Book Review: Superbike – An Illustrated Early History

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Superbike – An Illustrated Early History
Published by MotoRacing Books.
ISBN-13: 979-8-218-25250-2 $75;00 plus shipping
(Get someone to buy it for Christmas. In fact, get your family to club together if you live outside of America!).

Well, it’s almost 200 pages long. And almost a dreadful coffee table-sized book, but thankfully it’s not – phew!
Written by Kevin Cameron and John Owens the book is a photographer’s look at the early days of Superbike racing in America just as Japan arrived on the scene big style; by two guys who may as well be married. In fact, they just work like a successful married couple. This is a book about Japan in America. Not how the Japanese bike companies took over the world of bike racing, but a record of them doing it in America.

It’s a brilliant and incisive look at Superbike racing. But it is very American. In content and in style. Which is a good thing, because if you’re not prepared to expand your mind, then you’re not really prepared to understand anything, least of all bike racing. If you ever looked at Bike Magazine in the 80s when they invaded the Bol d’Or scene and everything else that went with Endurance racing, then this book will jog that string of memories. Street Bikes turned bad, turned superbikes. And then some; bored, stroked, blueprinted. Engines torn down, suspension and brakes binned and then the whole thing rebuilt to vaguely resemble the silhouette of the bike you owned, but would ride so hard and fast you’d vomit, shake with fear, and then walk away from bikes forever. But sometimes they left the original vinyl seat on.

In this book are names only the most ardent, serious English reader would know. Wes Cooley? Sure. Mike Baldwin? Yep. John Bettencourt? Errrrr… Bruce Sass? Nope, me neither. Well maybe if I hadn’t been so young in 83 and partaking of live music so much. Anyway, I digress; it’s fascinating and wonderful and intriguing and has a pic of Rob Muzzy wearing a Casio digital watch.

The photography is so good, it’s almost three dimensional. And it’s all in glorious black and white. Predominately on 35mm but with a few larger formats. And that’s good. 35mm is easy and convenient for a mobile photographer, but nothing beats the clarity of going larger format and certainly not much beats a Hassleblad no matter what.

The text input by Cameron is neat and concise. If there is one small criticism of this book it’s that 50% more text wouldn’t go amiss, but the title is “An Illustrated…” so, suck it up folks.

Should you buy it? Yes. If you’re under 50 years old you might wonder what the hell these guys did racing these bastard machines back then, but your knowledge will be improved. Oh, and Freddie Spencer – he’s in there. So now you may hear his name because he is Race Direction in MotoGP, and he won two World Championships in one year. But before that he did this all over America and then did more all over the world. A lot.

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