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Perfect Vehicle

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  370 ratings  ·  43 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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Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  370 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Mar 17, 2009 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. ...more
Mar 06, 2016 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
Jul 30, 2014 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.
Jan 05, 2018 rated it liked it
A good read.
Interesting Motorcycle history and jargon.
It was a bit disjointed at times but overall a good winter motorcycle fix as I wait out the cold temps to get back on my ride...
Nov 29, 2012 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
Feb 26, 2008 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. ...more
Imperial Black
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
She absolutely nails the reasons why one rides. Her opening is pure poetry.
Feb 05, 2017 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
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Pierson writes eloquently and intelligently, from a perspective on the subject of motorbikes and the motorbiking community rarely encountered, the female point of view.
She only dwells solely on the subject of female riders coexisting alongside male riders for one chapter (7) but her unique perspective permeates the book.
What I found most interesting to read was how she translates to the page how motorcycling makes her feel. It’s something immediately recognisable to anyone who has owned and lo
Holly Ohrt
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this book for my book club; otherwise, this book would never have crossed my path. It certainly an interesting place to start from for a memoir. I understand the appeal of motorcycles and have ridden as passenger on them. I have also piloted a mini bike as a teenager at the lakes. Reading this book was more enjoyable than expected - but I still really do not want to get on one again
Vyki Englert
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book made me remember why I got a motorcycle in the first place and made me fall in love all over again with every woman in my life. This book was written a woman seeking self and growing into herself despite fear and anxiety. Melissa just happened to stumble into beautiful machines at the same time.
Kevin Bjorke
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nothing else like it. Moves curiously between author positions: subjective/personal, objective/historical, travelogue objective/personal... For myself, I find them all good but the final result doesn't feel whole. Maybe that's intentional. ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A trip on bikes is a crash course in the wisdom of stripping down to next to nothing." ...more
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Decent book. A lot of informational stuff. Most of it had a college paper feel, which I suppose should be expected, but more so that I really anticipated.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
One of the best books I have ever read. Beautifully written and perfectly balanced between historical anecdotes and personal stories.
Terry Rufiange-Holway
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
A fun ride.
Jun 03, 2015 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 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 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
Jan 06, 2008 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. ...more
Hunter Marston
Dec 09, 2013 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. ...more
Feb 14, 2015 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 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.
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. ...more
Ezgi Çiçek
Jan 26, 2016 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.
David Klopp
Dec 31, 2007 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.
May 05, 2008 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. ...more
Jun 11, 2008 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. ...more
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...
Aug 23, 2012 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.
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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.

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