Monday, August 22, 2011

Knack Cycling for Everyone - Book Review

Cycling for Everyone - A Guide to Road, Mountain, and Commuter Biking by Leah Garcia and Jilayne Lovejoy (Knack, 2010) is lovely to look through and reflects considerable effort, but I'm not sure that it is "the ideal new resource for anyone looking to get introduced, or reintroduced, to today's world of cycling" (as it says on the rear cover).

Amazon has a "look inside" link for its page for this book so you can get a fairly good sense of what the book is like.

What's good:

* More than 400 photographs - it must have been a major effort just to figure out and produce all of these; it's a fun book to page through.

* Certainly introduces at a high level many issues connected to cycling.

* Presents some topics quite well when the book's format (that seems to be part of the Knack series) provides the right amount of space.

What's not-so-good:

* Typically one photo is all that is provided for any particular issue, even for the description of maintenance activities where a sequence would be more helpful. In this regard, the extremely structured format of the book works against it.

* The highly structured format for each page also means that there can't be much detail written about any particular subject - for the most part each subject is dealt with in two facing pages.

* Despite being an introduction to the subject, it often reads as though you already know something about the subject - in the summary of what makes a road bike a road bike, it says "uses 700c wheels, caliper brakes, and skinny smooth tires" - skinny smooth tires is clear, anyway.

* Doesn't answer many "why" questions. Again, due to the limited space for text, much of what is provided are descriptions without explanation.

* The glossary is too short and misses many terms used in the text without explanation, and is the one part of the book with no images. In the text one is told to avoid potholes to avoid getting "pinchflats" which are just one item not in the glossary (or the index, for that matter).

I concluded that there is far more to cycling than I had realized since it doesn't turn out to be possible to provide anything like a comprehensive introductory guide to the different types of cycling (mountain, road, commuting) in a single book.

I was somewhat amused by the subjects where the authors chose to provide additional information - since they live in Colorado, they are quite a bit more into mountain biking than commuting by bike so unlike most subjects that must be dealt with in two pages, you get "terrain tips - part 1" and "terrain tips - part 2" (or four pages!) on handling rough riding on a mountain bike. (The coverage of bike commuting in this book is weak, when you get down to it.)

And they are pretty much satisfied with the modern buy-lots-of-crap-and-keep-corporations-afloat approach to cycling - this is most noticable in their discussion of winter clothing, where wool sweaters you might already own are not mentioned - the models are attired in hundreds of dollars of special cycling clothing. (Don't get me wrong, I happen to take that approach too, but I'm pretty sure it isn't the most cost effective and I sure didn't start that way.) I think this reflects a lack of enthusiasm for true beginning bike commuters - mountain biking is more fun.

Summary - it's a pretty book to look at, and has it's tidbits of useful info here and there. It isn't a particularly useful comprehensive introduction.

No comments:

Post a Comment