"Through their wide-ranging study of history, technology, literature, film, fashion, and aesthetic design, Alford and Ferriss have created the most extensive, perceptive, and rewarding inquiry yet into the role of the motorcycle and our fascination with it."

Ed Youngblood,

"Motorcycle takes you from the motorized bicycle to the life cycle of Bosozoku gangs; from the concept of “flow” to leather and sexuality; from Broughs to toughs to white-gloved Motor Maids. Like a good motorcycle ride it leads you into new territory and gives you a fresh sense of familiar terrain. International in scope, informative and provocative, it opens up the field of motorcycle culture and design."

Ted Bishop, author of Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books

Marlon Brando in The Wild One – MotoGP – Easy Rider . . . The motorcycle is a global icon of untamed freedom, symbolizing daring and reckless adventure. Yet few books chronicle how and when this legendary vehicle began to roar down the open road. Motorcycle explores the roots of the rebel’s ultimate ride.

After its early incarnation in the late nineteenth century as an engine-powered bicycle, the modern motorcycle emerged from the tinkerer’s shed to become a practical and exciting mode of transport for men and women alike, as well as a cheap military asset during World War One. From there it rapidly spread through modern Western culture as a symbol of rebellion and subversive power, and Motorcycle tracks the symbolic role it has played in literature, art and film. The authors also discuss the international subcultures that centre on the motorcycle and the scooter. They chart the emergence of American biker culture in the 1950s, when decommissioned soldiers sought new ways to satisfy their desire for thrills and danger, and explore how the motorcycle came to represent the untamed individualism of the American West, and to symbolize youthful rebellion in Japan and Great Britain. In contrast, smaller scooters, such as the Vespa and moped, became the utilitarian economy vehicle of choice in space-starved metropolises across Europe and Asia. Ultimately, the authors argue, the motorcycle is the exemplary Modernist object, designed to unify rider and machine in perfect balance.

An unprecedented and wholly engrossing account, Motorcycle is essential reading for the serious rider, the aficionado, and the collector, or anyone who has sought to understand the power of the ideal vehicle.



For US orders, visit University of Chicago Press. Also available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and

For UK orders, visit Reaktion Books.

Contact the authors at




Carla King, Motorcycle Misadventures

Ian Kerr,

Paul Atkinson, International Journal of Motorcycle Studies


Adrian Blake, Ride!


Spreading the word in the classroom--and at Thunder Cycles