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Great Summer Bike Reads!

Summer for me means slower cycling, beaches, BBQs, and reading. Here are some great books all about cycling that will get you through the summer.


by Elly Blue    2013    191 pages

This Portland author focuses on getting cycling mainstream in the United States for the most part, although she does venture to Mexico. She does a great job of juxtaposing data from a variety of papers, cases, and elsewhere (there are 209 well-explained endnotes at thby Elly Blue 2013 191 pagese back of the book) and how cycling can solve health, social, and economic issues. Elly examines everything from freeways, to bike parking, to human infrastructure, and more. Many of her arguments made me think of the times I have cycled in the US. In San Francisco, my wife and I partook in Sunday Streets, where the Embarcadero was closed to all vehicle traffic for an entire afternoon. Similarly in Portland, bike corrals made for easy parking in the Alberni commercial district. I know Oak Bay Avenue desperately needs a bike corral in front of the Fairway Market and Athlone Court. If the balance between grassroots cycling movements and politics to garner better cycling in your city interests you, then this is a must read.

The Bike Snob Abroad

By Bike Snob NYC (Eben Weiss)   2013    190 pages

A follow-up to his Bike Snob book of 2010, our author heads across the Atlantic in these tales to try cycling in London, Amsterdam, Gothenburg, and Italy. I can share his fascination and wonder about cycling in Amsterdam, as I too have seen and cycled in the Utopia of cycling. Eben is discovering how much fun it is to cycle with his son in tow, but doing so in New York City can be taxing and overwhelming. He wonders how long it will take car-centric cities in the US to catch up to the fact that cycling is simply better, and with that thought in mind, he escapes and ventures to locations where cycling is the definition of belonging. Eben has also written “The Enlightened Cyclist,” where he again, shares more stories of crazy cyclists, commuters, and other obstacles to riding in New York.

Pedal It; How Bicycles are Changing the World

By Michelle Mulder     2013      48 pages

This local book (published here in Victoria by Orca Footprint) designed for adolescents is a great read. Be sure to add it to your child/children’s summer reading list, as it examines the history of the bicycle and has chunks of text on each page. The colour photographs are fantastic, and I really enjoyed reading how bicycles are used around the world both for transportation (case in point, the 9 passenger bike bus in Amsterdam) or for work (the bicimaquinas in South America). I actually have an autographed copy of the book, and Michelle’s husband and I attend the same kinder gym with our kids. Le Vélo also carries Michelle's book.

Women on Wheels; A Handbook and How-to for City Cyclists

by April Streeter   2012  197 pages

My wife told me that I had to read this, and I was glad I did. It’s an excellent guide and handbook for the beginner cyclist. This tiny book (it fits in my back pocket), can be read cover to cover, as I did, or you can pick and choose bits to read. The accompanying bookmark has 4 good starting points, including facing your bike fears (p. 58), choosing the best bike (p. 82), style from bike to boardroom (p. 99), and tackle all-weather wheeling (p. 128). The first thing I did when I finished it was to grab my iPad and look up some of the products to which April refers. At the back of the book are a dozen pages listing bike brands, clothing, lights, and other bike books. April’s philosophy is one I whole heartedly believe in: that your ride shouldn’t be a TME, or a totally miserable experience. She offers savvy tips on every page to make riding that much more achievable. The short biographies of famous and not-so-famous women cyclists, mostly from the 19th century, would definitely be inspiring to women riders.

Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac

Multiple contributors   2010   127 pages

If there is a delightful gem of a book in this selection, it is Boneshaker. It was refreshing not to read more about how bikes are safer, and about the political movement behind bicycles. This small book is a hodge podge of literary works about bicycles. Poetry, a journal entry, a cartoon, a pen pal letter, interviews, and a photo essay are just a handful of the offerings in the almanac. Learn about the kickback hubs of the 1960s (a bike with 2 gears), Bikeloc (2 guys that pedaled across the US enjoying potlucks), Swedish military Kronan bikes, and so much more.

Vélo; Bicycle Culture and Design

by Gestalten   2010   235 pages

Bicycles can get you from point A to point B, but they can also be a form of art. This German book celebrates everything artistic about the vélo. Drool worthy pictures of dreamy bikes of every kind adorn the pages. It is organized by kinds of bikes, so, for example, the profile of the bike messengers and their bikes are altogether. Every page and type of bike is accompanied by a short description. Some of the most novel and unique bikes out now are pictured here in this book, such as the bamboo bike, and the Vanmoof bike, which Patrick Tier had on display for awhile in his clothing store Citizen in Estevan village. The photos also profile many different people whose work involves bicycles - photographers, artists, illustrators, builders, and designers. An excellent coffee table book to which version 2.0 is being released soon.

Pedaling Revolution; How Cyclists are Changing American Cities

by Jeff Mapes   2009   288 pages  

Written by a reporter with Portland’s newspaper The Oregonian, this book juxtaposes cycling in utopic Amsterdam with the US. The debate over whether cars or bicycles are safer consumes a chapter, as does the history of the political movement of cycling in the States. There is a good chapter devoted to pedaling in New York, something I have yet to do. The last chapter focuses on getting kids and students to cycle more, something to which I can relate, as my daughter just recently graduated from her tiny 16” bike to her much bigger 20”. Mapes visits a school on Earth Day and tags along for the ride to see how cycling is being embraced by the next generation. In know in Victoria, there are a host of schools with specialized bike programs (more on bikes in schools in a later blog).

The Ride Journal

Published by Own It!    2010 – current    195 pages

Not a book to read, but not a magazine either. I simply had to include the Ride Journal, as the stories are written by everyday people. It is a UK publication, so the majority of submissions are from there, but anyone can submit a short story. The stories themselves are inspiring, heart-wrenching, moving, and are guaranteed to please. I’ll never forget the description of a wipeout by a commuting cyclist in London traffic (“In this version of scissors, paper, stone, iron and cement shattered calcium and enamel” Roy Barker, 32 Tooth, The Ride Journal, Issue 2). But do not simply read the Journal for the stories, it’s the artwork as well that is just as good. Ilovedust has done many of the covers, and I am always careful not to dent or damage them, because they are just so awesome. Past issues are available to download.

Leave us a comment and tell us what you are reading this summer?

Great Summer Bike Reads by Gabe Levesque.

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