This entry was posted on Monday, December 29th, 2008 at 2:59 pm and is filed under Book review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
On the pre-Christmas Spokesmen podcast I gave some Christmas gift ideas for cyclists. My selection joined those from Richard Kelly of Interbike; Donna Tocci, social media manager for Ingersoll Rand; Tim Jackson of Masi; and Guitar Ted of Twenty Nine Inches.
My prezzie ideas included solar-powered ankle and rucksack LEDs from Pedalite; waterproof iPod and iPhone holders from Aquapac; cards from Skeese Greets; recycled ex-bike gifts from Resource Revival; and Action Wipes, the oversize moist towellettes for sports use.
I didn’t recommend any books, not even the Bike to Work Book. I’d like to recommend some now.
50 Quirky Bike Rides
Eye Books (2008)
This is a gem of a book, written by the author of some of the Bluffer’s Guides. It contains ride ideas in England and Wales, all based on features which are the ‘best’, the ‘longest’, the ’strangest’ or the ’steepest’. Some are obvious, such as rattling down Shaftsbury’s Gold Hill, setting of the 1970s Hovis TV advert by Ridley Scott.
Others are less obvious, such riding on the extremely short road leading into London’s Savoy Hotel, the only place in Britain where you can use the right hand side of the road in both directions. Even the traffic lights are on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
My favourite routes in the book are those suggesting rides on evocative - and sometimes bumpy - Roman roads. Some of these rides require long-distance sorties in wild uplands. Just my kind of trips.
If distance riding is your thing, how about the world’s longest cycle path? How long is long? Six billion kilometres. In reality, it’s just 24kms but the York Planets cycle path, adorned with a model of the solar system, is correctly scaled. Pluto is mounted to a post just outside Riccall. Ride for 2.5kms to reach Neptune. Ride another 3kms to see Uranus. After Bishopthorpe, the planets come thick and fast, just metres apart.
This Sustrans sculpture trail is mirrored by another stellar route, between Taunton and Bridgwater. And this is one of the beauties of 50 Quirky Bike Rides: it gives the main ride idea and then follows it up with ‘other places like this’. So, 50 rides is the minimum, there are plenty more ride ideas in the book, if you dig.
The book also has a companion website, www.bizarrebiking.com, with links to Google maps of the rides, and two sample chapters.
Snow Books (2007)
Ballantine, author of the million-selling Richard’s Bicycle Book, is urban bicycling’s most strident sage. His advice on staying alive in city traffic is brilliant (he’s big into bail-outs for when you or a motorist fluff a manouevre) yet his roots as an anarchic rider in 1970s New York are still evident in this book. He advocates ‘early greens’, shorthand for busting through red lights in certain situations, for instance when it’s dangerous not to, or there’s no-one around to tut-tut.
Ballantine is always entertaining, always thought-provoking and nearly always controversial. In this book he advocates free public transport for all as a way out of city gridlock. Sounds positively Maoist but, let the idea sink in, and it soon makes a lot of sense, especially in an age when the concept of free market economics has been shown to be a sham. When the auto industry is threatened with collapse, world governments don’t let market forces hold sway, they jump in to ‘protect jobs’. There’s no premonition of this in City Cycling but Ballantine wistfully looks forward to the day when bikes rule in city centres.
Watch out for more bike titles from Snow Books. There’s going to be a revised reprint of the Bicycle Design book by Mike Burrows and a book on family cycling by yours truly.
A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer’s Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium
The subhead tells you precisely what to expect to find in this warts-and-all biography. Riding for a living in the cycling hotbed of Belgium is not glamorous, it’s a life of grind. The grit’s for real. But it’s a life atmospherically given wings by Parkin, a former US pro. Parkin was advised by Bob ‘Bobke’ Roll to ride in Belgium if he wanted to get on in the world of cycling.
Love to pore over the grainy, black and white images of cobble racing in Rouleur? You’ll relish - and re-read - this book.
Good Beer Guide West Coast USA
Ben McFarland & Tom Sandham
Campaign for Real Ale (2008)
OK, this isn’t strictly a bike book. In fact, it isn’t even a lax bike book. It’s very much a beer book. But, there’s some bike content and it’s well worth wading through the beer to get to it. The chapter on Portland, Oregon, for instance, is a mouth-watering eye-opener. Not only is the city fantastic for bicycling, it’s also tops for beer, too.
The Portland chapter says Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, chose some character names from Portland streets (Quimby, Flanders and Montgomery). It also has half a page on bike routes. Mmm, bikes.