Motorcycling is hands-on, a participatory endeavor. Saddle up, thumb the starter, kick the transmission into gear, open the throttle, and away you go. Not all things two-wheeled, however, can be experienced first person, which is why books provide a window to the sport and especially its history. Reading about heroic adventures—“The most terrifying seconds of my life were during the last run of the day”—brings those vivid experiences to life. Here are 10 ways to keep your motor charged through the winter months.

Feel—My Story , by Freddie Spencer

Feel—My Story book
“I’m very proud to be part of this group; this was a very special year for the Americans in Grand Prix. Kenny Roberts, Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson (in the background), and me.” Feel—My Story is complemented by black-and-white and color photographs that help tell three-time world champion Freddie Spencer’s life story.Jeff Allen

Freddie Spencer is widely regarded as one of the greatest motorcycle racers in the history of the sport. In his first book, the Louisiana native recounts his personal journey from a racing prodigy to a three-time world champion to the owner of a successful riding school. Next year, Spencer will begin his tenure as chairman of the FIM MotoGP stewards panel.

“This is the moment I have worked toward ever since I was a young kid riding in my yard with a protective sock covering my burned hand and scarred memories. I am the first man for 12 years to win both the 500cc and 250cc Grand Prix races at the same event. I have a chance to win both titles.”

Jonathan Rea has achieved unprecedented success in World Superbike, winning a record number of races and four consecutive titles—2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Dream. Believe. Achieve. is more than the title of Rea's autobiography; it's his outlook on life. Historical note: Rea's grandfather, a former Isle of Man TT winner, was Joey Dunlop's first sponsor.

“You must be mad. Racers are crazy. You must take your brains out before you put your helmet on. Listen: I’m not crazy. Focused? Yes. Selfish? Of course. Driven? For sure. But a crazy thrill-seeker? You don’t understand me or my sport. I’ve been riding since I was two. Racing since I was six. And I’m pretty far from being done.”

Mike The Bike—Again by Ted Macauley

Ted Macauley originally published Mike The Bike—Again in 1980. But a great story never gets old, and this new edition once again recounts the fairy-tale return of nine-time world champion Mike Hailwood to the Isle of Man TT, where in 1978 he won the Formula One race on a privately backed Ducati, further cementing his legendary status in racing annals.

“There was an uncontrollable restlessness about him—a feeling of well-being and an inner knowledge and confidence that he could mix it with the best and do nothing to impair the legendary reputation he had built for himself—that made it almost essential for him to come back to where the challenge was the toughest of them all…at the TT.”

MotoGP Technology , by Neil Spalding

MotoGP book
“KTM might be the new boys in MotoGP, but they are certainly not new to competition. Ferociously competitive, they have set out to get toward the front, to do it fast, and to do it using their own favored suppliers and technologies.” MotoGP Technology explores Grand Prix racing with a depth like no other book that has come before it.Jeff Allen

Armed with a camera and a notebook, Neil Spalding left a career in banking to chase the MotoGP circus. For 15 years, the former Ducati Supermono club racer has diligently documented the four-stroke evolution in the premier class, all of which is beautifully presented in the third edition of his exceptional book, MotoGP Technology.

“Motorcycles look simple: just two wheels and an engine. But the reality is very different. Roadbikes and MotoGP racebikes can be seen as very similar. Size-wise, they are not far apart. But the roadbike isn’t expected to be able to go through a corner at more than 60 degrees of lean or exceed 210 mph on a regular basis.”

Racing Together , 1949–2016, by Nick Harris

Racing Together book
“The four-way fight at Phillip Island in 2015 between Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, and Valentino Rossi was instantly hailed as the ‘Race of the Decade.’ ” Racing Together, 1949–2016 features forewords written by FIM President Vito Ippolito, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and IRTA President Hervé Poncharal.Jeff Allen

Twenty-six years ago, a Spanish sports-marketing company purchased the rights to the FIM Grand Prix Motorcycle Road Racing World Championship. Dorna Promoción del Deporte—named for the unsinkable Galician fishing boat—has since grown MotoGP into an international media powerhouse. That history is documented here, from the beginning and season by season, in great depth.

“For the next years the action on track between the likes of Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Gardner, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, John Kocinski, and other top 500cc, 250cc, and 125cc riders would thrill television audiences, but behind the scenes the battle was for the control of the television itself and, finally, for the entire Grand Prix commercial and sporting package.”

Suzuki banked for many years on its GSX-R sportbike series, but those groundbreaking four-strokes were preceded by decades of two-stroke models that, as author Brian Long explains, not only put the company on the map but helped it to survive a difficult era that saw hundreds of Japanese motorcycle makers reduced to just four.

“The company was being hit from all angles. The threat of emissions regulations hanging like an axe over certain model lines, falling profits from changes in exchange rates, and then, to cap it all, a major oil crisis following OPEC’s decision to place an oil embargo on countries seen to be supporting Israel during the Yom Kippur War.”

Speed—The One Genuinely Modern Pleasure , by Mat Oxley

Indian rider Earl Armstrong
"American boardtrack racing was a petrol-powered version of the Wild West: desperate young men out to get rich quick or die trying. This is Indian rider Earl Armstrong (center) after winning a 300-mile race at the Takoma boardtrack in 1915." Mat Oxley's Speed—The One Genuinely Modern Pleasure comprises 14 chapters.Jeff Allen

Isle of Man TT winner Mat Oxley has spent a lifetime researching and writing about the unique experience of going fast on motorcycles. His most recent work is dedicated to the early years of two-wheel speed—from the Isle Man TT to the public roads of Germany and the boardtracks of America—and illustrated with rare period photographs.

“Each time he ventured beyond 150 mph the bike broke into a weave. [Ernst] Henne tried accelerating through the problem, but it was no good; the bike fishtailed wildly, striking terror into his heart. The handlebars—narrower than before to fit within the egg—gave him less leverage than usual, so he had to fight with all his might.”

BMW's venerable boxer twin is front and center for this coffee-table book that concentrates on 17 international custom builders—Blitz Motorcycles, 46 Works, El Solitario, and Roland Sands Design, among others—and their interpretations of the retro-style R nineT. In these profiles, Dirk Mangartz focuses as much on the process as he does the ultimate outcome.

“Though usefulness and suitability for a given purpose often take a back seat to personal style, these converted bikes are perfectly suitable for daily use without any limitations on function. ‘There’s nothing worse than a show bike that you can’t ride,’ says customizer Jens vom Brauck. Neither high engine output nor high-tech components play a very important role. Fun is necessary; creativity is encouraged.”

Taking It To The Limit: 20 Years Of Making Motorcycle Movies , by Peter Starr

Taking it to the limit
"Mike Hailwood was an extraordinary man with an ordinary man's modest attitude and a smile that captured the hearts of his fans." Taking It To The Limit: 20 Years Of Making Motorcycle Movies includes a DVD in which author Peter Starr shares his filmmaking memories with the late Brian Drebber.Jeff Allen

Few authors can boast not just one but two forewords, never mind written by three-time 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts and announcer extraordinaire Dave Despain. The praise on those pages is directed toward the deserving Peter Starr, whose exhaustive book tells the incredible backstories from his many and varied motorcycle film projects.

"At that point, we probably had gathered more experience in putting a motion picture camera on a motorcycle than anyone. We had also developed a sound recording technique that allowed us to put a microphone on the rider's lip. We married the two for the first time with Mert Lawwill and Gary Scott in the 1975 San Jose Mile while filming The All-American Race."

Countless books have been written about Harley-Davidson and its many successes. In an interesting twist, former Motorcyclist staffer Aaron Frank built his story around 45 exceptional historical pieces—from the bicycle engine drawing (1901, the oldest known H-D artifact) through the Serengeti (new Softail) prototype from 2018—on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

“Anyone can understand the electric bike, and the reverse trike, and the snowmobiles, and speedboats, and even the golf carts…but a Harley-Davidson rocket engine? For real? Yes, Harley-Davidson really did build a rocket engine—or, more precisely, more than 5,000 individual rocket engines, over a 30-year time span, beginning in the 1960s—for use powering US Navy target drones.”