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Book Review: Cycling’s Greatest Misadventures

Several months ago, the publishers of Cycling’s Greatest Misadventures sent us review copies of the book. This book, edited by Erich Schweikher and Paul Diamond (Solana Beach, CA: Casagrande Press, 2007), is a compilation of short stories by different authors, and within these stories are tales of woe that almost any cyclist can relate to.

cover

From tours gone horribly awry to mountain bike adventures that include getting terribly lost in a foreign country, this book is packed with one cycling bummer after another. Cycling’s Greatest Misadventures contains 27 true stories in all, and even has a photo gallery of gnarly crashes and other mishaps!

Several of the stories contained within this book seem embryonic…half-formed, rushed or a little bit lacking in terms of cohesiveness. Others could easily stand on their own and I found myself wishing that the author would continue with the story beyond the confines of the book. No matter what, though, there will be something for every manner of cyclist to relate to…a plague of flat tires, getting lost in the woods, suffering gastric distress (or worse) on a long tour.

Perhaps my favorite story is “Cycling in a New World” by Stan Green, Jr. Green tells the story of his ride through Hurricane Katrina-devastated New Orleans shortly after the storm, visiting old haunts and trying to salvage belongings (and memories) from his childhood home and those of his family members. As a former “occasional” resident of the city of New Orleans, I was familiar with many of the sights Green talked about as he surveyed the destruction and rebirth of the city by bicycle. It moved me when he wrote, “A bike ride through New Orleans can never be what it was before August 29, 2005. Something else lies ahead, something undetectable, something unknowable — a new normal.” My feeling is that statement is a testament to the New Orleans residents’ ability to pick themselves up and adapt to changes no matter what they may be, and the story is a touching look at what was, what is, and what may be for the people of NOLA.

Overall, the book is a fast-paced and enjoyable read — something for everyone. If you get a chance, take a look for yourselves.

Bicycle-Friendly Urban Prank

Longtime reader Eric Nordstrom sent us a link a month or so ago…an article illustrating one of my very favorite methods of civil disobedience — a great prank that included issuing a fake press release and putting up altered signage that helped cyclists with a concern.

Torontoistthe entire article — a prank from the fertile minds at Urban Repair Squad.

I’ve often joked that since the City of Tampa lags behind when it comes to painting bike lanes and adding other bike-friendly infrastructure, I was going to come up with some way to attach a painting device to my Xtracycle and start striping my own lanes…articles like the above and groups like Urban Repair Squad inspire me to make my joke more of a reality!

The Well-Tempered Cyclist

My friend Ken Sturrock turned me on to a well-written essay over at the excellent online/print magazine Momentum…in the essay, author Deb Greco describes her evolution from hotheaded badass to a more “well-tempered cyclist”.

What motorists have always suspected is true: When I get on my bike, a switch goes off and consideration for anyone else ceases to exist. Each morning, amped on fresh air and adrenaline, I fly downhill on San Francisco’s Market Street and head for the Financial District. My goal is simple: to make it to work without stopping – or at least not long enough for my feet to touch the ground.

This is how I recently found myself in the middle of an intersection before the light had turned green, when a MUNI bus came barrelling through despite a good solid red overhead. I only avoided a crash by turning in the direction the bus was travelling in; it came so close, I felt the kiss of steel along the length of my right side. The bus driver slammed on his brakes, stuck his head out his side window, looked me right in the terrified eye, and yelled, “A…”

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Momentum Planet.

This essay really resonated with me — especially because I’m steadily evolving into a more well-tempered cyclist. There were many times in the past when I was quick on the draw with a middle finger and a shouted curseword, and I made a commitment to change after spending a lot of cycling time with my good friend Alan Snel. Alan, a consummate cycling advocate, showed me that a thumbs-up, a friendly wave or any other positive acknowledgment of the motorists around us does far more to help our fellow two-wheelers than any shouting match, obscene gesture or physical confrontation ever could. Alan claims to have transformed several streets in our area into a far more bike-friendly atmosphere by simple acts like throwing the peace sign at every car that passes by, and by God — I think he’s right!

I’ve got a way to go, but Deb’s essay gives me encouragement to continue my evolution towards calmness and friendliness out on the roads.

More Product Reviews Coming Soon

We’ve got a slew of new products that we’re in the midst of testing. Here are a few I’m working on:

Pedro’s Tools
Pedro’s sent us a pair of tools to test…the Vice Whip and the Trixie. The Vice Whip is a clever device intended to replace the pesky and cumbersome chain whip used to remove cassettes and some freewheels. According to the packaging, this tool was designed by none other than legendary mechanic and VeloNews technical correspondent Lennard Zinn.

vice whip

The other tool is “Trixie” — a multitool aimed squarely at the fixed-gear/singlespeed rider. Combining a 15mm axle nut wrench, a lockring spanner, a 5mm hex key, a graduated slot for metric nuts and the mandatory bottle opener, this tool is really all one might need for some quick on-the-road repairs or a fast gear change.

trixie

Bike Glow
This lighting device has gotten some traffic on other cycling blogs, and we were lucky enough to score a sample for review. Based on electroluminescent (“EL”) wire, the Bike Glow kit adds much-needed side visibility to the bike (or rider) for nighttime commutes.

bike glow

IT Clips
These clever little devices from the folks at IT Clips let you put your old inner tubes (and who doesn’t have a pile of these laying around?) back into use by converting them into custom-length bungee cords OR tiedown straps. The versatile IT clip’s design serves as both and comes with steel hooks to facilitate this. Folks who ride cargo bikes or who routinely carry a load on their regular bicycles should find these incredibly useful for strapping down some goodies for the trip home.

IT clip
(sorry about the shaky photo…I drank too much coffee that morning!)

Stay tuned for reviews of these items (and a few more) within the next couple of weeks…