I just started Sonny Barger’s Let’s Ride. I have to admit, I’d never heard of him prior to picking up the book. He’s evidently quite famous for uncovering the Hell’s Angels in the 1970s in the U.S..
I’m only a couple of chapters in, but he is a straight talker who doesn’t come off as weirdly particular about his motorbiking. He’s as hard on Harleys as he is on European or Japanese bikes. If you’re looking for an honest, knowledgeable review of motorcycling over the last half century in North America, this will do it for you.
I just got through his description of the British and North American failure to respond to the Japanese motorcycle invasion of the early 1970s. He pulls no punches and his insight describes the sense of superiority and apathy that was rampant in non-Japanese motorcycle companies at the time.
Barger is an American patriot at heart, even if it means he had to spend three miserable decades riding under-engineered Harley Davidsons. I sympathize with his loyalties, but don’t share them. I appreciate how he keeps saying that my own priorities in riding may be different from his. He offers advice without limiting your ability to express your own interests in riding. Sonny is a big ‘merican bike fan, but he understands that people come to biking from a variety of angles.
|One of my earliest motorbike memories was sitting out on this corner when I was six or seven watching a parade of old Triumphs, Royal Enfields and Vincents power through town.|
Myself, I’m a complicated guy. I’m a Brit who emigrated to Canada when he was eight years old and then paid off all his student loans by working in Japan. I’ve been living outside of my native culture for so long I’m not even sure what it is any more. My earliest memories are of watching old British bikes thumping down the road outside my grandparent’s house in Sheringham.
As a teen in Canada I was a giant anime nerd and loved Japanese motorcycle culture. My dream bike was a Honda Interceptor because it reminded me of Robotech mecha.
So how do I take Sonny’s advice? With the realization that I’m getting into motorcycling from a very different direction than he did, and he seems OK with that. I’m still finding his experience and explanations of biking to be very informative.
I’m enjoying the book so far, Sonny has a great writer’s voice (especially when he goes off the deep end and gets really opinionated). If you want a book that offers you an inside look at motorcycling, Let’s Ride is an enjoyable, informative read.