Book review: Harley-Davidson Everything you Need to Know

[This Harley-Davidson—Everything you Need to Know Book Review was originally published in American Rider]

Like “new and improved,” the phrase “everything you need to know” packs a lot of implications. Aside from promising to deliver information that is both all-inclusive and necessary, the phrase also promises to tailor this information to “your” needs.

While in most cases grandiose claims of this nature wind up all promise and no presentation, Harley-Davidson: Everything You Need to Know actually lives up to its name.

In 159 full-color pages, this newest addition to the Motorbooks family leads the reader through a tour of Harley-Davidson history, culture, customizing, apparel, maintenance, tips, tricks and travel.

The book begins with a foundation of necessary knowledge and gradually expands to more complex topics. The first topic covers why Harleys are different under a ‘What is Harley-Davidson?’ header. From there the book moves into an evolutionary history of the first V-Twins before presenting the reader with facts to consider for choosing your Harley and a section on alternative American V-Twins. A conversational tone takes care to define potentially new vocabulary, such as Softail or after-market, in a passing way that is clear but subtle. For other more technical vocabulary, such as displacement, stroke and bore, an appendix glossary of terms in available in the back.

As the book progresses topics get more advanced. By chapter seven the subject of discussion is focused on engine modifications, damping adjustment, lowering the fork and other ways to get “the Right Kind of Power from your Harley”.

Each chapter is broken down into categories with subcategories and subheads that make handling a lot of information both accessible and simple. The vast range of information covered and the sub categorization make this book easy for beginners to follow topic and convenient for more experienced readers who want to skip around.

Structurally, this book is brilliant. Full color images supply a visual-aid to lessons, while colorful sidebars, captions and pull quotes make each page visually engaging and easily consumed. This book doesn’t feel or look like you’re reading an owner’s manual. Stermer’s ‘Tip’ sidebars are great elements that reflect many years of experience with suggestions that save time and avoid inconvenience. Keeping your wallet away from magnetic tank bags (to avoid desensitizing your credit cards) and carrying a small bottle of cleanser to wash dead bugs off your helmet are two small, but important, tips mentioned in the tip sidebars.

Bill Stermer’s 35-plus years of riding experience and 29 years of moto-journalism really set this book apart from other introductory motorcycle books I’ve read. Where other intro books cover dealerships, classified ads and cosmetic condition in their ‘buying your first bike’ chapter, Everything You Need to Know asks “What job do you want your motorcycle to perform?” and follows up with six riding scenarios that would merit six different motorcycle performance styles. Stermer’s experience allows him to ask intuitive questions that lead a new rider toward a tailored experience. It’s like choosing between conversations with a friend who’s been riding for years, or performing and printing a Google search.

As a Harley-Davidson enthusiast at the beginning of my Harley-Davidson journey, I am very impressed with both the composition and content of this book. The margins of my review copy are thoroughly marked with notes, underlines and arrows highlighting “ah-ha!” moments where vaguely familiar recognitions clicked into solid understanding. At $24.95, I would highly recommend this book to any Harley rider looking to maintain or improve their ride and any new Harley rider looking for motorcycle newbie tips and a great place to begin.

To order a copy of Bill Stermer’s Harley-Davidson: Everything You Need to Know, visit MotorBooks online or call 800-826-6600.


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