The popularity of motorcycling in Mexico has its modern roots in the first half of the 20th century. And because of blogging and other online mass communication tools, especially in the last decade, writing about this particular means of seeing the country has increased exponentially. However, the topic has not yet been comprehensively covered in both a highly informative and highly entertaining manner.
In Mexico by Motorcycle: An Adventure Story and Guide (Sombrero Books, 2015), Mexican expert and motorcycle enthusiast William B. Kaliher takes us on a journey spanning more than two decades. No, Kaliher has not been driving continuously all this time; his first visit was in 1964, and the flesh of his book is drawn from extensive experiences in 1971 and 1993.
Kaliher immediately grabs your interest. At the start, he lets you know what to expect through descriptive anecdotes interspersed with gems of travel advice. It soon becomes apparent that the author is a talented writer and former motorcyclist who has been journaling his travels for decades; not just the two major motorcycle adventures on record, but literally fifty years of using different modes of travel as they traverse thousands of roads connecting the towns, cities and villages of Mexico.
The advice includes: night driving; what and how much clothes to bring and why (even motorcyclists should have a nice shirt and trousers on hand); climatic considerations; repair matters; contemporary perceptions of drugs, violence, bribes and associated fears; insurance; Cards; the border; proportions; motorcycle size (a mind-boggling surprise to me); accommodations, restaurants and attractions; parking; safety; dogs; and all of that makes the adventure worthwhile, and more importantly, a life-changing experience.
While a plethora of valuable advice is detailed in the first few chapters, Kaliher’s style is to scatter additional nuggets of wisdom throughout the book. He conveys the fruits of his expertise through the use of richly descriptive and sometimes humorous stories, such as referring 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 a beautiful photo essay, a guide full of critically important advice and tips that will surprise you because Kaliher even considered mentioning them, and an adventure through the country’s landscapes, history and contemporary cultures.
My criticism is on the title, but only because future visitors to the country with a car or van are missing out on one of the most important modern books on travel in Mexico. The public should include Mexicophiles who have no interest in driving in the country. The reading will bring back fond memories of past experiences and spark interest in a return, perhaps even on a motorcycle.