Book Report: Just Ride, A Radically Practical Guide To Riding Your Bike By Grant Petersen
When I first heard about Just Ride, A Radically Practical Guide To Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen, founder of Rivendell Bicycles, I had to grab a copy. I’ve been a fan of their beautiful bikes as well as their (ironically contrasting) poorly designed, long-winded, editorial-like, refreshingly-honest magazine ads. Being in the advertising business, I have to respect a company that breaks the rules of traditional ads to make a statement about their bike design. Their ads are not slick or sexy, but they get my attention.
Although this book is really not for bike racers, cycle chic fashionistas or trendy urban riders, it’s a good read for anybody who respects the purity of riding a bike. It does preach to the choir with readers like me – practical cyclists. Just Ride covers a broad range of topics from riding, suiting up, safety, health and fitness to technicalities and Velosophy (Petersen’s take of bicycling ‘philosophy’). The sections are broken down into really short, quickly digestible pages of content – perfect for a part-time reader, like myself.
Through most of the book, he gives the honest truth about certain myths and debunks a lot of misinformation cyclists might have picked up over the years. Some of my favorite take-aways were to not worry about pedaling circles, tracking my miles, or needing to dress like a cyclist. I can personally attest to his chapter about riding being a lousy all-around exercise. Also, I fully agree with Petersen’s perspective: that racing is ‘Ruining the Breed.’ Part of my reluctance to get back into cycling was because of the pre-conceived notions implied by sport-cycling.
Grant also talks about bikes, bike materials and accessories in Just Ride. He articulates that heavy isn’t always bad when it comes to riding – supporting this with lots common sense facts and figures. I couldn’t help but detect a certain bias, considering the type of bike his company makes and sells. However, being an Un-racer, I completely agree with his perspective on having a stronger, heavier, longer-lasting bike over a lighter, high-tech, more fragile bike.
I didn’t agree with everything Petersen wrote. Since I am a bike education advocate, his section on safety and ‘the predictability ruse’ almost made me stop reading the rest of the book. He states that it’s okay for some cyclists to be ‘carefully unpredictable’ – which is not good from my perspective. He states, “A little inconsistency in the mix of cyclists on the road my not be such a bad thing.” implying that they will “keep drivers on their toes.” I can see his point, but I also think it depends on where you live. Road rage and aggressiveness towards cyclists may be more common in places that have less-informed motorists. I don’t want some angry driver riding or passing too close to me because he thinks that cyclists shouldn’t be on the road. Some ‘inconsistent’ riding may lead him to that conclusion.
Beyond that, I really feel that Just Ride, A Radically Practical Guide To Riding Your Bike could be the guidebook, or even manifesto, for all practical cyclists. Grant Petersen really locks down that common-sense approach of cycling that we all live by, but don’t always articulate. I’ll be coming back to this book, from time-to-time, to keep things in perspective.