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Published on August 11th, 2007 | by klink

TWISTING THROTTLE AUSTRALIA

Twisting-Throttle-Australia-BookThere is a real shortage of reading material for the motorcyclist. Once you get past biographies of dead heroes; yawn-inducing homages to various marques, annual world championship round-ups and other photo books; you’re left with a very thin field. Hunter S. Thompson’s Hells Angels in the 1960s. Ted Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels and Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in the 1970s. Then not much I can recall before The Long Way Round by Ewan Macgregor and Charley Boorman in 2004.

This shortage means that we motorcyclists are desperate for a good biking story. And this is where Mike Hyde, aka “Twisting Throttle” comes in with his first book: Twisting Throttle Australia. Being Mike’s record of his 35 day, 17,000km tour of Australia on his Suzuki V-Strom.

Mike is a 49-year-old Kiwi who got the bug, like many before him, to ride around Australia. Unlike most of his predecessors, Mike decided to write a book about it. And herein lies a problem. 17,000km in 35 days no longer requires the rider to carry a spare piston and a complete set of tools. And indeed Mike doesn’t. Modern motorcycle technology lets him get away with no more than refuelling and occasionally topping up the Scottoiler.

Why is this a problem? Take Ted Simon, who rode a pre-Bloor (almost pre-war) Triumph 500 around the world; or Ewan and Charley who ride through Asia to North America while providing us with unintended insights into how the awesomely rich and famous live and think; or gonzo Hunter S and Robert Pirsig, who wrote like angels. All had one thing in common: They made you want to read on.

Mike is not breaking any new ground from a motorcycle touring point of view and his writing style is more “workmanlike” than gonzo, so there is a potential shortage of what we might call “need-to-read”.

We’re looking for an angle. Was Mike escaping an unhappy life? Had he lost a family member? Was he dying of an incurable disease? Was he raising money for disadvantaged Maoris? Perhaps he just got out of jail? No, uh-uh, negatory Batman, unlikely and er, nope.

So what we’re left with is Mike’s plain tale of his trip around our proud nation. Behind Mike’s prose we glimpse his journey. He gets lonely. Mike doesn’t actually acknowledge his loneliness until the story is almost over. Kiwi machismo? The reader can only guess. He is also on a tight budget. Mike addresses his problems by talking to a bunch of people (road workers, truckies and assorted ferals) he’d no doubt normally avoid as being boring as batshit. And by adopting an appalling diet from roadside greasy spoons (Supersize Mike!). Neither of these battles is explored enough to be of more than passing interest so we’re down to Mike’s trump card: his sense of humour.

It’s not bad. Indeed, the photographs and captioning are good. A picture of Mike and his V-Strom beside a sign saying “Warning No Fuel For 500km”. Caption is “OK, let’s run through the risk management plan. Got enough water, oil, tyre tread, Minties. I feel there’s something else, but I can’t put my finger on it.” Some other gags fall flat: the tedious story of how he left a glove (“Glovey”) in Kakadu national park, for one.

I wanted some detail of the preparations for the trip. I was disappointed. Description of bike prep is limited to how Mike got someone to do it for him. He refers to his riding kit pretty much only as he leaves it behind.

Despite flashes of talent, such as when he describes one inhospitable landscape as being “like Cerberus’ litter box” the prose is usually left unpolished. I suspect it is a re-hash of his website log.

It seems Mike is hoping to raise enough money from Twisting Throttle Australia to do Twisting Throttle America. I hope he succeeds. It’s better than nothing.

Twisting Throttle Australia is published by Harper Collins and is available from these online booksellers: www.realgroovy.co.nz and www.whitcoulls.co.nz

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