All Rights Reserved © 2001 Thomas W. Day
Originally published in Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly #72 Winter/2004
Off season or on season, I read one or two books about motorcycles or motorcycling every month. They're more interesting than television and I almost always learn something that I can apply to my riding or bike maintenance. The Twist of the Wrist series, for example, are books that I've read and re-read a half-dozen times and I still get something new out of the books every time. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is another book I re-read fairly regularly, especially when I find myself getting mentally lazy and start considering taking my bike to a shop for repairs.
Unexpectedly, Zen and Total Control have a lot in common. Parks manages to make it almost 1/3 of the way into the book before liberal references to various eastern and western philosophies begin to slip into the text. By the time he's out of mechanics and into chapters on "Fear," "Concentration," and "Right Attitude," he's quoting everyone from Zen masters to L. Ron ("I'm not dead yet") Hubbard to Bob (my motorcycling hero) Hannah. Sections on "how do you create a positive road relationship?" may push your credibility buttons a bit too hard, especially in the 22nd Century's "might makes right" atmosphere. So, there may be a chapter or three that rubs you the wrong way.
However, the techniques and practical advice is incredibly detailed and totally useful. With chapters describing every motorcycling activity from suspension setup to riding with a passenger to stocking your garage/workshop with tools and equipment, Parks has done a good job of covering nearly every aspect of motorcycling.
In many ways, this book is a compliment to the Twist of the Wrist series. Where Code uses drawings, diagrams, and theoretical explanations for motorcycle actions and functions, Parks uses pictures, diagrams, and step-by-step descriptions. For instance, in the chapter on cornering, Parks uses 19 pictures in 9 pages to illustrate the right (and wrong) way to make a high performance turn. It's an effective approach and the breakdown of the sequence of events in a turn will provide riders with enough information to practice the technique.
Attempting to detail the details included in this book would result in a 150 page edition of the MMM. Since Parks does a fine job of managing his own descriptions, I'd recommend you read the book and decide what fits your style and what doesn't. At best, this is a great handbook for those wanting to learn a lot more about performance motorcycling. At worst, it's a great winter motorcycle book.