Gear and Product Reviews

Book Review: Japanese Motorcycles 1959-2007

Written by  August 31, 2008

I've been around motorcycles my entire life, and can still remember holding onto the chrome gas tank of my dad's Yamaha street bike as we rode up and down the gravel roads near our family farm. Growing up in a small town in northeast Kansas, the closest motorcycle dealership was Hatfield's Honda in St. Joseph, Missouri. Since my mom, dad, and sister all rode motorcycles, we were one of the dealership's favorite customers, and took home numerous bikes from their showroom.

At age seven, I got my first motorcycle, which was a new Honda MiniTrail 50. I can still remember the excitement as my dad removed the shiny blue motorcycle from the trunk of the family car and showed me how to ride it. Thankfully it had an automatic transmission so all I really needed to know was how to start, stop and turn. Since that time, I've owned too many bikes to count, with most of coming them coming from Japan. I had nothing against American-made bikes while growing up-I simply couldn't afford one, and most of them were too large for me to ride. When you're on a limited budget, you simply can't beat the cost and reliability of metric motorcycles, which makes them very appealing to the motorcycle community.

Therefore, the first time I picked up a copy of Doug Mitchel's book entitled Japanese Motorcycles 1959-2007 I couldn't put it down. Doug really did his homework on this book, which follows the history of Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha motorcycles on a year-by-year and model-by-model basis, from as far back as 1959 when these metric motorcycles made their debut on US soil. This book includes numerous charts showing the engine size and the number of models produced, and also includes a price guide in the back of the book, which is sorted using a handy condition scale down.

Many of the illustrations and photos throughout the book were taken by Doug himself, and just flipping through the pages takes you on a fulfilled trip back through time. Everyone I've shown Doug's book enjoyed pointing out and talking about the numerous models they've owned, many of which still reside in their garages.

Doug has authored more than 20 books on motorcycles and the biker lifestyle, including Anatomy of the Chopper, Advanced Tattoo Art, and Body Painting. To purchase this book and other books written by Doug Mitchel, go to
Book review by Mike Schweder