Book Review: “The Practical Cyclist” by Chip Haynes

Last week, I had the pleasure of receiving an autographed (being a minor Internet celebrity has its perks!) review copy of The Practical Cyclist: Bicycling for Real People (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2009) from local cycling hero Chip Haynes.


First off, here’s what this book is NOT: a comprehensive guide to training, repair, nutrition, racing strategy or any of that other in-depth stuff. What this book IS is a very simple, very practical and extremely humorous guide to bicycling for everyday purposes.

Chip’s a funny guy and an excellent writer. In this book, he gets to demonstrate both skills as he distills a lifetime of bicycling into 160-odd pages. The Practical Cyclist contains perhaps the most compact — yet thorough — history of the bicycle that I’ve ever read…seven pages that covers over a century of cycling innovation. Wow! And that’s not all — the book is filled with gems…basic repair, practical considerations of clothing, gear, route planning and pretty much every other aspect a new cyclist needs to think about when setting off.

Throughout, Chip has an uncanny ability to cut through all the complexity and b.s. that tend to plague the world of cycling. He presents his thoughts in a coherent and complete manner while eliminating the mysteries. Distilled to its base, bicycling really is quite simple, and Chip relays this “insider secret” with aplomb. Folks discovering (or rediscovering) the bicycle should take a good look at this book.

At the end of the book, Chip presents a little “How do you know if you’re a practical cyclist?” quiz that will ring bells of familiarity to many of us, and ends with some sage words of wisdom:

Ride your bicycle because it’s fun. Yes, it makes sense both financially and environmentally, but ride your bike because it’s more fun than driving. That, to me, is the best reason of all. If it’s not fun, why bother?

Truer words were never spoken…

Seasoned cyclists and hardcore commuters probably won’t get much out of The Practical Cyclist other than a lot of laughs…frankly, it’s just not written for the accomplished cyclers among us. But, for someone just entering the wonderful world of bicycles, this book is a must read. Let’s hope this book sells a billion copies!!!

me and chip
(Me, Chip and the lovely JoAnn at the 2008 Bicycle Bash by the Bay)

And, if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, come on out to Chainwheel Drive in Clearwater this coming Saturday to meet Chip and to get your very own autographed copy of The Practical Cyclist. Details can be found by clicking here.


  1. The Punisher

    Your like a rock start on Miami Ave.

  2. Iron Man

    Sounds like a book to purchase so I can pass it around to noobs in the office. I’ll be looking forward to Chip’s media tour. The real question now is, does he visit Letterman or Conan?

    “Ride your bicycle because it’s fun.” No truer words ever spoken. From Lance Armstrong to the old guy in my neighborhood out for a cruise, that’s really the only reason that keeps folks riding (although Lance money brings extra incentive). I have a coworker who grew up in Sweden. She recalls how many folks rode bikes to fro, but she says almost all did it because they liked it. Sure the infrastructure was there and it was dang expensive and impractical to own a car, but when the dust settled folks enjoyed themselves. She misses getting around by bike now that she lives in the States.

  3. Ghost Rider

    Chip would do equally well on Letterman or Conan — he could go toe-to-toe humorwise with either one.

    The fun aspect is an important one to remember — sometimes we get wrapped up in gear considerations and other logistical efforts, but the bottom line is that bicycling is fun, relaxing and so good for the soul!

  4. Chip Haynes

    Wow, G.R., thank you for the GREAT review- I am humbled by your kind words! And you are right: The hardcore cyclist might only get some well-earned laughs from the book as they recongize everything they faced when they first began to ride. This is a book for the newbies.

    As for The Big Question: Defintely Letterman.

    But Jon Stewart would be way cool.

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