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Bikesnob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling – a book review

Submitted by on January 12, 2011 – 2:56 pm8 Comments

illustration © 2011 Christopher Koelle

Before I had an unhealthy obsession with bicycles, I used to collect books. I had a whole room in my house devoted to my collection, and I would come home, sit in my leather wing back chair, and read for a few hours at a time, usually while Jackie Gleason or Harry Nilsson was spinning the record player and my wife was making an incredible dinner. Then suddenly, we were having a kid, and I lost my library, my quiet time, and my gourmet dinners. Now I’m lucky if I by the end of the night I have a hot bowl of soup and enough energy to read a few pages of a magazine before I pass out from exhaustion. Even though my habits have changed, and most of my books are for sale at Half Price, I still enjoy reading – though to be honest, most of my reading anymore is done at the computer, where I read blogs by people like myself, who have very little of interest to write about, a fact that is made plain by the lack posts on their blog.

illustration © 2011 Christopher Koelle

One blogger who doesn’t have a problem with lack of material to post is the most famous bike blogger of all time, BikeSnob NYC.  BikeSnob started his blog in 2007, which was about the same time cycling started to show up on my radar again. I found his blog and spent the a few weeks catching up on all of his older posts, and from then on I was a religious daily reader. BikeSnob introduced all of us to words like “flambullient”, “Crabon” (as a type of frame material) and my favorite, the pistadex.  BikeSnob made me think two things when I read his daily posts; first that blogging is obviously easy, and second, that he should probably write a book.

pistadex – pista•dex |’pistá-deks| (abbr. PDEX) noun – a figure representing the average asking price of a Bianchi Pista on craigslist.org across several hip metropolitan areas.

If you go to my blog you will see that blogging certainly isn’t easy, so BikeSnob fooled me there. However, he did manage to write a book, and my wife got it for me for Christmas, praise Lob (in all his buttery goodness). Once all of the hubbub of Christmas died down, I threw some David Byrne on the CD player, put “Breaking Away” on the TV, and sat down to read the best bicycle blogger in the world’s “words” off of the “paper” inside the “book”.

I was impressed, really. That sounds really pretentious, and Lob knows I am a humble man. BikeSnob is famous for skewering hipsters, roadies and just about everyone else on two wheels.   I didn’t expect a book full of that sort of thing, but I also didn’t expect very much more than that, and again I am proved wrong.

In the first three quarters of the book the reader is brought into a world where there are so many subgroups, and crazy great people, and most importantly, helps the reader to consider bicycling in a different way than they may had previously seen it. BSNYC does a very good job of telling you who else is like you; his passage about roadies is my favorite:

“…the Roadie’s freeloading ways extend to life off the bike as well. Anybody who’s spent any time in bike shops knows the Roadie is the worst kind of product-grubbing discount hunter there is. They have no loyalty to their shop; if they can find it online for $4 less, they’ll buy it there. Yet they’ll spend $2000 on a wheel set if they think it might give them an edge, and if you lend them the money for it don’t expect to get it back. Roadies are the junkies of the cycling world; they’re skinny and untrustworthy, and they’ll do whatever they need to in order to keep their habit going. The Roadie’s life is full of disappointed people – spouses, friends, family – all of whom have involuntarily funded their depraved lifestyle in one way or another.”

illustration © 2011 Christopher Koelle

Even though he describes the different “tribes” of cyclists, BSNYC also makes some philosophical connections between the different groups, and between us all, and paints a rich picture of what cycling really is. Towards the end of the book he goes into some bicycle maintenance things that kind of felt like “filler”, because there are lots of books about bicycle mechanics out there. But then again, I take fuzzy iPhone photos and post them on a blog that averages a dozen readers a month…

The illustrations in the book are exceptional and there many. The artist’s name is Chris Koelle.  I will certainly be buying some of his work to hang on my wall (Chris has an Etsy store called Sweet Ride); his artwork really captures the movement that is bicycling, and the implied movement in the design of the components. I have actually leafed through the book just to enjoy the illustrations more than once.

Bikesnob’s book lampoons our contentious cycle culture while making clear his enthusiasm for cycling as a way of life

I highly recommend picking up BikeSnob’s book; it’s just as witty as you expect, much deeper than you thought, just chock full of movie references, and it even includes stickers. If you are a fan of his blog already, it’s going to be a very enjoyable read, but if you are someone who has never read a word and is just dipping their toes into this whole cycling thing, this book might help you look at the world you are entering in a completely different way.

More than anything else, I think that BikeSnob manages to communicate his real love for everything that cycling means (or can mean). Riding is much more than a sport, or a way to get to the bar, or a reason to blog; it can really be a lifestyle, as we are starting to see here in Dallas. BSNYC has made it his lifestyle, and we are all richer for it.

“Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning The World of Cycling” Price $16.95. Length: 208 pages. Publisher: Chronicle Books.

– Justin


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