Sunday, March 25, 2012

On Bicycles (Book Review)

On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your LifeOn Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life by Amy Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of fifty four-to-eight page essays on various aspects of bicycling, organized in four sections. The essays in the first section, "All the right reasons," are the part of the boom intended for those who may be new(er) to subject of "bike culture" (which I take to mean urban cycling as a significant part of one's lifestyle). Otherwise I think the intended audience would be people who have some knowledge and interest but want to know more - a blurb states, "the 'Whole Earth Catalog' of bicycle culture for the current era."

The editor, Amy Walker, is a co-founder of a cycling "lifestyle magazine," Momentum Magazine, that advocates "smart living by bike." Momentum is a little too youthful for my taste but this book is broader than that. Walker also wrote several of the essays.

The essays are good, and reasonably thoughtful. I came away with some new information and some new things to think about, which I like. The essay "Cycling for all abilities and needs" makes good points about problems with the so-called vehicular cycling approach for many folks, for example.

I had heard of some of the authors - Jeff Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution, has several essays here.

Even though the book was published in 2011, some of it is already somewhat out of date. A chapter on bike sharing is probably the most glaring example, but an essay about bikes with internal hubs (that remove potentially messy and complicated derailleurs from the bicycling equation) describes a lack of popularity for these hubs that is not nearly so true now.

Perhaps the only complaint I have is that the underlying feeling is almost like this bicycle culture lifestyle is a religion that will require conversion and a significant commitment, when I know from personal experience that you can move in this direction more slowly if that is more appealing - and economical. On the other hand, nothing in any of the essays seemed completely outlandish or annoying and much was interesting or entertaining.

View my list of cycling books and reviews

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