25 Years of ‘The Good Automobile’ by Melissa Holbrook Pierson

Melissa Holbrook Pierson, author of “The Perfect Vehicle” and other books.
Melissa Holbrook Pierson, creator of “The Good Automobile” and different books.

In 1997, Melissa Holbrook Pierson printed The Good Automobile: What It Is About Bikes, a pleasant ebook that chronicles her love affair with bikes in addition to the distinctive cultural and historic panorama of the two-wheeled world. In 1998, whereas struggling my means via graduate faculty in Philadelphia, I purchased a motorbike and realized to journey.

Throughout the first 12 months of my very own love affair with motorcycling, I learn – no, I devoured – The Good Automobile. Not solely did Pierson artfully articulate the complete spectrum of feelings, sensations, and experiences which might be acquainted to any motorcyclist and evoke the “journey to stay, stay to journey” credo, she educated me in regards to the thrilling new world I had come to inhabit.

Once I learn Pierson’s account of shopping for a Moto Guzzi Lario from a small European bike store referred to as The Spare Components Firm tucked away on a slim avenue within the Outdated Metropolis part of Philadelphia, an space I explored repeatedly on late-night pub crawls and weekend wanderings, I felt a fair stronger connection to her ebook. I had been to the store earlier than, and my then-girlfriend was buddies with the proprietor.


On the twenty fifth anniversary of The Good Automobile, thought-about top-of-the-line books ever written about bikes, we reprinted a evaluate printed within the August 1997 challenge of Rider and which may be discovered on our web site right here. We additionally reprinted Pierson’s introduction to the Spanish version of the ebook, which was printed in 2021 by La Mala Suerte Ediciones, the primary and solely writer dedicated to bike books in Spanish.

Scroll down for that introduction, and go to MelissaHolbrookPierson.com to order her books.

Greg Drevenstedt, Editor-in-Chief

Rider August 1997 Melissa Holbrook Pierson The Perfect Vehicle
Flashback to August 1997, the problem that featured our evaluate of Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s “The Good Automobile”

Introduction to ‘The Good Automobile’ Spanish Version

By Melissa Holbrook Pierson

Twenty-five years have elapsed between the time I started writing The Good Automobile and the second you’re studying these phrases. The impetus for writing was, fairly merely, unbridled pleasure. Why had nobody ever advised me bikes have been so transporting? Why didn’t everybody know the way affecting they have been, how they enriched and condensed expertise? How they have been a robust power for private good?

So I tried to say in my ebook each last item I might consider to say about these machines that each seize and specific the human creativeness. However no quantity one can say about one thing that’s primarily infinite can comprise “every little thing.” Even I might go on to seek out extra issues, and extra issues, to say. I wrote articles and poems and one other ebook about bikes. I’m not completed but. The which means of the journey is endless, which is why we journey: to style immortality within the type of the resounding now.

Associated: Melissa Holbrook Pierson: Ep. 9 of the Rider Journal Insider Podcast

1 / 4 of a century is a very long time. Time sufficient for every little thing to vary – governments to rise and fall, species disappear, cities unfold, new applied sciences revolutionize every day life and rewire our brains. In that lengthy span, I can now report, a lot has modified about motorcycling. And little or no. There have been technical advances within the bikes we journey – gasoline injection, ABS, “journey by wire” (defined to me half a dozen occasions to no impact), issues as soon as visibly mechanical now directed at midnight by laptop chips. Now not for me lengthy storage bullshit classes amongst buddies, the place I might marvel on the ingenious association of elements mirrored within the minds of people who find themselves to me equal marvels of nature: they handle to understand the way in which advanced techniques, the bike’s biomes, circulate collectively and aside.

I all the time knew my bike had a coronary heart, however now it has a separate mind. In its superior evolutionary state it might solely be attended to on the workplace of the suitable neurologist, I imply, seller with the codes. This has put an sad distance between the soul of the machine and its rider, however the tradeoff is efficiency properly past the creativeness of the final century.

There are concurrent adjustments within the varieties of people that journey. The so-called journey bike has grow to be massively well-liked, together with world journeys on it that when have been uncommon however are at this second being undertaken by astonishing numbers of individuals of all ages, nationality, and gender. The share of riders who’re feminine has greater than doubled since I began driving, and these girls are sometimes pursuing it in cultures that brazenly disapprove. They don’t care; they do it anyway. That’s how highly effective the attract is: we threat dying to do it.

Associated: Writers and Riders: Assembly Melissa Holbrook Pierson and John Ryan

A lot verbal handwringing has materialized, in america no less than, in regards to the “graying” of the motorcyclist, and the game’s diminishing maintain on youth who’re reputed to care extra about digital life than the actual factor with its climate and difficulties and the 360-degree view onto a disappearing however nonetheless attractive planet. Financial elements are sometimes mentioned. However that’s within the small nook from which I write. Shift the scope to India, which has emerged because the world’s largest bike market, and see (as I not too long ago did for myself) throngs of younger individuals enthralled by driving and the locations it takes you. I’m not anxious in regards to the demise of the bike. The planet itself might be destroyed lengthy earlier than the peculiar happiness driving confers.

I, too, have come nearer to my finish. Going towards it on my bike is the one affordable mode of journey via these years. 

Bikes amplify all that’s superb about dwelling. It’s not an adjunct to waking up within the morning, or an occasional occupation. It explains every little thing, offers a function to being alive, and a spot in each group and historical past, which nonetheless and ceaselessly unreels, just like the street itself. I’ve misplaced expensive buddies, who occurred to die doing the factor they liked most. However that was happenstance, not trigger. Motorcycling has introduced me the deepest friendships I’ll ever know, acceptance right into a worldwide brotherhood, and the final word information that love is actual – love for an inimitable assortment of elements that mysteriously opens a window onto essentially the most important of experiences, in addition to love between two individuals introduced collectively by what I can solely contemplate a magical agent. Sure, bikes are even matchmakers for the lovelorn.

A lot has modified within the years between then and now. A lot has stayed the identical. I nonetheless really feel boundless anticipation and hope and need and a fleck of fear each time I interact first gear. The world turns into new on each journey. However now I do know a deeper secret, one I’ve each lived and witnessed, many times. Bikes save lives.