a bike (maybe a Harley), or are thinking about buying one. Your son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, wife, or someone close to you probably bought this book for you as a present. 'Daddy's into motorcycles, he'll love this.'" In fact, as I was reading the book, I couldn't help thinking about purchasing copies for friends who've recently acquired their first motorcycles. This is a truly funny book. The author shares numerous personal anecdotes from his long riding career and the lessons he has learned the hard way. For example, always be prepared for rain -- no matter what! Barbieri also does a masterful job of educating those of us who have never ridden a bike about the history and ethos of biking culture. In particular, he spells out what it means to be an authentic biker -- one who respects the road and the shared appreciation for those who have adopted the biker's way.

Biker's Handbook is illustrated with a number of great classic photographs and some very funny pen-and-ink drawings depicting the sometimes slightly insane situations that bikers get themselves into. The author provides some excellent advice about how non-bikers should act around hard-core club bikers and explains the culture of the out-law gangs. I really enjoyed reading this book, and, while I will never be a "biker" in the way that Jay Barbieri defines the term, I certainly have a new and fresh appreciation for what it means.

And -- I can't help mentioning it again -- this book is the best "babe magnet" I've ever experienced. Use it wisely…

Mark Sedenquist

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