The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle | Rider’s LibraryThe Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle

Peter Henshaw is a very knowledgeable guy. We recently told you about his latest book, “The Essential Buyer’s Guide Triumph 350 & 500 Unit Twins,” as well as his epic work co-authored with Ian Kerr, “The Encyclopedia of the Harley-Davidson.”

OK, you might be temped to say, “so he knows a lot about Triumph and Harley—there are lots of people who do.” True, but few of them have the credibility to get major books published based on their work and even fewer have ever written a massive encyclopedia on the motorcycle as Henshaw has.

Henshaw’s 1999 masterpiece, “The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle,” contains 448 pages, weighs in at 6.8 lb. and is just under two inches thick!

There are hundreds of images in the book, some that were probably hard to find of makes that either have been long-gone, built in very small numbers or both.

As with the other motorcycle encyclopedias we’ve covered here “The Encyclopaedia of Motor-cycle Sport,” and the “Illustrated Encyclopedia of Motorcycles,” the content is basically an alphabetical arrangement of virtually every motorcycle brand ever manufactured for sale.

The difference between those encyclopedic works and Henshaw’s book is the amount of detail he put into the sections on some of the contemporary brands. Indeed, while the majority of marques covered in the book receive only a few paragraphs of history and product description, 17 pages are devoted to Norton, 16 pages to Kawasaki, 13 pages to Indian, 20 pages to Honda, 23 pages to Harley-Davidson, 22 pages to Triumph, 21 pages to Yamaha and 16 pages to Suzuki.

Within those sections, he provides surprising insights and even some rarely-seen full color images of racing machines and prototypes. For example, an image and description of the Norton Nemesis concept bike is included—a sport bike to be powered by a DOHC V8 displacing 1497cc, punching out 235 hp and with a projected top speed of 225 mph!

Unfortunately, the Nemesis never made it into production, but Henshaw’s inclusion of it makes for very interesting reading— along with all the rest of this remarkable book.

Bood data:

  • Title: The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle
  • Author: Peter Henshaw
  • Published: 1999, hard cover.
  • Publisher: Chartwell Books, 114 Northfield Ave., Edison, NJ 08837
  • ISBN: 0-7858-1047-1

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.