A host of terrific motorcycle books cross my desk every year; in this I’m very lucky, as books are one of life’s great pleasures.  Books are also the foundation of TheVintagent, along with decades’ experience with vintage machinery, and not web-search content – long may it remain so.  I write books too, and contributed this year to ‘The Ride: 2nd Gear’ from Gestalten, who published my magnum opus on choppers last year, ‘The Chopper; the Real Story’.   And while I reviewed ‘The Ride: 2nd Gear’ on CycleWorld.com, there’s a solo effort you won’t find in any bookstore which absolutely blew my mind this year.

Niels’ uncle Ko, Nikolaas Bernardus Konijn, who restored Nortons in his small shed

It’s called ‘The Book About My Bike, C11M14566’, and I know – the un-sexiest motorbook title ever. I was merely geek-interested when Niels Schoen offered to send his self-published book about Uncle Ko’s Garden Gate Manx, which he inherited and restored.  But Niels is a freelance CAD-engineer, and while taking his uncle’s Manx to bits, he thought it ‘a good training exercise’ to render every single part of the Manx in the SolidWorks program, so the bike could be dis/reassembled virtually while the same was happening in his living room.  Niels lives in a 4-storey walkup in Rotterdam, and has no workshop, so the disassembly, scanning, cleaning, and reassembly was done literally in-house.

The slipcover of ‘The Book About My Bike’, published by Niels Schoen

Scanning and rendering over 800 parts took 9 months, and was completed in September 2010. It took a further few years to figure out ‘how to present and share all the oddities, the beauty and the marvels I encountered in the process.’  He took inspiration from Mick Walker’s ‘Manx Norton’ book of 1990, as well as an original 1948 Norton advertisement featuring the Garden Gate Manx.  The resulting layout is impeccable, as is the information; every exploded view of a parts assembly is accompanied by the relevant part numbers, and labeled according to Norton’s original nomenclature.  The text is a mix of family history, Norton lore, and straight-ahead explanation of what’s shown.  The book is, in sum, the best parts list/assembly manual ever devised for a motorcycle.  It’s the manual every confused motorcyclist wishes for; an absolutely clear view of how it all fits together, so brilliantly self-explanatory it makes a Haynes manual look utterly primitive.

A SolidWorks rendering of the same Norton as it was being assembled virtually; some of the illustrations are very difficult to tell from photographs

I understand it’s far too much work to create such a manual for every motorcycle, but I’m jealous there isn’t such a book for all my motorcycles.  And for, say, a Velocette Mk8 KTT or Brough Superior SS100 for some fascinating entertainment.  Niels Schoen isn’t the only person to have rendered every single part of a motorcycle; Uwe Ehinger has done the same for most Harley-Davidsons ever built, and anyone making replicas (or ‘continuations’) today is no doubt using SolidWorks to render their parts as well.  After building an actual motorcycle, I can’t imagine a better use for all that information, than to share it with the world as Schoen has. It’s a first-class integration of the very modern with the vintage, the new in service of the old.  I laud his accomplishment; may it serve as an example for others.

Live or Memorex? Nope, digital. Gorgeous!

The only way to order ‘The Book About My Bike’ is directly from Niels Schoen.  He has a FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/GGMbook) and to order, send an email to Niels direct (newstep3d@gmail.com) with your mailing address and preferred payment method (IBAN or PayPal), and he’ll sort you out.

The long-stroke Manx engine, assembled digitally
How many washers, and where do they go? Pretty clear here…
A page detailing the Enots quick-release oil cap, with relevant part numbers and explanation of assembly and function.