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The Art of Cycling: A Guide to Bicycling in 21st-Century America [Paperback]

Robert Hurst , Marla Streb

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2006
Covering much more than just riding a bike in traffic, author Robert Hurst paints, in uncanny detail, the challenges, strategies, and art of riding a bike on America's modern streets and roadways. The Art of Cycling dismantles the bicycling experience and slides it under the microscope, piece by piece. Its primary concern is safety, but this book goes well beyond the usual tips and how-to, diving in to the realms of history, psychology, sociology, and economics. It empowers readers with the Big Picture of riding a bicycle in America -- and gives cyclists useful insights to consider while pedaling the next commute, grocery run, or training ride.


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Review

“While there are thousands of books on bicycling, this is the best book I’ve come across for offering lots of hard-earned, practical advice for staying alive. Happily, Hurst is a skilled writer with a passion for history, so he weaves a tale that gives historical and even philosophical perspective in a manner I found totally engaging. . . . [A] gem of a book.”
Huffington Post

"This empowering cycling book should come in the glove box of every new car sold" -- Marla Streb, World Champion Downhill Mountain Bike Racer
 
"While it's hard to imagine a book about [urban] cycling could fill over 250 pages, let alone strive to be a near masterpiece, that's just what The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons from the Street, and all-encompassing how-to book by veteran bicycling messenger Robert Hurst, has accomplished."

"With a spot-on foreword written by Luna downhiller Marla Streb and a detailed index of footnotes and bibliography, Hurst has compiled a cerebral but hip manifesto for [urban] cyclists looking to coexist in a system that has left them to fend for their lives."  -- VeloNews, Journal of Competitive Cycling
 
"I would like to highly recommend the book "The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons from the Street" by Robert Hurst. Not only is it delightfully written (with a sense of humour and a relaxed style) and absorbing ("just a second, dear, I'll take out the trash after I read about curbs"), but it's *dead on*. I've been riding my whole life, never having owned a car, to get everywhere from school to grocery shopping to Canada. And he's *right*. Katherine Stange, Providence, RI (Amazon review)

"There are other books about cycling that are worth reading (such as Effective Cycling by John Forester) but I think this one is the best of the bunch." -
Cliff Heegel (Memphis, TN)

"The best "how to" cycling book out there. I've bought several copies for myself, strategically placed to rarely be far from one. Having ridden in cities for over 40 years, I still found every page, infact almost every paragraph contained a pearl. Pros and cons of controvertial issues are presented, and with excellent references, making the author's recommendations so much more authoritative." -
Hansel de Sousa (Bethlehem, PA)

From the Back Cover

Road rash is a precious gift.
Road rash is your friend.
Bask in it, appreciate it, love it.
Above all, learn from it.
Covering much more than just riding a bike in traffic, author Robert Hurst paints, in uncanny detail, the challenges, strategies, and art of riding a bike on America’s streets and roadways. His primary concern is safety, but he goes well beyond the usual tips and how-to, diving into the realms of history, psychology, sociology, and economics.
The Art of Cycling empowers readers with the big picture of riding a bicycle in America—and gives cyclists useful insights to consider while pedaling the next commute, grocery run, or training ride. Riding a bike will never be the same.



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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Artful yes, but not quite as much cycling as I'd hoped July 2 2007
By Allan Bedford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I bought this book recently while waiting for a new bike to arrive that I'd ordered online. I wanted to get into the cycling mood before my new ride arrived, though I was already geared up for the topic. So I really really wanted to like this book. I wanted to love it. And as close as it came, it just fell a bit short.

As a commuting cyclist I felt this was the perfect book for me. It's packed with suggestions, tips and methods of cycling in urban and suburban environments that are meant to keep you safe and secure in the insanity of traffic you face daily. And those parts of the book are great... the parts about cycling that is. But getting to those parts takes some patience. Nearly the first 50 pages are a lead up to actually discussing cycling. They are sort of a short history of civil engineering, how inner cities and the suburbs developed, and how evil roads and cars can be. While that stuff is all well and good, it could have been a bit shorter or perhaps woven in with more of the on-topic material.

The author's joy and enthusiasm for cyling are obvious though, in the rest of the book. I feel as though he strives to stand up for the rights of cyclists (and encourage them to do the same for themselves) but he doesn't take a vigilante tone in doing so. And I appreciated that, because I think it makes it easier to follow his suggestions. They feel as though they're coming from a friend, rather than a fanatic.

So as much as I wanted to give this book 5 stars, I'm only going to give it 4. I'd likely give it 4 1/2 if that were an option. Sadly, it's not. But I do encourage riders of all skill levels (especially those starting out in the commuting lifestyle) to check out this really good book.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great for beginning urban commuters June 11 2008
By Benjamin E. Stevens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is best for someone about to take up urban bicycle commuting. (With gas prices going up, I assume that this target audience is growing.) Overall, the book has the feel of a relaxed instructor going over the basics with a class of beginners. Somehow, Hurst manages to cram a lot of information--no fluff--into 250 pages without being boring.

An experienced rider will find little new information beyond the historical stuff. The historical sections are nice for those interested in understanding the bigger picture of cycling in the United States. Some may yawn, but it is powerful information worth knowing and pondering.

The discussions about bike culture (and various subcultures) are interesting and amusing. Hurst seems to promote bike culture while asking the reader to take it lightly.

My only peeve: I do not understand why the word "Urban" was removed from the title. The book dedicates only about two pages to suburban riding and completely neglects country cycling. As a former country commuter, I can attest that the navigation of old highways and byways has its own distinct challenges and priorities. There is nothing inherently wrong with the information in the book; I simply feel that the word "Urban" should still be in the title (at least until in-depth non-urban material is eventually added).
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good info, but geared more toward cycling as a sport Aug. 5 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book gives a good overview of bicycle commuting for the beginner. It starts with the history of bicycles, as well as some history on America's transportation infrastructure. I felt that the real "meat" of the book was in chapter 3, where it dealt with issues you may encounter while cycling with traffic. What I feel is really worth mentioning is that the author does not take a strict vehicular cycling stance. He states that riding in traffic, as a vehicle, is best, but recognizes that there are times when you can and should make an exception, such as getting off your bike and crossing like a pedestrian rather than making a vehicular left turn on busy streets.

One gripe is that the book seems written more for people on road bikes, in a bent-over position, going at racing speeds, rather than the relaxed cyclist riding an upright commuter. He says at least 3 times that an upright riding position is for beginners, and that as you get more experience, you will naturally gravitate toward the more bent over position. I think that everyone should ride the style of bike that they prefer. If you want to bend over and go fast, do that. If you want to sit upright and go slower, do that. But he seems to feel that the *only* way to cycle is on a bent-over road bike, and if you prefer anything else, then you obviously don't know what you're doing. During a brief overview on the helmet controversy, the author refers to the fact that CPSC approval means that helmets are certified to protect your head at a 14 mph impact. He then goes on to say, "Obviously, CPSC's testing conditions are exceeded regularly by any decent cyclist on the way to the grocery store."

I say, what's the hurry? If you want to treat every single cycling trip as a race, that's your business, but it's certainly not the way every single person wants to ride. I live three miles from work, and about 2 miles from many of my errands, so I see no reason not go at a relaxed pace. I realize that the book was trying to appeal to a large audience, and the vast majority of American cyclists seem to see bicycling as an extreme sport. I prefer to see it as a method of transportation.

Still, I think this book could be worth reading. In addition to the sections I mentioned above, there are chapters on basic bike maintenance as well as information on equipment. So I will say that I recommend this book (but with reservations) for commuters looking for good basic information and an overview of some important issues.
56 of 73 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst book on cycling ever. Really? Really. Jan. 14 2010
By John Cork - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Okay, I love cycling. I average between 60 to 100 miles a week. I don't race. I don't train. I ride mostly in the Los Angeles area. I go to the doctor, the store, the post office. meetings. I am an urban cyclist. And when I talk to my fellow drivers, many tell me how much they would love to get on a bike, but with the traffic they are just too afraid. Robert Hurst, author of "The Art of Cycling" likes that these people are too afraid to cycle. He wants you to be too afraid to cycle. There is nary more than a passing mention of the joy of cycling in here. What Robert wants to tell everyone is that cycling is dangerous, deadly and that you will get hurt, badly, and that if you do, you are lucky. I'm not joking. It is all disguised within the book, because Robert first gives us a nice potted history of cycling, motoring and urban growth patterns in the 20th century. Then he gives his "invocation," where he says it is our duty to show others how "easy it is" to ride in the city. Then he states, "Ride with fear and joy." What follows for the next 200-plus pages is a whole lot of fear. He starts by telling us that our streets are really not suitable for riding, that we have bad pavement, potholes, cracks, seams and waves. His advice: find a route, memorize it, and don't vary from it because if you do, you are taking your life in your hands. Scared yet? Oh, it gets better. Next, Hurst wants to tell you how to ride your bike in the city. His first pronouncement is that if you ride with the traffic laws, you can expect "a few trips to the MRI room." Great! What rules are we supposed to follow? Hard to say. Maybe blow through Stop signs (a common activity for cyclists at empty 4-ways), but mostly, he implores riders to just ride scared. No driver is predictable. And if they hit you, it is probably your fault. He announces that you will get "doored" (have a car door open into you as you ride). You will get hit. You will be injured. A lot of his ultimate advice is basic city cycling technique, but it is buried under a mountain of fear-mongering. Slowly, part of Hurst's problems come into focus. The later you get into the book, you get a better idea of the chip on his shoulder. He rants against "strict" vehicular cycling (a term I didn't really know before reading this book)--that is cycling as traffic in the middle of the lane, stop at ever sign, signal like a car without blinkers. I have no stake in with the vehicular cyclists. But Hurst also begins poking at the notion that cyclists should be visible to drivers. He argues that you can't count on visibility with reflective vests, lights, etc. And here is where things really go off the rails. You can literally see where either the publisher or someone said, "Robert, old boy, you can't go around recommending that people cycle at night, in the city, with no lights on their bikes." But, in fact he does. "Riding at night without lights is not only possible, it can also be a very instructive drill." Oh! One might learn a great deal by performing brain surgery on yourself, too! He decries "the alter of Visibility". Mr, Hurst, cars hit things they don't see. Ride to be seen. Light up your bike and body at night. Riding without lights is not a good idea for anyone. Of course, at the end of his ode to light-less riding, he states that he was only speaking theoretically and "the author must insist" on proper lighting. I think by "author" he means "the publisher" or "the editor". He goes on to detail the dangers of riding with fellow cyclists ("highly experienced cyclists," he snobbishly states, "will express a preference for riding alone.") Then comes Chapter 4. This chapter is all about bicycle injury stats! Ready to ride now? Maybe you should know that "Clearly the pain and danger of cycling has been underrepresented in many statistical surveys." Whee! Oh, he claims that all injury stats are pretty bogus, and waxes poetically about the likelihood of getting road rash, a broken collar bone and severe head injuries. Think I'm joking? "Road rash is a precious gift. Road rash is your friend. Bask in it, appreciate it, love it." You can't make this stuff up. His point is that you will be a safer cyclist after planting your face on the pavement, going to the ER or just getting a square meter of skin rubbed off your body. Or maybe you will just quit before you fall. Because, according to Hurst, you will fall, and get hurt. He has more good news: that helmet you wear, it's junk. If I had to bet, I'd bet Hurst doesn't use one. He devotes a few pages to "the helmet controversy" initially painting it as bike riders thinking that their helmets will somehow protect them from a 60 mph impact with a Ford F150. He begrudgingly admits that helmets were made to protect cyclists heads from impacts in the 10 to 15 mph range (this being the actual maximum speed of the vast majority of cyclist falls). But he's right there to let you know that there could be accidents where the helmet could do more damage than good, one where the helmet gets caught on a bumper and you head gets twisted. Oh-kaaay. This is like the extremely rare group of accidents in a car where the seatbelt does more injury to the occupant than the impact would have. Sure, there is a miniscule chance of having that accident, but it is about as good as winning the lottery. Again, he says "wear a helmet" with the someone-told-me-to-say-this tone of the scolded child. Ready for more good news? Hurst puts in a couple of pages listing all the poisons in car emissions, then details special ways for cyclists to breathe. I'm not joking. He asks the question, "does air pollution cancel the health benefits of cycling?" His "joy of cycling" answer? "Who knows?" This is a quote, folks. Yes, he does go on to state that he thinks its better to ride, but by this point (page 197), he has either scared his readers or pissed them off or both. He makes swipes at biking clothes. He rails against panniers (bags that attach to racks on the front or back of a bike), even citing "anti-pannier" sentiment. Okay, you've read my rant. Here's my response to the book: Cycling is great fun. Wear a helmet. Wear bright, reflective clothes. If you might be out anywhere near dark, have good lights in front and back and if possible clipped to you and your helmet. Signal to drivers. They appreciate it. Respect others on the road as you would want them to respect you. Pay attention when you ride. But ride. Explore. You've never seen a place the way you will see it on a bike. It is a wonderful, visceral experience. There is no right or wrong bike: 27 speed or fixed gear or BMX--just ride. I didn't mention Hurst and his long rant on the lack of safety of bike paths (which he ultimately supports, in a way), but use these. Get your kids out on them. Go slow before you go fast. But feel the wind on your face. Cycling is really not as dangerous as Hurst wants you to believe. It is a joy, and fear is not and should not be the motivation for being a safe cyclist. Respect is the key for safety. Cyclists get enough uninformed fear-mongering from non-cyclists. We don't need it from a supposed advocate. One last warning: Do not get this book for a beginning cyclist! It could easily paralyze them from ever riding again. This book is a real shame.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for a Commuter July 6 2008
By tarnished - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a must for a commuter! He discusses the pros and cons of both the vehicular and invisible styles of riding. It's frankly a good idea to mix them. Drivers just really don't see you, so if you ride visibly, but make decisions based on the fact they don't see you; you are safer in the long run. There is a bit of politics in the beginning, but spend a year riding in city traffic during rush hour and you'll understand why he feels the way he does.

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