Bike Snob NYC’s Ultimate Bicycle Owner’s Manual was released at the beginning of May, just in time for Bike Month, and I finally got my grease-stained hands on a copy over a month later for my very personal observance of National Bathroom Readers’ Month.
I think most of us understand that when a humorist like Bike Snob uses “ultimate” in the title of his book, there’s a fair chance of hyperbole. Some beginners who aren’t familiar with Weiss’s acerbic wit, however, take this 227-page “Universal guide bikes, riding and everything” at face value, and expect an all-inclusive guide on riding, maintenance, bike selection, components, apparel, lights, locks, safety, history, culture, and comprehensive legal advice for every jurisdiction. They leave bad reviews on Amazon because Bike Snob’s publisher failed to manage their expectations in the title.
A few others complain that the writing style isn’t as funny and engaging as usual, and I admit there are parts where the pages feel a little rushed, a little like this book review. Everybody else leaves five star reviews because we’re squealy fanboys and girls. Last week, it was the number four in top selling bicycling books according to Amazon.com.
The “Ultimate Owner’s Manual” is a handbook, suited mostly for beginners. Weiss is a talented writer, so this one’s better than most. Like most such books, this guide covers bike selection, bike fit, weather, bike security, traffic safety, route selection, helmets, and very basic maintenance. The maintenance section can be summed up “Learn to patch a tube,” “You should occasionally lube your chain,” and “A dirty bike is a well-used bike.”
Bike Snob is on his book tour right now, appearing in Portland OR today, Seattle on Friday, and Walnut Creek CA (kinda sorta near San Francisco) on Saturday at an event sponsored by Rivendell. Fans of Bike Snob might appreciate this book for Fathers’ Day. You can buy the book for twenty dollars at these book signing events. Bring your dad along.
Bookshop Santa Cruz has four copies available right now if you want to rush in to buy a copy as a gift. If you purchase online through Amazon that would be a nice Fathers’ Day gift for me, since I’ll get a few dimes for each purchase, although it’s maybe little late to receive for Sunday.
So, how does the info advice in the new book compare, for instance to Effective Cycling by John Forester?
And the captions on the cover are clever/interesting – “way forward” for the handlebars and “moral high ground” for the saddle.
Forester’s 1000 page encyclopedic tome vs a breezy, conversational handbook? There’s not much comparison.
Under “Co-existing with cars,” Bike Snob notes that the usual advice to make “eye contact” is pretty worthless (I agree); and that the suicide wave is dangerous (I agree). He mentions common hazards like dooring and right hooks, but doesn’t really explain how to avoid these — he might mention elsewhere but I don’t really recall.
He also notes: “Don’t hide behind a persecution complex and avoid responsibility for your own actions,” and explains “As a cyclist, your greatest allies are visibility and predictability.”