There is a school of thought that goes “you can never get too much of a good thing.” So it is with the writing of Peter Egan, which makes taking a look at both of his Leanings books worthwhile.
For those who may not know of his work, he has written for Cycle World and Road & Track magazines for many years. He started writing for Cycle World in 1977. Through his “Leanings” column and many feature articles, Egan cultivated a huge following. He recently announced he will be stepping away from his monthly column to enjoy a little more time away from the keyboard.
I started reading his column long ago, but lacked the foresight to hang on to whatever copies of the magazine I had. So, when Leanings came out, I snapped up a copy because compiles some of Egan’s best features and columns from 1977 to 2002.
I liked it so well that when Leanings 2 came out a few years later, one of my kids got me a copy as a Christmas present. Leanings 2 covers select features and columns from 1988 through 2004.
The material ranges from reminiscence and retrospectives to rock’n’roll and good times on some iconic machines. Since some of the selections are about riding country roads of southern Wisconsin – Egan’s home state and mine – I feel connected to some of the stories. We have traveled many of the same roads – just never at the same time.
In “Riding Home,” Egan takes his ZX-11 Kawasaki on a turn down memory lane as he travels back to Elroy on a spring Sunday morning. The roads and images in his vivid narrative are familiar — for me having ridden the area many times — but even someone who hasn’t been there will get it. Of course, it’s about much more than a Sunday morning motorcycle ride.
“Minibike Flashback” takes us way back to his 14th summer and his construction of a bicycle-framed minibike when buying a factory-built one for $125 was not in the cards. All of us who rode a minibike before graduating to a motorcycle will hear that little single cylinder engine all over again as we read that piece.
Of course, these books aren’t entirely about misty-eyed memories. There are great touring and travel stories that take you way out of the upper Midwest like “The French Quarter Connection,” “Adrift in Lotus Land,” “In the Land of the Long White Cloud,” “Charge to Chihuahua” (all in Leanings), “A Morning in Italy,” (Leanings 2) some accounts of off-road adventures and many more.
There are some accounts of the activities around the Slimey Crud Café Racer Run and the Cruds themselves of which Egan is a senior member (Slimey Crud Café Racer Run,” “The Thousand Mile Ride” and a poignant remembrance “Ride Hard, Ride Short,” for example, in Leanings 2).
There are a number of pieces on the ups and downs of various brands and types of motorcycles Egan has owned — or endured — himself, perhaps with the intent of helping the reader know better. Though you sense Egan knows none of us will take his advice when it comes to some certain motorcycles. There are some laugh-out-loud funny pieces on a variety of topics, motorcycle maintenance and restoration among them.
There are even a few quasi-sociological study pieces on the whys and wherefores of which motorcycles we buy and when in our lives, like “The Same Guy” (Leanings 2). Mostly, there are just a load of great short stories that are fun to read, and re-read.
- Title: Leanings and Leanings 2
- Author: Peter Egan
- Published: Leanings, 2002; Leanings 2, 2005
- Publisher: both by Motorbooks, an imprint of MBI Publishing Co., 400 First Ave. North, Suite 300 Minneapolis, MN 55401
- ISBN: Leanings: 978-0-7603-3657-1; Leanings 2: 978-0-7603-3716-5-1