I’ve long had a fascination with Cuba ’s harlistas—the owners of pre-revolutionary Harley-Davidson ’s who go to extreme (even absurd) lengths to keep their antique hogs running half a century after the last Harley-Davidson dealership in Cuba closed.
It’s a fascination shared by my friend Tracey Eaton , a Harley rider who I got to know in Havana  when he lived there full-time as the Havana bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News , 2000 to early 2005. (I was jealous as hell that he actually got to live there full time, but that’s another story!)
A couple of years ago, Tracey told me he was working on a book about the harlistas.
Today I learned that it’s just been published as a 181-page interactive e-book ($5.99)—Cuban Thunder: Harley-Davidson in Cuba —available for download on your iPad with iBooks or on your computer with iTunes.
Lavishly illustrated with more than 1,000 photos, plus a short video , Tracey’s loving tribute regales the long history of Harleys in Cuba. For example, Batista ’s police were outfitted with old knuckleheads and panheads.
Thereafter, Soviet  bloc Urals , MZs  and Jawas  and other Soviet era motos flooded Cuba during four decades. But the harlistas were on their own to figure out how to keep their hallowed hogs rumbling down the highways as best they could.
Comparing the Cuban reality with American reality TV show “American Chopper” , Tracey says “Cuba's motorcycle aficionados are actors in a reality show that doesn't air anywhere, but has more true grit and emotion, courage and sacrifice, than just about anything you see on American TV.”
Forget the Internet… Or classified ads… Or even motorcycle dealers or auto parts stores. They don’t exist.
”Harley riders on the island scavenge parts from battered old Soviet trucks, lawn mowers and even anti-tank guns,” writes Tracey, who interviews more than 40 harlistas, including legendary mechanic Sergio Morales, and Ernesto Guevara, son of the late revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara  (himself a famous motorcyclist who rode his Norton around South America, resulting in the fabulous book and movie, Motorcycle Diaries ) and a regular to be seen riding the streets of Havana on his fire-red hog.
You can download a sample of Cuban Thunder  for free.
And a nice touch… Tracey is donating 20 percent of his proceeds to Cuba’s harlistas.
Check out Tracey’s own blog post about the harlistas at Along the Malecón .
Meanwhile, if you’d like to read about my own three-month motorcycle journey through Cuba on my BMW R100GS PD , you can order an autographed hardback copy of Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba  direct from me, or buy a paperback copy on Amazon .
And if you read my blog post regularly, you’ll know that I’m leading the first every group motorcycle tours of Cuba for U.S. citizens this winter on behalf of MotoDiscovery  (which the U.S. Treasury Department  granted a license earlier this year permitting the company to legally run Cuba trips). Our trips will include meetings with harlistas as part of our “people-to-people” encounters.
Don’t delay, as the trips have almost sold out completely. Sign up today!
For complete information on Cuba, including how to travel there, buy my Moon Handbook Cuba —the most comprehensive, information-packed, traveler-friendly, and unbiased guidebook in print.
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker