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#302 Rainy day reading : Modern Motorcycle Mechanics

Here are two very different books. One solves problems, while the other creates them.

You know me. I like to read. The books I’m especially fond of contain crisp, shiny photos, gripping illustrations, and actual, useful information. When such material is not readily available, I’ll read one of the other motorcycle magazines printed in this country.
Okay, that was cheap and uncalled for, but it was fun in a Monday morning kind of way (and maybe not so uncalled for). Really off-topic now…
I have no intention of getting into the book review business because I hate white wine and I’m not a natty dresser. Still, the books just keep on coming, from motosport and adventure title publishers around the world. We don’t ask for these books; the publishers just send them to the CB office on spec, hoping for a few lines of press even though, as I said, we’re not in the book review business. (Maybe Molony likes white wine, but I doubt it.) Usually the unsolicited books are just shelved for future reference, but every so often we like to alert the world to a few specific new book entries. Here are two.

MODERN MOTORCYCLE MECHANICS is by now, a cult classic. Visit the Facebook page and you’ll see posts from all over the world, with folks holding their own battered copies of what is, arguably, the best motorcycle service book ever written. Of course anyone even vaguely familiar with the title knows the legendary author J.B. Nicholson who with brother Lawrence essentially pioneered the British bike industry in Canada. But the indefatigable J.B. (Bernie) was quite a hand at writing too, and in 1945 published the first of numerous editions of his book that quickly became indispensable primarily because there was no real source of reference material for riders in those days who had to, say, make a valve adjustment on the Panther 250.
Nicholson’s 766-page illustrated book is a veritable encyclopedic tour of the basic and of the advanced procedures of servicing an astounding variety of American, British, and other European models with special sections on military motorcycles and speed tuning.
Nicholson had a genius for writing in a clear, precise, dry-wit style while delivering bodies of information that remained unequaled to this day.
Nicholson went on to revise his book six times, and more than 100,000 copies have sold from Canada to England, India, South Africa, Australia and beyond. Bu 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of Nicholson’s seventh and final revision, published in 1974.
To mark the occasion, the original 1945 edition has been released as a second edition. “The reprint of Modern Motorcycle Mechanics is 766 pages—just like the original,” says Calgary-based moto-journalist Greg Williams, who is the current holder of trademark rights to Nicholson’s works and formerly a frequent writer for Canadian Biker.
“The book covers everything from setting the timing on a single-cylinder Lucas magneto to rebuilding the engine of a Harley-Davidson 45.”
Only 540 copies of the 1945 Second Edition of Modern Motorcycle Mechanics have been printed, so better move on it if you want one.

NOT QUITE AS USEFUL AS OLD Bernie’s books but still loads of fun is British Custom Motorcycles, a 128-page book with hard covers and over 250 beautiful pics of customs, customs, and more customs. At £25 or $46.30 CDN it’s a touch on the pricey side but it is packed cover-to-cover with images of fantastic machines ranging from customs built in and Japan to interpretations of classic English platforms by some of the top American and European customizers.
From a Finnish BSA bobber to a crazy Sunbeam barhopper to a startling Vincent Black Shadow longfork and even a wild Royal Enfield chopper done by Winnipeg builder Ted Klatt, the range and diversity of custom bikes built around English engines (current and vintage) is simply mouth-watering. Profile and detail shots, a spec sheet, and a few paragraphs that tell the story accompany each bike. Ironically, you might say one book (Bernie’s) solves problems, while this one creates them.
British Custom Motorcycles will make you want to tackle your own project. It’s written by Uli Cloesen of Stuttgart, Germany, who has been involved with motorcycles for 35 years. The book is available through Veloce Publishing.

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