Friday, December 4, 2009

Stuff I like: Bicycle books

I'm a book guy -- I buy or borrow about a book a week. Here are some bike books your cycling friends might like as a gift. Please let me know if I missed any new books about bikes that I should list.

    Custom Bicycles: A Passionate Pursuit
  • Custom Bicycles: A Passionate Pursuit is a lovely coffee table book of custom bike p0rn. It's like a portable, handheld version of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

  • Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities. Political journalist Jeff Maps writes on the history of bike advocacy in the United States. Anybody interested in how bikes related to transportation policy should read this book.

  • Kind of the same but different is Robert Hurst's Cycling Manifesto: The case of riding on two wheels instead of four. I enjoyed the book because I like Hurst's informal, conversational style, but this book has gotten mixed reviews because it's not really a manifesto. Hurst examines the history of bicycling and auto use in America and around the world, taking some fascinating side trips (like how the Japanese effectively used bikes in southeast Asia during World War II).

  • Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do is essential for anybody involved in transportation advocacy issues of any kind, along with anyone who reports or blogs about transportation issues. Tom Vanderbilt's book gives you a ground floor introduction to transportation planning and policy. I reviewed the hardcover edition last year -- a new paperpack edition came out earlier this year.

  • Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries isn't really a 'serious' bicycle policy book, but rather David Byrne's rather enjoyable stream of consciousness observations of the cities he visits and sees by bike. Byrne brings a bike with him on his travels because "I felt more connected to the life on the streets," and he shares those connections in Bicycle Diaries.

  • I'm not a Lance-o-phile, but he's undeniably a big name in pro cycling so I read his biography: Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion by long time cycling journalist John Wilcockson. Yeah, the title is a bit overdone, and the book reveals that I probably would not have liked Lance Armstrong if we knew each other as teens. I was the serious, studious National Honor Society dweeb and president of the computer club, and Lance: well, I'd probably be writing scathing editorials in the school paper about a certain student's reckless driving. I was surprised to learn that Armstrong got his start in cycling by winning triathlons.

    I received Lance as a freebie. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have given it a second look otherwise, but after I started reading I learned Armstrong's life makes a decent biography.

    Though this is not a "tell all" book about scandal, Wilcockson gives a fairly even view of Armstrong -- his shortcomings as well as his strengths. Alas, he doesn't touch on doping other than mentioning his close association with a certain physician. Still, any friends who are LIVESTRONG fans will appreciate this book as a gift.
Are there any important new books about cycling that I've missed?

Update in response to Vivar's question about bike maintenance books:

Disclosure: I bought Pedaling Revolution, Cycling Manifesto, and Zinn's books on bike maintenance. I don't own the Park Tool BBB. The other books listed above are pre-release review editions.


  1. What about a bicycle maintenance book? Are there any that you recommend?

  2. Oh yeah, bike maintenance!

    I own and like Lennard Zinn's books. I have a couple of other less expensive ones that I can't recommend. Park Tool's Big Blue Book is often recommended but I've never looked at it personally.

  3. Not exactly new, but it is on sale...

    Ghost Trails by Jill Homer

    Selling at a discount for the holidays through her blog:

    Jill is an awesome storyteller and photographer in Alaska. The book is about her experience riding the Iditarod on bike.

  4. I really liked the Lance book. David Byrne's, on the other hand, ...not so much. Too political. If you want to read about his cycling, skip to the last chapter and the appendix; otherwise the typical chapter went something like: I rode down such and such road in (city) and A) society sucks - or - B) Bush administration = hitler.

  5. Not a new book--but a terrific read: "Two Wheels North: Bicycling the West Coast in 1909" by Evelyn Gibb. Tales of tough pedaling between Santa Rosa and Seattle.

  6. +1 Park Tools Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair 2nd Edition. I own other bicycle repair books, but for me, the Park Tools book assumes just the right level of skill--I'm not utterly incompetent with bike tools, nor am I qualified to work in a shop. The BBB covers the middle ground that you would think such books would mainly target.

  7. I too have a passion for books, and for bikes, and therefore for books about bikes. :-)

    I have some of the ones you mentioned, and a few more. Unfortunately I can't find the time to read them as fast as I feel like I have to buy them . :-P

    Funny that you posted this now, I've just announced an event where we're going to put our books available for people to browse. :-)

    Check Café Vélo, and if you happen to be in Lisboa, Portugal, on December 12th, do drop by. ;-)

  8. Thanks for mentioning my eBook, Yokota! Appreciate it. If you'd like me to send you a review copy so you can check it out, I'd be happy to do that. First, can you receive a 13meg file? And, it's an Adobe Reader book, but most computers have that installed, or you can download/install it for free. My book has links, pop-up pictures, mouseovers and other fun stuff that readers have told me they really like. If you want a paper version you can just print it too. Let me know and I'll send you the book. Also, re bike repair, the book Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair is an oldie but goodie I helped write, and available on for cheap.

    Jim Langley

  9. Thanks for answering my question. All the suggestions have been useful.