The Art of Cycling: A Guide to Bicycling in 21st-Century America Paperback – Oct 1 2006
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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.”
"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
From the Back Cover
Bask in it, appreciate it, love it.
The Art of Cycling empowers readers with the big picture of riding a bicycle in Americaand gives cyclists useful insights to consider while pedaling the next commute, grocery run, or training ride. Riding a bike will never be the same.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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).