Ah yes, the joy of riding a bicycle on a late spring day. The cool breeze on your face, the sundresses and shorts, the freedom of two wheels on a lovely afternoon all make for a highly enjoyable escape from blustery winter riding. And, with more cyclists on the road every day and those warm summer months just ahead, here are a few new cycling books to get you in the pedaling mood.
Just Ride A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike By Grant Petersen Workman. 256 pp. $13.95 paperback
Grant Petersen debunks cycling’s dominant social paradigm in Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike. Petersen, a long time rider and shop owner, has a no-posturing, no-nonsense approach to riding, summed up in this introduction: "Don’t suffer in the name of speed, imaginary glory, or Internet admiration; don’t ride bikes that don’t makes sense for you; don’t wear ridiculous outfits just to ride your bike; don’t think of your bike as a get-in-shape tool and riding as something you have to suffer to benefit from."
Just Ride strikes to the heart of many current cycling behaviors and mythologies, with chapters ranging from "Suiting Up and Safety" to "Accessories and Upkeep." The book encourages "Unracing," a riding style defined by practicality and fun, and invites "Racers" to rethink their cycling philosophies. His opinion will certainly invite both applause and criticism, based on the reader’s cycling persuasion and, among other things, belief in carbohydrates.
This is a book chock full of useful riding advice. Just Ride will not teach you how to fix a flat (Petersen correctly points out there are hundreds of sources for this), but it will help you choose a good saddle and teach you how to play nicely on the bike path.
The Enlightened Cyclist Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstacles on the Path to Two-Wheeled Trancendence By Eben Weiss (Bike Snob NYC) Chronicle Books. 240 pp. $16.95
You may have heard of Bike Snob (aka Eben Weiss) from his witty eponymous blog bikesnobnyc. The Enlightened Cyclist, Weiss’ second book, focuses on the author’s philosophy of cyclist as commuter as human. There is humor, angst, a pinch of foul language and a dash of pop culture. How do we treat each other as we travel from point A to B, Weiss asks, and what lessons can be learned from these public interactions?
As in his blog, Weiss jumps between definitions, advice, and philosophical declarations of the commuting condition. Weiss deconstructs annoying cyclist behavior, annoying cyclist-on-driver behavior, and annoying driver-on-cyclist behavior. Creative topics covered include an equation to determine a rider’s level of smugness (Price of Bicycle/Weight of Cargo= Smugness quotient), tips on body fluid management (look before you blow), and definitions of irritating cycling trends such as salmoning, shoaling, and racing. At times you’re unsure where Weiss is taking you, but as in his blog, the seemingly unrelated points he’s outlined are neatly wrapped up by the end of each section.
This book will definitely resonate with cyclists who regularly pedal through crowded city streets, including Philadelphia. It would also make a great gift for the more annoying cyclists in your life.
Hollywood Rides a Bike Cycling with the Stars By Steven Rea Angel City Press. 160 pp. $20
Rita Heyworth straddling a Rollfast cruiser, Marlene Dietrich atop a Schwinn Paramount, and Humphrey Bogart with a Columbia Tourist are but some of the fantastic photographs collected by Steven Rea in his beautiful labor of love, Hollywood Rides a Bike (you may know Rea in his role as Inquirer film critic). A must for any cycling enthusiast, movie buff, or vintage fashion lover, Hollywood Rides a Bike is an enticing blend of vintage glamour and black and white bicycle photography.
Page after page of Hollywood offers images of effortlessly chic actors and actresses with their bicycles, accompanied by a short, descriptive vignette. Each is bathed in Rea’s love for movies and bicycles, which the reader can’t help but adopt. From behind-the-scenes shots (Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward shooting 1963’s A New Kind of Love is just wonderful), to stars enjoying a sunny afternoon (Shirley Temple out for a cruise), Hollywood Rides a Bike suggests a time when high heels on pedals were commonplace and helmets were nowhere to be found. I love this book. Even if you don’t particularly like movies or bicycles. It will just make you feel good.