Sunday, January 17, 2010

Peter with Half the Wheels

For Christmas my wife got me another collection of Peter Egan’s writings, this time from Cycle World magazine. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to miss my past missives on the subject, I am a long-time fan of Peter’s work, but until now the only material I have read has been from Road & Track. Peter actually started at Cycle World before Road & Track, and he has continued to work for both over the years, so there is a considerable body of work I have not seen.

The reason is simple enough; I have never subscribed to Cycle World, because I’ve never been a motorcycle guy. I’ve had some good times on motorcycle rides on which I was a passenger, and put some miles on a neighbor’s minibike as a kid, but I’ve never been tempted to own a motorcycle, nor have I taken much interest in the culture. I can’t really say why not; perhaps a combination of timidity and living in an area where motorcycles are unusable for a significant portion of the year. It takes dedication and some resources to be a motorcyclist here, and I’ve never had enough interest to overcome the obstacles.

Wandering back to where I started, reading this book has been very revealing. It has shown a side of Peter Egan to which he only vaguely referred in his Road & Track work. I had no idea how many motorcycles he owned over the years (although this shouldn’t be a big surprise; they are generally less expensive and easier to purchase and store than cars), and how much work he did for Cycle World. His Road & Track writings give the impression of a fairly leisurely working pace; this book shows he has been on the road for one magazine or another fairly constantly.

But what has been most intriguing is the greater intensity of the writing itself. There’s a subtle edge to it that his automotive writing lacks, which I suppose reflects the difference between the two experiences. Even casual motorcycle riding is a more sensory experience and more demanding than almost all car driving, and his writing conveys that. Happily, I find him just as enjoyable to read about motorcycles as he is about cars, which again shouldn’t be a surprise. I just like his style.