by Sev Pearman
There are few motorcyclists who have successfully ridden around the world. Fewer still are those who have done it aboard a Harley Big Twin. And there is but one rider who has completed this task as a double-amputee.
Author Dave Barr lost both of his legs to a land mine. Unable to fit in with society, he starts his monumental ride to raise awareness for the disabled. While a tremendous amount of planning goes into the ride, he almost whimsically selects his old Shovelhead as his mount.
As he travels through Africa, he frequently gets pinned under the 700+ pound bike in thick mud. Unable to right himself, Mr. Barr is forced to wait until local villagers or travelers stop to help him. This happens several times daily. These events set the curious tone of Riding the Edge. Mr. Barr is forced to continually rely upon the kindness of strangers, yet he feels neither gratitude nor appreciation.
There are endless passages of the author berating custom officials and bureaucrats. If something doesn’t go his way immediately, Mr. Barr yells, screams and resorts to name calling. And we wonder why foreigners don’t like American travelers…
Mr. Barr fares far better than the Harley. While he only needs to replace or rebuild each limb once, the poor FX goes through three engines, two sets of forks, and countless sets of points, condensers, tires and tubes.
Riding the Edge feels more like assembled journal entries than it does a proofread travelogue. Indeed, Mr. Barr doesn’t hide the fact that he hasn’t graduated from high school, nor does he make any apologies for his spelling errors. Despite this, you come to respect the fact that he didn’t self-edit his behavior to make himself more likable. A refreshing breeze in our climate of sensitivity-awareness.
If you are disabled or a “Brand H Enthusiast,” Riding the Edge may be worthwhile. You will be amazed that the two of them just keep limping along. If you are planning such a technical journey yourself, you’ll be disappointed by the books lack of technical information and cocky tone. Finishing Riding the Edge becomes as much of a grind as the author’s ride itself.
Dave Barr may be a curmudgeon and “Ugly American” traveler, but you have to respect his ride and accomplishments.
Casual Reader – There are better “Biking Around the World” sagas.
Gear Head – Love him or hate him, ya gotta respect him.
Serious Rider – Once you get past the “Ugly American,” it slowly grows on you.