View Full Version : "Motorcycle Adventurer" book review

29 October 2010, 1418
I hope you won't be too disturbed about me providing a book review about an IC motorcycle trip around the World in 1912 on an electric motorcycle forum, but considering we are at a technical state comparable to 1912 with electric motorcycles, I thought there might be a slight connection. So here is my book report:

I noticed a review by Kate Edwards in the October issue of Friction Zone magazine of the book Motorcycle Adventurer by Dr. Gregory W. Frazier and decided to buy it, as I have a real interest in history and the motorcycle scene during the early days of the sport. The book is published by iUniverse, Inc. It sells for $22.95.

Motorcycle Adventurer is basically a reprint of a 24-installment series of articles written by Carl Sterns Clancy, who was the first person to ride around the World on a motorcycle. He did so in 1912 and 1913 while riding a 1912 4-cylinder Henderson motorcycle, producing about 8 horsepower. His story was first published in The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, a weekly publication based in New York City. Clancy rode his motorcycle through Great Brittan, France, Spain, North Africa, Italy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Hong Kong, China, Japan and the United States, before returning to New York City. His description of his travels is fascinating and his thoughts regarding the other cultures and people that he met is particularly interesting, as it shows how a person from the United States felt about the rest of the World some 90 years ago.

Naturally, Clancy encountered few paved roads and many of the major highways that he traversed sounded like your typical jeep trail up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, lots of rock, gravel, ruts and mud. He must have fallen down over a hundred times and broke just about every part on his motorcycle more than once. But vehicles were simpler in those days and he was always able to fix his Henderson using bailing wire, odd pieces of metal, or the services of the town blacksmith. Oddly, gasoline was always available everywhere he went and seemed to be sold in gallon cans, like camp fuel is now, typically for around 20 to 40 cents a gallon. I enjoyed reading the book and following Clancy’s adventures and his observations of the World in 1912.

The other interesting thing was the terrible state of the “highways” in the western United States. Clancy said that the roads in northern California were the worse roads of his entire trip. He described riding the State’s unpaved and apparently un-maintained “Pacific Highway” (which sounded like old Highway 99) as a miserable experience, consisting of many river and stream crossings and a great number of steep, rocky hills with hairpin turns. But it didn’t sound like riding in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, or Montana was much better – and they did have more mosquitoes.

However, I do have a couple of complaints about the book. The book contains many photographs, but Dr. Frazier decided to not attempt to enhance the photos, apparently due to cost considerations. Unfortunately, the photos are very dark and grainy and almost impossible to decipher. I know that my $200 HP scanner has a program that quickly improves photographs in just a few seconds and I would have thought something like that could have been used to good effect in making these photos more clear. I really wanted to see a visual representation of Clancy’s travel descriptions. My other complaint is that I am very interested in the 1912 Henderson motorcycle that was ridden around the World and I would have loved to have a chapter describing the motorcycle and its performance and equipment, along with some clear photos of the vehicle. That would have been a very easy chapter to prepare from previously published sources and would have really backfilled a lot of what was involved in riding the Henderson and keeping it running.

Still, I think it is well worth reading as there is little else that compares to this ride, other than One Man Caravan, by Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. and that ride took place 20 years later.

29 October 2010, 1456
Thank you for the book review. Sounds like an interesting book :)