The Illustrated Motorcycle Legends Harley-Davidson | ReviewRider’s Library Retro Review

Roy Bacon started writing books and articles about motorcycles and motorcycle sport in 1964. His back list includes technically in-depth but highly accessible books like the Illustrated Norton Buyer’s Guide.

He has written books designed to be a part of multi-book series, including the Norton book was the one reviewed here, The Illustrated Motorcycle Legends Harley-Davidson. The other legends in the series are BSA, Honda, Kawasaki, Norton, Triumph and BMW. Bacon also authored all the other books in the series.

The Illustrated Motorcycle Legends Harley-Davidson book is a large format (9.5” x 12”) hardcover, but is surprisingly brief with only 96 pages. The pages are margin-to-margin with 177 large images that live up to the “illustrated” part of the title.

Of course, that leaves a minimal amount of space for the narrative, so what is there has to be extremely high quality. On that count—with the assistance of Harley-Davidson historian, the late Martin Jack Rosenblum—Bacon delivered.

The book is divided into 10 chapters – each spanning roughly a decade – and a chapter on the 90th Anniversary and a chapter that organizes the models from 1909 to 1994.

The first five chapters covering 1903 to 1946 are particularly rich with company advertising artwork and photos of the early models. Fans of the flathead and knucklehead era bikes will find those chapters a fun, if quick read.

The book, for all its brevity, manages to show some things you may not have seen before—such as the speedway racing bike powered by a shovelhead Sportster engine—reduced to a single cylinder, with the rear cylinder removed, a close-up view of Walter Villa’s two-stroke liquid-cooled twin 1974 GP racing bike, or Douglas Davidson and his H-D sidecar racing rig from 1921!

Given the relatively small amount of narrative in the book and large quantity of photos and illustrations, it is possible to read The Illustrated Motorcycle Legends Harley-Davidson cover to cover in a day—but keeping it around as a quick reference and a fun retro-read gives it lasting value.

Book Data:

  • Title: The Illustrated Motorcycle Legends Harley-Davidson
  • Author: Roy Bacon
  • Published: 1995
  • Publisher: Chartwell Books, PO Box 7100, Edison, NJ 08818
  • ISBN: 0-7858-0253-3

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.