BikeCommuters.com

Tag Archive: bike books

Book review: “The Bike Deconstructed” by Richard Hallett

Over the past couple months, I’ve had the pleasure to read a copy of The Bike Deconstructed: A Grand Tour of the Modern Bicycle by Richard Hallett (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014).

bike_deconstructed

The book gives a detailed look into the inner workings of all aspects of the bicycle by showing exploded diagrams, close-up photos, and line illustrations of the frames, the components, and the hidden areas like bearings and internal gear systems. Along with the lavish and detailed artwork, Hallett explains the function and the history of the various components showcased, talking about materials, variants, and other details that will keep the jaded cycling techie reading along. There is a LOT to enjoy here. Discussion of how the parts work together, how the components developed from early prototypes, and the manufacturing methods involved with some of the parts really gives bike novices and seasoned experts alike a lot of information to delve through.

The bike is organized into the major sections of the bicycle itself: the frameset, the wheels, the drivetrain, the accessories, and so on. Each section covers the history and development of what we know as modern bicycle gear. There are a couple of points where the author mentions a piece of technology or a variation of a component that evolved along the way, but doesn’t offer a photo or illustration of it. This is a minor gripe, of course — there’s not room in the book for every possible permutation, but I would have liked to be able to picture a couple of the tech details he mentioned.

bike_deconstructed_inner

The book, as you can see from the example above, is a visual feast — the photographs and illustrations within are crisp and richly detailed. Complex structures are broken down and labeled to facilitate understanding, and Hallett’s expertise in presenting all this information is apparent. While the subject matter is highly technical, the author doesn’t get bogged down in overly complex technical jargon, making this book very accessible to cyclists of all experience levels.

The Bike Deconstructed is another great addition to your cycling bookshelf — I was happy to have it during my recent move to the nation’s capital, where the book kept me company in a variety of anonymous hotels and empty houses until my relocation was complete. The book is available directly from the publisher, or can be purchased from a variety of online booksellers. It retails for $29.95.

Book Review: “My Cool Bike” by Chris Haddon

Our friends at Independent Publishers Group sent us a review copy of My Cool Bike: An Inspirational Guide to Bikes and Bike Culture by Chris Haddon; photography by Lyndon McNeill (London: Pavilion, an imprint of Anova Books, 2013).

mycoolbike

At first, I was a bit skeptical: “aw, man, ANOTHER artsy book about bikes?!?” I expressed my concerns to my contact at IPG, and she assured me that yes, this was another art/coffee table book, but from the author’s very successful (and quirky) series called “My Cool…” Based on her guidance, I gave the book a fair chance, and I’m glad I did.

My Cool Bike is a fun look at the incredibly diverse world of bike culture, where all kinds of people are represented: punks, artists, designers, scientists, tinkerers, adventurers, free-thinkers. This should come as no surprise to many of you; we’re all pretty different from one another, yet we all share a rather passionate love for two-wheeled machines. Chris Haddon traveled to a number of cities and met with a lot of people, and in the process captured a fairly broad set of bike characters who embody bike culture as we know it. Lyndon MacNeill’s photographs really seal the deal, though — the bikes and the personalities behind them are captured in rich color, and those photographs also perfectly capture the joy and enthusiasm of each bike’s owner.

No hardcore racers or superathletes here; the personalities represented in the book seem to not take themselves so seriously, but clearly enjoy the freedom and individuality the bicycle brings to their lives. I think we can ALL relate to that, yes?

My Cool Bike is an enjoyable book to page through — there are no revelations contained within its pages, but I think you’ll enjoy this look at our unique two-wheeled community. There’s really something for every bike fan here; bikes to drool over, fun personalities you would love to go on a ride with, tales of adventures you’ll want to emulate. After seeing some of the collections of bikes owned by people in this book, I don’t feel so bad about the bike jumble in my own garage. While paging through the book, I did find myself wishing for a larger storage space, though!

Take a look at My Cool Bike, available through a number of online booksellers and perhaps even in your local library (if they don’t have it, ask nicely and they might be able to get a copy for you). You’ll enjoy the ride!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Book Review: The Urban Cyclist’s Survival Guide

There are a large number of books targeting new commuters…some good, some bad. A few months ago, the publishers of The Urban Cyclist’s Survival Guide (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2011) offered to send us a review copy. Authored by James Rubin, an L.A. based journalist, and Scott Rowan, a Chicago-area commuter and writer, the book intends to be a primer on the ins and outs of bicycle commuting…hoping to attract new riders to try this two-wheeled transportation thing.

It’s not a rosy picture, however. Start with the cover:

survival

If a book wants to attract people on the fence or new to the bicycle commuting world, why on EARTH would the authors/publishers choose such a disturbing image for the cover? My hackles were already up, and I’d barely cracked the spine of this book.

The book is divided into the chapters one might expect from such a guide: clothing, choosing a bike, safety issues, accessories, repairs and more. Nothing new here, but there is a good overview of the main issues and logistics in starting to commute by bike. Where this book really falls off the tracks is the authors’ insistence on circling back to the many possible negatives — theft, angry/dangerous motorists, breakdowns on the road, more angry/dangerous motorists, common collision scenarios and the like. I tried to read the book as if I was brand-new to the idea of riding a bike for transportation (a difficult mindset to put myself in, I know), and I was left with a feeling of dread: “man, this bike commuting thing sounds like a genuinely dangerous pain in the ass!” To be fair, many of the concerns and issues raised in the book are important for new (and seasoned) commuters to understand, if nothing more than to avoid such scenarios. But, the tone of the book is very off-putting. Yes, it can be hectic out there on the streets of the U.S. Yes, motorists and cyclists historically have had some issues getting along together. Yes, collisions can happen despite caution and preparation. Repeatedly harping on and on about it, though, drives away those people who might have considered bikes but are still making up their minds. As such, this book is a failure when it comes to providing that last bit of encouragement to a new commuter.

And that’s a shame, really, because the book DOES have a lot of good information, tips and resources contained within it.

One personal pet peeve is the authors’ use of the plural “we” and “our” to describe the events of a single person. During the authors’ visits to several L.A.-based bike shops, they were trying to determine how shops went about getting a rider on an appropriate bike. In one, a FitKit was used:

“For the FitKit, we stood on a nice piece of polished wood that looked like a shoe measure. The board had two holes at one end, and Carretero inserted a roughly 18″ aluminum tube that connected vertically to another piece of wood. The device resembled a surgical cane. Carretero unfastened a lock, and the wooden top rose steadily until it pressing firmly but not painfully into the bottom part of our crotch. We were 55 1/2 centimeters, which he dutifully wrote on a piece of paper.”

See what they’re doing there? I have no idea if this is grammatically correct (somehow I strongly doubt it), but it’s annoying as hell.

In all, the book fails on a few levels for me. As I mentioned earlier, there is a host of useful information in The Urban Cyclist’s Survival Guide, but too much time and effort is spent on the perils and fears that the “good message” comes through dimly. As it stands, I have a very difficult time recommending this book to anyone. There are a number of similar books on the market that are better suited to giving new commuters the tools they need to hit the streets. In fact, it’s ironic in that in this book’s resource guide, the authors call out MY personal favorite for a similar guide — The Practical Cyclist — by my friend Chip Haynes.

The Urban Cyclist’s Survival Guide retails for $14.95, but it is available on a certain online bookseller for as low as $10.00. If you’re trying to bulk up your cycling library, by all means, snap up a cheap copy. Otherwise, hang onto your money and spend it wisely elsewhere.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Book Review: “Pedaling Revolution” by Jeff Mapes

I recently had the pleasure of reading Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2009). Mr. Mapes is a political reporter for the Oregonian, and he put together a great overall look at American bicycle culture.

pedaling revolution

Mapes gives a pretty thorough overview of the major (and some minor, but influential) players in the U.S. bicycle advocacy movement and traces the history of our bicycle culture and advocacy progress from the early 1970s to the present. All the high points are covered: politicians such as Jim Oberstar (D-Minnesota), John Forester of the vehicular cycling movement, advocacy groups like the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (now called the Active Transportation Alliance) and Bike Portland, the Critical Mass movement, even Reverend Phil of Bike Porn Tour fame. This gives the reader a good picture of how modern bike culture developed.

As with many such books, a trip to Amsterdam, the fabled bicycle mecca, was included. Mapes is careful to point out that although bicycling is ingrained in Dutch society (as it is in Copenhagen, Denmark…the “other” mecca), many of the real developments didn’t happen until the the late 1960s for both areas. And, Mapes points out that both Amsterdam and Copenhagen are not without their car problems; despite barriers such as high sales and ownership taxes and the cost of fuel, car miles have increased.

Pedaling Revolution has chapters on safety issues, describing many U.S. cities as “in that awkward period where utilitarian cycling has become visible but still not mainstream”. Mapes touches on some of the vehicular cycling vs. dedicated bicycle infrastructure points in this chapter. There are also chapters on getting kids back on bikes and health considerations (the American decrease in physical activity and subsequent explosion in obesity and diabetes epidemics). The health chapter does not focus its sights squarely on the motor vehicle as villian, but Mapes is careful to list it as one of many contributing factors to the health crisis facing U.S. cities.

Overall, the book is a good read — complete, well-researched and sprinkled throughout with fascinating experiences and interactions between the author and people involved in bicycle culture at all levels. Add it to your booklist; it’s worth checking out.

Like this review? Check out our other book reviews by visiting our book review archive.