The popularity of motorcycling in Mexico has its modern roots in the first half of the 20th century. And through blogging and other online means of mass communication, writing about this special way of seeing the country has grown exponentially, especially in the last decade. However, the topic has not yet been dealt with comprehensively and at the same time in an extremely informative and highly entertaining manner.
In Mexico by Motorcycle: An Adventure Story and Guide (Sombrero Books, 2015), Mexico expert and motorcycle enthusiast William B. Kaliher takes us on a journey spanning more than two decades. No, Kaliher didn’t ride all the time; his first visit was in 1964, and the gist of his book comes from extended experiences in 1971 and 1993.
Kaliher immediately arouses your interest. He starts off by letting you know what’s to come in terms of his use of descriptive anecdotes interspersed with pearls of travel advice. It quickly becomes apparent that the author is a talented writer and former biker who has journaled his travels for decades; not just the two greatest motorcycle adventures on record, but for literally fifty years, using various modes of transportation and traversing thousands of roads that connected Mexico’s villages, towns and cities.
Advice includes: night riding; what and how much clothes to bring and why (even bikers should have a nice shirt and pants handy); climatic considerations; repair matters; modern perceptions of drugs, violence, bribery and related fears; Insurance; Cards; the border; Relationships; size of the bike (a stunning surprise to me); accommodation, restaurants and attractions; Park; Security; Dogs; and all of this makes the adventure worthwhile and, most importantly, a life-changing experience.
Although there is a wealth of valuable advice in the opening chapters, Kaliher’s style is to infuse additional wisdom throughout the book. He conveys the fruits of his expertise through the use of richly graphic and sometimes humorous narratives such as references to “the mother of all potholes” and how traffic lights and stop signs suddenly become “obstacles to be overcome”. His knowledge of Mexico’s past as well as its unique and diverse contemporary traditions and personalities shines brightly.
Mexico by Motorcycle is an exquisite photo essay, a guide full of essential advice and tips that will surprise you because Kaliher even thought to mention them, and an adventure through the country’s landscapes, history and contemporary cultures.
My criticism relates to the title, but only because potential visitors to the country, traveling by car or van, may miss out on one of the most important modern books on traveling in Mexico. The audience should include Mexicophiles who have no interest in driving in the country. Reading it brings back fond memories of past experiences and arouses interest in returning, perhaps even on a motorbike.