Superbike: An Illustrated Early History



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“Superbike: An Illustrated Early History,” written by Kevin Cameron with photography by John Owens, grew in part from a black-and-white photo essay published 35 years ago in American motorcycle magazine Cycle.

“The Look of Speed” featured Owens’ thought-provoking images of Yoshimura Research and Development of America founder Hideo “Pops” Yoshimura and former magazine editor and 1977 Daytona Superbike race-winner Cook Neilson, among other tuners and riders.

The photos published in this book were taken at tracks that populated the American road-racing scene at that time: Daytona International Speedway, Bryar Motorsports Park, Laguna Seca Raceway, Pocono International Raceway and Road America.

“The desire to go fast, brake, turn and accelerate isn’t that complicated,” Cameron writes. Yet this book clearly illustrates and uniquely explains the countless challenges that manufacturers, teams and riders faced attempting to accomplish those goals.

Phil Schilling and Cook Neilson, Pocono International Raceway, 1977

 “Intellectuals ache to psychoanalyze motorcycling—you gotta be crazy to ride them things! In the Soviet era, non-conformity with convention was treated as insanity.”

 — Kevin Cameron

Pocono International Raceway, 1981

“Nearly all photos were made using available light, excepting the details of the Honda and Kawasaki Superbikes, where a Norman 400B strobe with an umbrella bounce was used in the garages at Pocono International Raceway. I relied on a Gossen Luna Pro light meter.”

— John Owens

Eddie Lawson and Rob Muzzy, Laguna Seca Raceway, 1982

“In any given era, the dominant rider is the person who has most imaginatively exploited the new possibilities presented by constantly evolving chassis, suspension and tires.”

— Kevin Cameron

Don Yasuda, Pocono International Raceway, 1981

“There are builders’ hands at work, preparing bikes for racing. For every hour a race bike spends on the track, it spends many more in detailed expert preparation.”

— Kevin Cameron

The 191-page hardbound book is divided into the following sections:

  • “Permanent Questions” and “Backstage Pass,” in which Kevin Cameron and John Owens individually describe their long-standing friendship and the complementary personal and professional traits that led to the creation of this book
  • “Origins of AMA Superbike Racing,” a synopsis written by Cameron about the production-based machines that have evolved during the past 50 years into the focused sportbikes represented today in MotoAmerica and World Superbike 
  • “Plates” is the centerpiece of the book, with Cameron’s astute descriptions of Owens’ photos—most never previously published—which span the “toddler” years of AMA Superbike from 1976 through 1986
  • “Cameras and Film,” a brief overview of Owens’ introduction to photography and the three cameras, related equipment and types of film he used to produce the images published in the book
  • In “Acknowledgements,” Owens expresses his gratitude for those who helped make this book a reality, from many years ago, when he originally took the photos, to the long-awaited finished product

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There is no better record of this amazing era-in fact this is arguably the best motorcycle-racing book published in years-than the Cameron/Owens tome.Read the review

Mat Oxley, Motor Sport

“Put these three motojournalism professionals together, and you have a landmark achievement in motorcycle literature.” Read the review

Gary Ilminen, Ultimate Motorcycling

“Items most photographers would overlook, like a bowl full of discarded spark plugs for example, become almost abstract art for Owens.” Read the review

Larry Lawrence, Rider Files

The photography is so good, it’s almost three-dimensional. And it’s all in glorious black and white. …The text input by Cameron is neat and concise.” Read the review

Guy Anderson, Vroom Magazine