Chris Scott's Adventure Motorcycling Handbook, 6th edition

I can think of no higher compliment to give Chris Scott’s Adventure Motorcycling Handbook than to say it is without doubt motorcycling’s equivalent to the Vehicle Dependent Expedition Guide, Tom Sheppard’s seminal and authoritative bible for four-wheeled expedition travel. The Adventure Motorcycling Handbook has just been released in a well-deserved sixth edition, and has once again been thoroughly revised and updated to include the most up-to-date information possible regarding planning, motorcycle selection, ancillary equipment, route possibilities, shipping, political situations—essentially about 90 percent of what you’d need to embark from scratch on a major motorcycling excursion, short of actual riding instruction (which you could get at the 2013 Overland Expo after buying the book directly from Chris).

The Adventure Motorcycling Handbook is a lively read, whether you’ve committed to a cover-to-cover marathon prior to buying a Ténéré and departing for Tamanrasset, or are just flipping and browsing for amusement. In addition to in-depth articles there are maps, many short, handy charts, and a good hundred text boxes: a complete Cyrillic alphabet, a primer on GPS, a section on black markets and bargaining, a brilliant two-page motorcycle troubleshooting guide, and, of course, a for-and-against chart comparing hard and soft luggage. Lois Pryce contributed a delightful and informative section on women riders titled “Adventure motorcycling—the bird’s-eye view,” which you’ll get if you know British slang. Grant Johnson penned the chapter on shipping—it would be difficult to find someone more knowledgeable on the subject. And Gaurav Jani, the solo traveler and filmmaker, discusses touring India and the Himalayas on a Royal Enfield—surely the only really stylish way to do so. There are a good two dozen other contributors as well.

The first half of AMH deals with preparation, equipment, and life on the road; the second half comprises route guides to Asia, Africa, and Latin America respectively. The route guides rightly concentrate on practicalities of money, border crossing formalities, customs, and so forth, and only briefly touch on main routes and sights. (I suggest augmenting the AMH with a Rough Guide once you’ve decided where you’re riding.) Finally, the last chapter, “Tales from the Saddle,” is worth the price of the book on its own. 

No such work is perfect, but I had to look closely to find flaws in the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook. Many sections were simply beyond my areas of expertise so I wouldn’t even attempt to critique them, but in other areas I noticed a few glitches, and one ancillary section contains misinformation I’d classify as potentially dangerous.

Some of the details on country information appear to be outdated or cursory. I imagine this is somewhat inevitable even in a regularly revised book; it’s just not possible to maintain perfect accuracy without a Fodor’s-sized staff. For example, the section on Kenya describes the equatorial town of Nanyuki as lacking anything but basic groceries; in fact there’s been a giant full-service Nakumatt there for at least a couple of years (along with a Dorman’s, perhaps the finest coffee chain on the planet, and a chemist stocking what is definitely the highest-priced sunscreen on the planet). The Namanga border-crossing section lists the price for a Tanzania visa at $50; but for some years it’s been $100 for U.S. (and, peculiarly, Irish) citizens, and U.S. bills must be dated later than 2006—two missing pieces of information that could cause significant hassle.

There’s a single page in AMH titled “Survival,” the information in which is so scant it would have been better left out altogether. Another section on (or rather, against) weapons clearly betrays an editorial viewpoint rather than objective information. Of course it’s Chris’s book and editorial stance, but knowing of several instances in which travelers saved their money and vehicle if not their skins by analyzing the threat and meeting it with aggressive resistance, I think readers would have been better served by a fair look at both sides of the issue.

Oh, and . . . the dangerous bit? All I’ll say here is, Chris, for God’s sake talk to me before you print the venomous snakes section in the seventh edition. The rest of you, ignore the entry (except for the perfectly true advisory that bites from such snakes are extremely rare) and consult a current source of information if you plan travel where venomous reptiles might be present - this particularly refers to the suggestion to wrap the bitten limb, which is contraindicated for many species. Rather surprisingly, Wikipedia has an excellent page on the subject in general, and good first-aid advice, here.

Aside from the snake-bite treatment suggestions, the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook remains the standard by which all its imitators will be judged—that is, if anyone ever works up the nerve to imitate it. Most highly recommended.

$23.95 Available direct from—well, through—the book’s website here.