Published on the occasion of an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in the summer of 1998, this work aims to capture the spirit of the motorcycle and the passion and excitement it has aroused in film, literature, television, and on the road. It depicts 100 models from the first - the 1885 Daimler Einspur - to recent concept bikes. Among those selected on both technical and aesthetic grounds are the 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmuller 1500cc, the pivotal BMW R32, the late-1920s four-passenger Boehmerland/Czechie, the popular 1950s Honda 50 Super Cub, the quintessentially American 1977 Harley Davidson XLCR, and the Ducati 916. Each bike is described in detail, and the book also contains essays which discuss motorcycle-related films, fashion, life-style and history.
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The Art of the Motorcycle begins with a serious preface by Guggenheim director Thomas Krens, who calls the motorcycle "a quintessential symbol of the insecurity and optimism of our time." At 411 pages long (an ll-page, single-spaced bibliography of motorcycle books carries it over the top), it is a hefty compendium of motorcycle history, culture, design, and science. While the essays range from treatises to such fun stuff as "Bikes were always work for me," a long poem by Dennis Hopper, this thoroughgoing tome is above all a meticulous catalogue of the 96 motorcycles exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum during the summer of 1998, with details about engine design as well as esthetics. "Another significant innovation is the machine's throttle-controlled oiler," we read of the 1911 electric-orange Flying Merkel Model V. "Lubrication was a continuing problem in the early days ... but Merkel's system ... preceded by nearly two decades both Indian's as well as Harley-Davidson's adoption of this feature." The bikes are documented with crystal-clear photographs in this precision-built book. --Peggy Moorman
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