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Book Report: Bike Snob Abroad

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Bike Snob Abroad - Bike Snob NYC

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.

Written by dickdavid

January 27, 2014 at 7:16 am

Book Report: It’s All About The Bike by Robert Penn

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It's All About The Bike - Robert Penn

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 BikeThe 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.

Written by dickdavid

August 29, 2013 at 8:53 am

Book Report: The Bike Owner’s Handbook by Peter Drinkell

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The Bike Owner's Handbook - Peter Drinkell

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 Handbooks 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.

Written by dickdavid

March 4, 2013 at 6:57 am

Book Report: Bike Tribes by Mike Magnuson

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Bike Tribes - Mike Magnuson

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.

Written by dickdavid

January 22, 2013 at 6:05 am

Book Report: Just Ride, A Radically Practical Guide To Riding Your Bike By Grant Petersen

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Just Ride - 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.

Written by dickdavid

December 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm

So, I Finally Got Around To Reading The Bike Snob NYC Books

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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.

BIKE SNOB - Bike Snob NYC

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.

I enjoyed Bike Snob so much, that I ended up getting his second book, The Enlightened Cyclist before I was finished reading the first book.

The Enlightened Cyclist - Bike Snob NYC

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.

Written by dickdavid

September 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Book Report: Pedaling Revolution By Jeff Mapes

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Pedaling Revolution - Jeff Mapes

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.

Written by dickdavid

July 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm

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Book Report: Smart Cycling By League Of American Bicyclists

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Smart Cycling - League of American Bicyclists

As I ride deeper into the world of bicycling, I’ve made it my goal to become a much better cyclist. Along with wanting to build my skills and confidence on the road, I felt the need to improve my knowledge of bicycling as well. In doing so, I decided to take a break from the bicycle love and advocacy books and spend some time with a good A-to-Z book about basic cycling.

Being a member of the League of American Bicyclists, I chose to start with their book: Smart Cycling, edited by League President Andy Clarke. Admittedly, my expectation for this book was pretty low. It’s geared with information needed “to teach new and returning cyclists to take the road safely and confidently.” I was certain that it would be filled with lots of information that I already knew – stuff like, here are they types of biking, this is how you pick a bike, this is how you ride a bike, this is how you signal and this is what you wear while riding. Even with my limited experience with utility cycling, I thought this was going to be the big book of bicycle-duh. To a small degree, I was right.

However, this book also made me realize that there was plenty of stuff that I don’t know. As I was reading through Smart Cycling, I discovered that there were holes and gaps in the limited bicycle knowledge that I’ve picked up over the years. I’ve already started applying some of these new principles and techniques on my current rides.

I’ve gained a lot of respect for the folks who compiled and organized this thorough and informative book. I’d even call it the General Owner’s Manual to Bicycling. It’s filled with a wide range of information that you may already know about cycling – as well as some stuff you might not.

The book also comes with a DVD. It’s contents pair up nicely with the bike handling skills and avoidance maneuvers sections of the book. The production value is similar to that of a driver’s education video, but it’s still pretty informative.

Now, if you are looking for a more detailed information on road skills or street riding savvy, you may need to look somewhere else. Even though Smart Cycling has dedicated chapters on Rules of the Road, Bicycle Handling Skills and Avoidance Maneuvers, I felt they weren’t detailed enough to replace a good training class or the knowledge of a good instructor. Nothing beats hands-on experience.

Overall, I would recommend picking up a copy of Smart Cycling and read through it. The chapters are short, self-contained and well written – giving readers the chance to take in small pockets of knowledges at a time. This is perfect for somebody like me who doesn’t get much time for reading. It’s also a great reference source for when my non-biking friends ask me for advice on cycling.

Written by dickdavid

November 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Book Report: Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

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I picked up my copy of this book almost a year ago. As I’ve stated before, I never have time to read anymore – but I was really interested in this book. I’m a huge fan of David Byrne and the Talking Heads, and a huge fan of bikes.

Folks were already getting early releases of the book, and I purposely avoided their reviews. I wanted to form my own opinion about it. Well, several months and one alternate book interruption later, I finally finished.

My overall opinion of the book is that it’s a really good read. I really like David’s perspective on cycling, culture, humanity and the urban landscape. The first chapter, American Cities, is an insightful look into the problems some cities face with failed industry, suburban sprawl and cultural decay. It makes you take a second look at your own surroundings and appreciate the efforts made to keep the infrastructure in balance.

The book rolls into a series of descriptive stories about some of the cities that he’s visited over the years. Being an avid cyclist, he brings a folding bike with him on his travels – which he uses to explore each destination. He’s really inspired me to get a folding bike and do some exploring of my own.

If you are expecting a book full of bike love and advocacy ramblings, you might find yourself at a loss. Most of the stories are about random thoughts and discoveries – all seem to feel reflective of journal-like blog entries – hence the second half of the book’s name.

David does write more about bikes in his chapter about his hometown of New York City. There, the Epilogue and the Appendix you’ll find bulk of any substantial bike perspective. A few other bike related bonuses are the little bike drawings at the bottom of each page that animate when you flip through them. Cute. You also get treated to some really cool New York City Bike Rack Designs by David.

Overall, this has become one of my favorite books that I will recommend to any of my Talking Head, bike friends.

Written by dickdavid

September 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm

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Book Report: The Cyclist’s Manifesto by Robert Hurst

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I’m not really qualified to do a proper book review. Heck, I hardly have time in my life to read, let alone write about reading. All I can offer up is one man’s perspective on books that end up in my messenger bag.

Well, I managed to find some time to finally finish what I found to be a very interesting book, The Cyclist’s Manifesto by Robert Hurst. I first heard about the book on Cyclelicious, added it to my neglected Amazon wish list and it eventually made it’s way to my mailbox.

The first part of the book is a detailed, incredibly interesting chronicle of bike history. I never realized how big a role bicycles have had in our culture and how they’ve ultimately influenced the world of modern transportation. I also found his section on Marshall “Major” Taylor, one of bike history’s first racing heros who’s story had gone mostly unheard, a fascinating read.

For me, the Manifest got really interesting right around chapter 6, Challenges of the Wheel. Here, Hurst writes about his point-of-view on bicycle advocacy – a position that I completely related to. Without getting into too much detail, I have to say, I really like how objective he is towards all perspectives of advocacy. He points out their positive and the negative aspects as well as the hurtles we must overcome to becoming a stronger bike culture. I actually broke out the highlighter to mark some lines for future reference.

From there, the following chapters talk about our gluttonous dependency on fossil fuels. Some of the facts and statistics are a frightening slap in the face – especially seeing what we’ve done in just the past 100 years and how much worse it’s going to get. He really puts things into perspective.

By the end of this well-written book, I found myself more informed about bicycle history, bicycle advocacy and the sad state our oil consumption. While upset with the abuse of our natural resources, I’m inspired to get more people, including myself, to ride their bikes more.

Written by dickdavid

August 16, 2010 at 8:15 pm

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