Our Favorite Motorcycles-As-Art Coffee-Table Books

Illicit literature you don’t have to hide under your mattress.

For motorcycle enthusiasts, hardbound books dedicated to the beautiful machines that populate our fantasies should come with a warning label. They may be borderline illicit for us, but for normal people who don’t swoon at the exquisite cylinder heads of an AJS Porcupine, for example, they will just be something pretty to flip through over cocktails. Motorcycles are many things to many people, but part of their hold on us as visualists is the way their beauty captivates. While motorcycles are best enjoyed in three dimensions, a coffee-table book filled with models that express the art of two-wheel design is a good second place.

The Ride 2nd Gear: New Custom Motorcycles And Their Builders

In an ever-changing movement, The Ride 2nd Gear looks at of-the-moment machines.Amazon

This follow-up to The Ride features some of the most beautiful and arguably important motorcycle projects in the world. The book shines light on today's multi-layered custom scene and the builders who are reinventing the motorcycle as a museum-worthy, controversial, or just-plain-lovely work of art and speed.

The Current: New Wheels for the Post-Petrol Age

For die-hard lovers of the internal-combustion engine, the machines featured in _The Current_could present a dystopian look at the future, but there’s enough interesting thinking—and torque!—on display to appeal to all but the greatest skeptic.Amazon

Since much of our world is still powered by fossil fuel, it's hyperbolic to say now is the post-petrol age, but The Current is all about examining vehicles of today that look toward tomorrow. As such, the featured machines rethink archetypal forms of wheeled transportation—not only motorcycles—reinterpreting them for what we imagine we'll need tomorrow. Years from now, it will be interesting to look through the pages to revisit these halcyon days of electrification. Will the vehicles look quaint—like a Back to the Future II version of 2015—or will they be seen as pioneers?

The Art of the Racing Motorcycle: 100 Years of Designing for Speed

A decade-spanning look at iconic machines that have no business looking so good.Amazon

For the racing motorcycle, aesthetic excellence, and nearly every other consideration, is subjugated to the primary objective of outright performance. So why is it racebikes are so often the most beautiful motorcycles of all? That's one of life's great paradoxes. If you're a fan of the beauty of speed, The Art of the Racing Motorcycle is sure to titillate.