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 The Upper Half of the Motorcycle by Bernt Spiegel

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Motorcycle : Honda CBR 1100 XX Super Blackbird
Posts : 452
Join date : 2010-10-18
Age : 46
Location : Earth

PostSubject: The Upper Half of the Motorcycle by Bernt Spiegel   12.11.10 15:01

The Upper Half of the Motorcycle is without doubt the strangest motorcycle book I have ever read.

I'm not saying that's bad -- in fact, there may be boundless information in the book that is extremely valuable. It's just that I can't seem to figure out how to extract it.

The book was not written by a racer or a magazine writer or by someone involved in the motorcycle industry.

The author is a behavioral psychologist who, according to his biography, specializes in "man machine interface work".

Spiegel was the Director of the Institute of Industrial and Social Psychology at the University of Göttingen, Germany in the 1960's, doing research commissioned by Porsche and other auto companies.

He's also a motorcyclist, and has combined his profession with his passion to write this book.

Originally published only in German and, according to the publisher, very popular in Europe (in its third edition and 9th printing), Die obere Hälfte des Motorrads: Uber die Einheit von Faher und Maschine was recently translated to English by Meredith Hassall.

It took several years to do so, starting in 2006 and Whitehorse Press, who commissioned the translation, has now released the book in English.

I'm so puzzled by this book that I'm not sure how to describe it. In fact, I guess I can't describe it -- I'm sorry! The only thing I have taken away from it is that it's a high-level, deep discussion about the psychology of riding, describing the way the human mind reacts to certain stimuli and how information is then relayed back through to the physiology to do certain things pertaining to riding a motorcycle.

In the preface, the author explains that "This book is not about motorcycles per se. Rather, it is about motorcycle riding and the motorcycle rider as a thinking, acting, reacting human being with the unique ability to create, use, and adapt tools, instruments, equipment and machines in an integrative way as extensions, or components, of himself."

Alrighty then... Somehow, I get the feeling right off that this book will not be read by the T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops set on their too-loud twins.

The book is divided into 5 parts, including "It's a Miracle That Motorcycling Works at All"; "Mind and Gut"; "The Question of Karl V"; "What's Left for the Head to Do?" and Objectives: Give Them a Try".

Sub-sections like "The man-machine system: a complicated matrix-patrix relationship" and "When things get crowded in your head: limited channel capacity -- in sensory perception and in actions" give you an idea of what's to come.

Not enough? How about "The phenomenon of 'mysterious message' transmission" or "Plateus and leaps forward"?

Sidebars such as "Orchestras, flocks and fish" opposite photos of a man lowering a bucket from a scaffold and a person playing a cello are a couple of small and obviously out of context examples of the content.

It all ties back to motorcycling -- I think -- but I just couldn't stick with it enough to tell you how. There are a lot of words in this book (literally), and I'm not sure if the translation is up to snuff or the layout could have been improved...certainly there are many illustrations but also a lot of black and white text that is rather ponderous to peruse. But it is a heavy, heavy read.

I just think it's all way too cerebral; not something to bring to the beach. Or maybe it is? Perhaps, in the winter, on one of those famed dark and stormy nights, a careful reader will take the time and energy to absorb it all and distill the essence. It will be like meaning. That the book is so popular in Germany is a perfect illustration of culture differences.

Sorry I can't say more. If I knew what this book is about, I'd tell you -- believe me I would! I'm interested to hear from others who have been able to get through it and can give us a better idea. Obviously, this is not a learn to ride book like "Proficient Motorcycling", with quick tips that can instantly improve your riding. It's a very, very deep take on the psychology of riding that, quite frankly, will be beyond the patience of most motorcycle riders.

I can't not recommend it -- in fact, you may want to try it yourself . If you do, please write to let us know how you liked it.
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