Whether you’re searching for the expertise to squeeze more performance out of that gleaming sportbike of yours or really just want to understand more about how it — or any bike, for that matter — works, Kevin Cameron’s superb “Sportbike Performance Handbook” is a great resource.
For those few of our readers who are not familiar with Kevin Cameron, he is the Technical Editor for Cycle World magazine.
He has ridden, raced and written about motorcycles since God-knows-when, and has probably forgotten more about motorcycle performance technology than most of us will ever know.
While it is true that this book, having been published in 1998, may be a bit dated as far as some aspects of the latest technology is concerned (electronic fuel injection system mapping, for example has but five general paragraphs dedicated to it, while carburetion has 12 illustrated pages and the terms “antilock brakes” and “traction control” do not appear), it is, nonetheless an easy-to-use encyclopedia of information on the technology that still applies to the vast majority of modern high-performance motorcycles.
Cameron also provides a very user-friendly, but exhaustive explanation of how many of the fundamental processes that make the many systems on any motorcycle work—as well as taking the reader deep into how to make them work better.
Early on in the book, for example, he takes the four-stroke engine down to the basic “intake, compression, power, exhaust” cycle complete with line illustrations to help the reader understand the way the piston, valves, crankshaft and flow of gasses combine to make the engine run.
From there, it’s on to thermal efficiency, the formula for combustible fuel/air mixture, the need for turbulence, ignition timing, flame propagation, heat and cooling and the physics of where all that power comes from.
Detailed chapters expand on these concepts by explaining how the mechanical systems they involve work and can be made to work better. Brakes, wheels, tires, chassis, suspension, transmission, clutch, final drive systems, lubricants, fuels, dyno tuning—you name it, it’s probably covered in some degree and often in great detail.
Cameron even covers turbocharging, nitrous oxide and provides a Horsepower Junkie’s Glossary of terms and primer on performance math (which includes how to calculate your bike’s actual horsepower, separating fact from showroom fantasy).
In 21 chapters, 176 pages, more than 150 photos and diagrams, Cameron explains how things work from the tread on the tires to the person in the saddle working the levers and the throttle.
If you can find a copy of “Sportbike Performance Handbook,” snap it up and keep it handy — it covers a lot of technical detail some people pay a lot of money to learn on topics of value whether you are interested in racing, track days or just better performance on the road.
- Title: Sportbike Performance Handbook
- Author: Kevin Cameron
- Published: 1998. Soft cover.
- Publisher: MBI Publishing Co., 729 Prospect Ave., PO Box 1, Osceola, WI 54020, USA
- ISBN-10: 0-681-37035-1
Note to readers: many of the books that we’ll feature in Rider’s Library may be out of print and some may be difficult to find. That could be half the fun. The Internet should make the search relatively easy but ironically, none of the books currently scheduled for eventual retro-review for the Rider’s Library section were found with the help of the Internet. They all were found at book stores, used book stores, antique shops, motorcycle shops, yard sales and so on.