Archive for the ‘Book Report’ Category
I’m a big fan of the BikeSnob books, which is a great series about cycling, written by famed bike blogger, Eben Weiss, who calls himself Bike Snob NYC. What I really enjoy about his books is that they are smart and funny observations about life – related to cycling. His new book, Bike Snob Abroad is equally as great.
In this book, Eben tells his stories about traveling, both alone and with his family, in search for a cycling paradise. Covering Portland, New York (where he lives), London, Amsterdam, Gothenburg and San Vito del Normanni, he shares his observations. Although all these cities are passionate about cycling – each bike culture is very different.
As with his other books, the stories are well-written and the chapters are short – great for those of us will little time to read. I relate to his sense of humor and ol’school pop culture references so well, that I’ve even found myself sharing some of his witty comments with my wife.
If you get a chance, pick up a copy of this, or any of the other BikeSnob books.
I’ve always dreamed about having a custom bike built, so somebody suggested that I should read Robert Penn‘s book, It’s All About The Bike – The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels. As the title would suggest, it’s a book that illustrates one man’s journey to build his ultimate dream bike.
The story of the bike build could have been told in about 50 pages. Instead, Penn fills the pages with a deep and rich history of the bicycle and where each component got it’s start.
Admittedly, being part of the RSS news feed, Facebook, Twitter generation, I first found myself getting impatient and wanting to skip ahead to all the juicy details about the bike. But, as I read through the book, I found myself immersed in a captivating account of the invention of the bicycle and how many of it’s components influenced the development of other things we use today. This amount of detail reminded me of why we still read books. Sometimes, you can’t just enough substantial information in a 140 character Tweet.
I plan to come refer back to this book as a resource for bike knowledge and history.
Overall, I was really impressed with It’s All About The Bike. If you have ever dreamed of having a custom bike built for yourself, you should read this to put things in perspective. My only complaint is that there wasn’t a gallery of glossy pics at the end of the book. After reading about all the choices he made for each part, I was hoping to see what the final build looked like. Thank goodness for the internet.
I’m slightly ashamed that it was just the cool design, the fancy blue strap and the upside down gold bike on the cover that had me saving this book to my already extensive ‘wish list’. I’ll also admit that clicking the “add to cart” button was most likely to push an order of something else, over the minimum $25 total to get the free Amazon shipping. I’m glad I did.
The Bike Owner’s Handbook by Peter Drinkell, is as it’s title implies: an owners manual for just about any bike. It’s what I would describe as the ‘instruction book’ that could have come with your bike. As I read through this book, I discovered that isn’t like some of the other books that I’d been reading – with narrative content articulating bike love, education or advocacy. Instead, the Bike Owner’s Handbook‘s content is pure function and utility. Although not as thorough as a Park Tools Blue Book, it has some good information on general maintenance of your bike. Pair that with some really cool illustrations, and you’ve got a nice addition to your bike book library. Or, because of it’s size, this can make a nice add-on to any bike owner’s tool box.
I finally got around to reading Bike Tribes, A Field Guide to North American Cyclists, by Mike Magnuson. As bike riders, we all know the general breakdown of the different types of cyclist on the roads and trails. Similar to how people are in life, cyclists are very different from each other. With the exception of our core love for the bicycle, we don’t always share the same perspective how we use it. In Bike Tribes, Mike Magnuson does a great job at cataloging each of those different categories of cyclists, and – in some cases – the different types of riders within each category.
In order to communicate a clear definition of the different groups, Magnuson structured the book around composite characters, meaning fictional people based on a number of real people interviewed. He uses anywhere from one to a few of these characters to articulate unique perspectives within each group – some more positive than others.
Magnuson also makes it more interesting by intermingling some of the different character’s stories. These small crossovers help create a nice flow throughout the book, making it hard to put down.
The book starts off by talking about different types of bike shops, bike shop employees and bike shop owners. It was clear that even though small shop owners and employees weren’t making a fortune, they seemed happier being part of and supporting the local bike community. This is yet, another good reason to support your local bike shops.
Then the book goes into a more specific break down of the different types of riders, including BMXers, Average Riders, Casual Mountain Bikers, Weight-Loss Cyclists, Triathletes, Century Riders, Charity Riders, Challenge Century Riders, Road Racers (Roadies), Mountain Bike Racers, Cyclecrossers, Randonneurs, Touring Cyclists, Commuters, Critical Mass Riders, Fixed Gear Cyclists, Vintage Bike Riders, and Beach Cruisers. The only big category he really didn’t touch was the Bicycle Chic Riders.
Magnuson also does a good job at being objective about each grouping, limiting any opinions to his summary at the end of each section. He let the stories, derived from his interviews, define each group – allowing readers to form their own opinions. My take, on all the different cyclists, was that many who ride for sport, miss out on the pure joy of cycling. This was a perspective that I already had, but was nice to see it contextualized in this book. Also, since I mostly ride for transportation, I really appreciate the positive stance he gave to commuters: “Next to the touring cyclist…the commuting cyclist is the person all cyclists most want to be.”
Bike Tribes is a great resource that successfully catalogs many of the different types of bicyclists. It’s helpful to those who don’t know anything about cyclists, as well as a great way for cyclists to learn and understand how other cyclists think.
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.
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.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a book report, mostly because I never get time to read. Even though Pedaling Revolution from Jeff Mapes was very interesting, I found myself constantly searching for the time to squeeze in a chapter – or even just a few pages. I finally decided to make the effort to finish this book that I’ve started many months ago.
What interested me in this book was it’s sub-title: “How Cyclists are Changing American Cities”. In my recent years as a cyclist, I’ve become somewhat of an armchair advocate, wanting a better, more vibrant cycling community where I live. I wanted to see how other bike friendly cities have been so successful and see how I can relate that success to north Texas.
My read is that Jeff Mapes takes a thorough, while neutral perspective on advocacy with Pedaling Revolution. Instead of being hung up on just the positives of cycling and infrastructure, he takes a more editorial view by articulating not only the advantages and benefits, but also the struggles and problems of cycling change. In addition, his narration of some of his travels made me feel as though I was there.
Pedaling Revolution starts off with a chapter about the Cycling Political Movement. Being a senior political reporter for a Portland newspaper, Jeff Mapes does an extensive job covering issues faced by several cycling advocates – from John Forester to Representative Jim Oberstar.
Mapes also touches a bit on the next generation of cyclists, the New Urban Bike Culture and it’s effect on the future of cycling.
The book rolls into several chapters discussing successful bike friendly cities including Amsterdam, Davis, Portland, and New York. In each chapter he discusses how each city didn’t start bike friendly, but made the concerted effort to create a better culture and community by striving to build a better infrastructure for cyclists. But it wasn’t all perfect. Each city had their share of strain and trouble.
Although those pages were pretty informative, I found the last three chapters very interesting. Overcoming Safety Barriers, Health and the Bicycle and Bringing Kids Back to Bikes. In the Safety Barriers chapter, two things stuck out the most for me, the importance of increasing bicycle awareness and benefits of cycling education. In the Health chapter, Mapes discusses both the risks and benefits of cycling. The chapter about Kids and Bikes made me feel both guilty and inspired about my own community of cycling youth. He questions the future of cycling if it gets lost with the younger generations.
Overall, Pedaling Revolution is a good book to read for any armchair advocates. It helps you think about the strengths and limitations of your community and how you can optimize them to build a better bike culture.