Motorcycle Drag Racing: A History by John Stein
There is a line in a Lovin’ Spoonful song that says, “It’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n roll.” Motorcycle drag racing is a bit like that. To those who follow it, the sport makes perfect sense. To those who don’t, it makes none at all. This book is for both.
At 244 pages and nearly 3 pounds, this book is quite large. With so much to explore, it had to be. Organized motorcycle drag racing began nearly 60 years ago, and an incredible amount has happened since then.
While much of the change has involved the machinery—and the book discusses it in great detail – it is the people that make the sport so fascinating. And in the book, more than 500 of them are discussed.
In the words of former Cycle editor, Cook Neilson, “Stein gives dimension and warmth to the people who built and rode these bikes, some of whom are still banging their heads against the quarter-mile reality. Clem Johnson. Sonny Routt. Boris Murray. John Gregory. Leo Payne. Byron Hines. Joe Smith. Dozens more. Geniuses all, innovators all. John Stein has done them – bikes and men – proud.”
While there have been a handful of books written about motorcycle drag racing, each has had gaps that needed filling. To accomplish that, I spent more than four years gathering and distilling information, and then doing my best to give a perspective to it all.
That meant spending hours talking with Boris Murray, Clem Johnson, Terry Vance, Frank Spittle, Sonny Scott, Cook Neilson, “Scooter” Kizer, Roy Strawn, and so many others. They were happy to have someone with whom to share their memories, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity.