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 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.
- 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:
- Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance.
- Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance (2nd Edition).
- Park Tool Big Blue Book.
- I haven’t looked at it yet, but Jim Langley also has his Home Bicycle Shop book for sale. It’s a downloadable ebook.
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.