We were sent his book last year by the publishers Veloce, but only got round to looking at it properly in the last few weeks, and what a book it is. That's mainly because it's so refreshing to the first book regarding Italian motorcycles for many years that's not just a restorer's rivet-counting dream guide to putting your bike put back 'better' than when it came out of the factory (admittedly useful at times), or otherwise a tawdry marque history that can't already be read elsewhere.
We also like it because we've always tried to feature Italian motorcycles, and cars, in the magazine that have been modified, shed-built or from out of slightly left field, so the eclectic compilation that the author Uli Cloesen has put together is pleasing, different and well thought out.
Like what every good coffee table book should be like, Cloesen's book is text light and picture heavy, but what text there is, descriptions of the bikes, who built them and so on, is accurate, succinct, well-researched and well-edited. The layout is clean, and the squareish format means that the photos, sourced from a mixture of professional and amateur/owner shots, is really to the fore.
Cloesen has taken the seven principal or best-known manufacturers, Aprilia, Ducati, Fantic Moto, Gilera, Laverda, Moto Guzzi and Moto Morini, and crammed each chapter with all types of bikes, choppers, customs, trikes and even quads that are powered by engines from these Italian factories. Though many of the bikes featured in the book come from established bike shops or builders that you might see on a regular basis on websites like Bike Exif and other blogs, most are from less-publicised sources, and there are some real treats.
Some of the bikes like Pablo Tecce's black Gilera 200 custom (picture above) are really subtle and skilful, making something classy out of not much. Peter Burton's Laverda Triple trike might make you spit your tea out (especially if you're passionate for the Breganze tractors), but it's an amazing conversion, and can apparently be put back to completely original. Paul Stabler's very clever Moto-Beam, mongrel cross between Moto Guzzi V50 motor and Sunbeam S7/S8 frame is another bike that we'd probably have never seen
Other bikes in the book are, depending on your taste, truly horrendous and or outrageous, and the cover Guzzi California 'Red Devil' special would probably have to come under both descriptions, with its lime-green and red sparkly paint and bright red fork gaiters. But you have to respect the fact that someone out there wanted to build it and do what the hell they wanted - and this book serves well to bring the good, the bad and the ugly of Italian motorcycles together.
A £25.00 cover price might seem a bit steep, but you get 128 pages and 260 colour photos, and a reasonable amount of glossy feel. If like us, you're fascinated by Italian motorcycles in all shapes, form and function, this is definitely a book to own, not least because you'll yourself surprise at its entertainment value by flicking through it, and seeing how many times you shout out 'awful', or 'incredible', or 'what the hell did he do that for?'
On sale from Veloce Publishing: www.veloce.co.uk