Chris Scott’s Adventure Motorcycling Handbook Review
However, what I didn’t buy was the one thing which would have proved the most useful – this book.
Now in its 6th edition Chris Scott’s Adventure Motorcycling Handbook (AMH for short, if I may) is simply the only place to start your preparation from, and should be the first thing which goes on the ‘to pack’ pile you will at some point make before the trip.
I’m going to let you into a little secret too, I read this review edition on the train back and forth to work with no real plans of a bike trip in mind, yet I still found it a very interesting and informative books.
I think there’s some justification to say that every biker would do well to read this book even if no trips are planned – because I defy anyone not to have a plan, or the urge to plan, once you reach the back cover. And that’s a good thing. Oh yes it is. Travelling stops the moss growing, the wheels from seizing and the mind from stagnating.
All Style (And Content)
The book’s secret is how information is presented to you, the reader. It would be very easy to just list out the hard, dry and too-easy-to-make boring facts. I’d get to page 20 and put it down. However the AMH presents hardly a paragraph without some anecdote or example from Chris’s massive databank of personal experiences, plus it has a load of small call-out boxes containing relevant notes from other experienced travellers. The final section of the book contains a couple of longer factual stories from contributors including LB’s own Rixxy who recounts the story of getting a puncture fixed at the roadside in India.
All of this means the plethora of useful and detailed facts are not presented to you in a University lecture style but more in the style of “having a beer in the pub with Chris Scott”. And that, I’d imagine, is another good thing.
I’ll be honest; that style is what got me to the end. After looking down the list of contents I did wonder if I’d be able to do the book justice (i.e. I’d get bored and put it down) but as it turned out I was surprised to find I’d reached the end and was into the list of contributors.
So what’s in it?
The Adventure Motorcycling Handbook is a methodical series of discussions, in the most relevant sequence, on the various key ingredients to a successful motorcycle trip. If you are planning a weekend blast a couple of hundred miles to the Lake District, or Wales for example then there are still some topics (first aid, travel essentials to name two) you’d be wise to read up on.
It is of course the idea of crossing countries and continents that this book is really aiming to support.
Planning and Preparation takes 29 pages of discussion on where to go, how realistic you have to be, and where to get information from, along with lots of information on the really important stuff like visas and travel documentation. Oh and there’s a rough budget plan too so you can be braced for how much it is actually going to cost rather than how much you think it will.
Then follows 70+ pages on Choosing the Bike and all it will carry. Yes, it’s a gadget freak’s delight but I’m delighted to report it isn’t just a matter of buying all the expensive gear from a catalogue – Chris and his contributors offer plenty of hard-earned opinions on the various products and aren’t afraid of naming products either. This attitude is refreshing these days where many are frightened of biting the hand which may have to supply them.
There is also a section on Quads - not the muscle group, the 4 wheeled Quads. Yes, people go adventuring on them too!
The next chunk of the book is about Life on the Road – riding abroad, dealing with border crossings, camping wild, health and medical emergencies amongst other things. This section is littered with Chris’s personal experiences and those of his contributors (usually in a shaded box distinct from the main text) which, to repeat myself a little, adds far more credibility to the advice given than simply presenting a series of Do’s and Don’ts.
Some examples of the little things passed to the reader as anecdotes rather than instructions: remember to leave an air gap when carrying fuel in a none-dedicated container to avoid the fuel leaking or bursting out as you bounce off down the bumpy Iranian road ahead. I suspect Chris has found this out the hard way judging by the tone of the paragraph, and it’s this style of writing which makes it memorable. There’s nothing like watching a mate fall foul of a mishap to stop you doing the same.
Other anecdotal advice: use the weight of your mate’s bike stand to break the bead on your punctured tyre; avoiding $100 bills near Nigeria where they are printed by the roll; Lois Pryce’s advice for solo women to wear a wedding ring to avoid undue harassment (assuming you aren’t actually married!); and once you’ve packed your bike as intended to lay it down before trying to pick it up. Chris suggests that is the fastest way to rethink your luggage load.
The second half of the book’s page count is spent either outlining or discussing the Popular Routes through Asia, Africa and South America (the continents which cause the most anxiety in any would-be traveller for sure) which takes some 150 pages (so you can take that as being a pretty detailed discussion). Finally we get to the “Tales From The Saddle” part of the book consisting of 6 tales or book-excerpts from such travellers as Lois Pryce, Carla King (two very readable female solo travellers) and our own James and Cat Rix who rode two up from London to Australia.
In this 384 page book you get 14 maps, 20 colour and 120 B&W photos to illustrate the various routes, equipment and techniques Chris includes in it. There is also Chris’s website: adventure-motorcyclingh.com which contains a massive amount of information and contributions from motorcycle adventurers the world over; famous, regular and one-offs alike.
More than the mere contents, what you really get from this book is realism and inspiration. Yes your trip might may be daunting, but with a plan anything is possible.
And this book gives you that plan. You just need to supply the nerve.
About Chris Scott
So who is the dude to be dishing out this advice? Chris is an ex-dispatch rider (including dispatching on a 900SS and a nitrox XS650!) who spent his winters exploring the Sahara on trial bikes. Desert Travels (mid-1990s) describes these adventures and Chris has gone on to author 8 books including Rough Guides. He’s made DVDs of many adventures with some being shown on National Geographic Channel and consulted with Michael Palin’s production company amongst many big names.
He started the AMH back in the early 90s with the first edition being published in 1993 as 100-page book and now he has this 6th edition boasting over 3 times the pages and a world-wide reputation behind it.
In short, this is a man who knows a thing or two about crossing continents and someone held in the highest esteem within the adventure riding community.
The Adventure Motorcycling Handbook is published by Trailblazer Publications (www.trailblazer-guides.com ) and available on the dedicated website www.adventure-motorcyclingh.com along with all the usual real and virtual book retailers.
It has a £15.99 cover price.
19/20 because it simply leaves no obvious stone unturned. More colour images would be nice but of course that bumps up the price. We all have access to search engines to show us colour images a plenty, Chris does the important job of informing us of what to look for.
Top book and a fine Xmas present for all but the most lethargic of biker.
(images show book cover, the 'Adventure Motorcycling Zone' referred to in the book, and Chis in action pose)