So, I Finally Got Around To Reading The Bike Snob NYC Books
Famed bike blogger, Eben Weiss, who calls himself Bike Snob NYC, has published a couple of books about cycling. Before I get into a review about these books, I want to give my perspective on the Bike Snob NYC blog. I’m not sure how I found out about it, but I managed to add the BSNYC blog to my RSS feed during my earlier ‘hoard everything bike culture related’ days. Because I’d ended up with so much content to sift through, I never got around to properly following the Bike Snob NYC blog. Not knowing anything about Bike Snob NYC or his standpoint on cycling, I had no pre-set expectations of his books.
That being said, when I read some of the good reviews of his first book, self-titled Bike Snob, I decided to add it to my reading list. It made it onto the Amazon Wish List, and eventually into my mailbox.
When I started reading Bike Snob, I became an instant fan of his writing style and sense of humor. He is very direct in articulating his thoughts and opinions, which come across as authentic and clever. He didn’t seem to hold anything back – towards cyclists, non-cyclists or even himself – and I found myself actually laughing out loud of some of his funny remarks.
Bike Snob, kicks off with a little history of bicycles. Then it rolls into a clever breakdown of the bike culture and the different subsets within it. I couldn’t help but find a little “Retro-Grouch” and “Lone Wolf” in me. I really enjoyed his perspective on urban and fashion cyclists. Snob also tackles the fear and intimidation of riding and how to overcome them, while bringing in a common-sense perspective on practical cycling. Bike Snob closes with ‘A Brief Guide To Etiquette for Non-Cyclists’, highlighting some of the funny, yet annoying things people do and say around cyclists.
The Enlightened Cyclist is written with the same wit and humor as the first book, but with a more focused view on commuting and practical cycling. Snob does an excellent job at examining the human nature of commuting, along with some great revelations from his own experiences. He has a whole section that calls out, not only driver on cyclist behavior, but also cyclist and cyclist on driver behavior.
Snob also writes about the perception of cyclists. Even though I’m a fan of Steve Carell and Pee-Wee, I completely agreed with Snob’s description of the film an TV’s poor portrayal of cyclists.
Like the breakdown of bike sub-culture in the first book, The Enlightened Cyclist does a great dissection of some of the different styles of bikes as well as some popular types of rides.
Overall, the second book does an excellent job of putting bike commuting into perspective. One quote from the The Enlightened Cyclist really stood out for me: “… I believe that as long as you operate your vehicle compassionately and responsibly, it doesn’t matter what kind of vehicle it is.” To me, this articulates how Snob doesn’t try preach the entitlement of cycling, but rather how we should all be better to each other on the road.
From an advocacy perspective, Snob was dead on when he wrote that “You can’t – or at least shouldn’t – try to make somebody do something they don’t want to do…At the same time, though, you can make it easier for people to do something they want to do…” For me that read, bicycling isn’t for everybody and you shouldn’t expect everybody to share your love for it. However, those who want to cycle shouldn’t have so many barriers or obstacles to overcome.
What I really enjoyed about both of his books is that, despite being written by somebody using the name “Bike Snob”, they weren’t crammed from cover to cover with self-absorbed bike love. In fact, he takes a cheerful jab at all cyclists (some more than others) and non-cyclists alike. His stories kept me inspired to ride, while giving me a nice point of view on how to not take cycling so seriously.