Ultimate Collector Motorcycles by Taschen Books

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courtesy of Taschen Books
The cover of the box/sleeve that holds the two volumes.

Today’s world is full of superlatives, but occasionally something comes along which truly deserves being extolled as the biggest and best. And that’s indeed very much so with the 940-page large format (11.1 x 14.2-inch) English-language Ultimate Collector Motorcycles masterwork just released by Taschen Books, a luxury art book publisher based in Cologne, Germany, which until now had never dealt with anything to do with two wheels and an engine. For there’s little doubt that this massive two-volume 220,000-word title weighing 20.68 pounds in total is the finest book about motorcycles yet published in any language, both in terms of content and presentation. Anyone who spends $250 will not be disappointed with their purchase. And, for full disclosure, I say that as someone asked to read the title through for accuracy before publication, but who otherwise played no part in its creation — so I have read every word in both volumes!

That satisfaction will follow because what may at first glance appear to be a massive coffee table picture book, with an array of magnificent studio photos of each of the 100 featured motorcycles, when you start reading through it swiftly turns out to be a motorcycle history textbook, with a detailed account including the genesis and technical makeup, plus any competition history, of each of the models included. Ignore the misleading “Born to be Wild” strapline of the book’s promotional blurb, which might make you think you were about to open a picturebook of Custom Streetfighters. This is a concise, well-written, well-researched, and above all well-balanced journal of record of those hundred bikes, the majority (though not all) of which are iconic landmarks in motorcycling’s evolution, spread over the 125 years interspaced between the 1894 Hilbebrand & Wolfmuller which heads the list of featured models, and the 2020 Aston Martin AMB 001 which ends it.

The title is a slight misnomer, though, for don’t infer that this book’s purpose is about exploring two-wheeled stamp collections, or even those owned by men who’ve assembled a significant array of bikes and opened them to public view, like George Barber and Sammy Miller, who are featured in interviews in the work. Instead, it’s a detailed look at many of the most significant motorcycles yet built, irrespective of their present location, as chosen by the authors, Charlotte and Peter Fiell. They did so with help from the likes of Jay Leno, who wrote the foreword and knows a thing or two about acquiring desirable bikes of all eras, and Ben Walker, Director of Motorcycles at Bonhams auctioneers. Paul d’Orléans, founder of The Vintagent blog and Gordon McCall, co-founder of California’s annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering concours, add further North American viewpoints.

OUGLAS MACRAE (COURTESY TEAM OBSOLETE)
  • Updated on Aug 11, 2023
  • Originally Published on Aug 5, 2023
Tagged with: Alan Cathcart, Classic Motorcycle Books, Taschen Books, Test Ride
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