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Perfect Vehicle

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  276 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
In a book that is "a must for anyone who has loved a motorcycle" (Oliver Sacks), Melissa Pierson captures in vivid, writerly prose the mysterious attractions of motorcycling. She sifts through myth and hyperbole: misrepresentations about danger, about the type of people who ride and why they do so. The Perfect Vehicle is not a mere recitation of facts, nor is it a polemic ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 1st 1998 by WW Norton (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30)
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Mar 17, 2009 Laurie rated it really liked it
perfect description of the feeling of being "one with the bike." great writing style and good anecdotes. the author definitely has a handle on motorcycle history and manufacturers and was able to intertwine that with personal experiences.
Jul 30, 2014 Kinga rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
My boyfriend gave me this book to read, saying it was what made him love motorcycles. Reading it made me want to ride too. It was surprisingly well written too--almost poetic in places.
Nov 29, 2012 Alex rated it really liked it
Due in part to my AOOCD (Adult Onset OCD (which, parenthetical within a parenthetical, is not a real disorder)), when I get hooked on something I voraciously consume all there is to consume about it until I have exhausted that particular interest and move on (I think that's exactly how viruses work, actually). Lately, that topic has been motorcycles. I now own not one, but two motorcycles (anyone interested in a 1996 Yamaha Virago XV250 in near mint condition?). And, since it's winter, and I can ...more
Mar 06, 2016 Leah rated it really liked it
"(and where is the Susan Sontag who will write an erotics of highly specialized equipment?)" the author bemoans, oblivious that she is the damn closest thing. The Perfect Vehicle is the book every author before and after Pierson wanted to write about motorcycles but couldn't. In lieu of trite wanderlust narratives and tired outlaw tales, she so poetically tells us the joy of simply fitting with the machine and taking off on it. The book is periodically dissected into tales from, thoughts about, ...more
Feb 26, 2008 Tara rated it did not like it
Unless you're into motorcycles, I don't recommend this book. But if you have a husband who is into motorcycles, he'll probably want you to read it.
Imperial Black
Apr 12, 2013 Imperial Black rated it it was amazing
She absolutely nails the reasons why one rides. Her opening is pure poetry.
Feb 05, 2017 Roger rated it liked it
Shelves: americana, motoring
I very nearly put this book down a few pages into reading the Foreword, which describes what it's like to ride a motorcycle, but reads like a poorly executed creative writing class exercise. Thankfully I persevered with the book, and Pierson left the classroom to pen what is an interesting, thoughtful and at times moving book about motorcycling, from an avid practitioner of the art.

Intertwined with diversions into motorcycle racing, manufacturing, record rides and other interesting facts, Pierso
Amy Weiss
Nov 22, 2016 Amy Weiss rated it it was amazing
Never before have I read a book by an author who 'gets' what it's like to be a female rider. Melissa's descriptions are spot on. If you ride, I highly recommend this book.
Jun 03, 2015 Raven rated it really liked it
Poetic and lyrical, this tribute to the motorcycle was a beautiful and engaging read. As a relatively new bike owner, I appreciated the author discussing her journey from interested passenger to unabashed enthusiast over time, and casting the lens of her meditations equally on her own experiences and the cultures that she finds and participates in. There are places where she and I are psychologically different -- I don't find the peace in riding from things that are driving me the rest of the ti ...more
Jul 31, 2012 Drdavidhartman1 rated it really liked it
Facets of a woman's life as reflected in her connection to a motorcycle and the act of riding one. Melissa Holbrook Pierson is not a biker; she's a young woman who becomes intoxicated by the idea of her motorcycle, even as the reality of its obscure leaks and breakdowns frustrate her.

The book contains lots of obscure ephemera about the history of motorcycles and their (often female) riders. But it is Ms. Peirson's brief descriptions of boyfriends, lovers and fellow riders that are the most memo
Apr 30, 2012 Clive rated it it was amazing
I got my car and motorcycle licenses in 1978 - I've never owned a car. So, with my credentials as a die-hard motorcyclist established I'm bound to admit that most books on the subject should never have been printed. Few who can write bother with motorcycles, and few who ride can write in any engaging way. MHP has the gift of both skills. I even managed to ignore/forgive the occasional rambling forays off into the bushes of her love-life. :-) A stunning read with a touch of poetic craft in places ...more
Hunter Marston
Dec 09, 2013 Hunter Marston rated it really liked it
I had read Pierson's more recent motorcycling book, The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing, first before reading this. While I enjoyed reading her newer book, I didn't really think it was quality. I also misjudged Pierson: she makes herself sound mechanically illiterate in "The Man Who..." but she reveals a deep knowledge of and appreciation for motorcycle mechanics in this older book, published more than a decade ago. I have to say I enjoyed this book much more than her newer work.
Feb 14, 2015 Siouxzy rated it it was amazing
A motorcycle buddy of mine shared this book with me more than ten years ago- and I really enjoyed it SInce then, I have met Melissa, and ridden with melissa. We have some friends in common and have been to some of the same motorcyle events. As a rider, there are things that I experience, that come out in her books. It is hard to describe to a non-rier WHY I ride. Melissa seems to be able to find the words. Bravo!
Mar 21, 2015 Frankj rated it really liked it
A collection of personal accounts and the history of motorbikes and those who built, rode, and raced them.

I found the author's voice perfectly suited for the topic, and capable of the truest expression of what drives the passion of an enthusiast. It may be difficult for a non-rider to fully grasp; it's something you get, or you do not. More than a travelogue, more than a memoir, it's an engaging outpouring of the passion of the ride, and a glimpse into the psyche of a rider.
Jan 06, 2008 Shawn rated it it was amazing
This is a great book that put forth the idea that the motorcycle is the ideal vehicle for human transport, and indeed when I read it I completely agreed. However I have some problems with that now and that is why I challenge the bicycle community to put forth a book that argues that the bicycle is "The Perfect Vehicle". I still feel that if people here in the U.S. would use motorcycles much more that we would be much better than where we are now, over SUVers.
This is one woman's take on the allure and culture of riding motorcycles. One other reviewer called it poetic and I guess I'd go along with that, except I'm not all that big on poetry. Pierson puts her point, which is love of riding, across very well, provided you're a motorcyclist in the first place. The audience for this is fairly narrow but for that audience, it's well worth your time.
Ezgi Çiçek
Jan 26, 2016 Ezgi Çiçek rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book.

- has lots of mini insights
- written by a woman
- makes you wanna go ride a motorbike
- well-researched

- very badly organized
- jumps from one topic to another without warning. I had to stop at many places because I didn't see how the paragraphs connect.
May 05, 2008 Brooke is currently reading it
I'm currently reading this book, because it was a left over thing from my ex. It's under my skin, sort of a modern day "Zen and the Art" though it's from a woman's point of view. Lots of stuff about her boyfriends.
Aug 23, 2012 Don rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has been a favorite motorcycling book for quite a while.
Melissa brilliantly captures the excitement and adventure of
being a motorcyclist and shares it in this book.

Every motorcyclist or person who thinks about being a motorcyclist
should read this book.
Jan 10, 2015 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Passionately captures why people ride motorcycles. Nice mix of the author's relationship with motorcycling, the history of motorcycles themselves, and some vaguely-feminist musing on machismo & gasoline culture.
Oct 15, 2015 Scott rated it it was ok
I wanted a book about how cool motorcycles are, not about the one time somebody said something mean to you. Joke's on him I guess, you put it in a book and now everybody can see how much of a jerk he was. I'm sure the situation was exactly like you described it and not a revenge fantasy.
David Klopp
Dec 31, 2007 David Klopp rated it it was ok
Book is about how the author came into riding motorcycles and a few of the rides she went on. Unfortunately, about 1/2 the book is about the history of motorcycles which I found to be very boring and I skipped most of these sections.
Jun 11, 2008 Leah rated it liked it
This books is written from the point of view of a female motorcyclist and describes perfectly the mystique of the two wheeled vehicle. It's well written and could be enjoyed by people who many not even ride.
This is a collection of loosely connected essays, reflections, and personal stories about the author regarding her experiences as a motorcycle rider. I fould it interesting, but more so in some parts than in others. Less so when the author tried to wax philosophical...
Sep 10, 2007 Dax rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the significant other
Shelves: motorcycles
The opening of the book always makes we want to go out to the garage and fire up the bike. Winter is approaching, I may have to read this book again.
Garrett Smith
Feb 18, 2013 Garrett Smith rated it it was amazing
I bought a copy on the ipad to read, then I bought hardback to go on my bookshelf. First time I have ever done that. If you love riding, you should read this book.
Nov 09, 2013 Jack rated it it was amazing
Interesting insights into the love of riding. We'll written, intelligent approach to the sport. Almost, but only almost, made me want to buy a Moto Guzzi! Good read. Great read if you are a rider.
Thomas R. Keel
Dec 28, 2014 Thomas R. Keel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Well written, didn't bog down. Did seem to jump around in time and location. The feeling of riding afterwords was illustrated poetically.
Wayne King
Wayne King rated it liked it
Jan 28, 2015
Judi Hendricks
Judi Hendricks rated it really liked it
Jun 02, 2015
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Melissa Holbrook Pierson is the author of the acclaimed Dark Horses and Black Beauties, The Perfect Vehicle, The Place You Love Is Gone, and her newest book, The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing was published in the fall of 2011.
More about Melissa Holbrook Pierson...

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