Commute by Bicycle – Book Review

The Bicycle Commuter’s Handbook* by Robert Hurst would make thoughtful gift for someone contemplating commuting by bicycle. This pocket/purse size book packs a lot of useful information into its 97 pages. However, an urban rider with 5-8 years of experience would enjoy this book as an entertaining refresher with some perhaps new ideas.

The included sections are “Equipment and Clothing,” “Preparation,” “The Ride,” “At Work,” and “Routine Maintenance.”

“Preparation” has some good thoughts on route planning based on different skills and riding preferences. Among tips that would be evident to an experienced rider but valuable to a newcomer is the observation that the most important ingredient for a bicycle friendly street is the attitude of the people who use it. Street features the author recommends avoiding include high traffic speeds, on-street parking, time-sapping traffic signals, oblivious pedestrians, interstate entrance/exit ramps, high schools(!), damaged road surfaces, and bad attitude or “street vibe.”Bicycle Commuter's Handbook 2013

Again for the prospective commuter, “The Ride” section has a number of tips to avoid trouble – better to read about them and be prepared rather than to discover that, for example, longitudinal cracks can get you in trouble.

One not so obvious observation in the “At Work” section is the attitude about cycling and cyclists commonly held by one’s non-cycling co-workers, subordinates, and supervisors. While the experienced cyclist already will have experienced this phenomenon, it might be “news” to the budding commuter the first time she clumps into the office in helmet with a messenger bag. The author notes that the USA never had a bicycle commuter culture, so forewarned is forearmed.

One helpful section covers diagnosing (and correcting) bicycle fit issues by the nature of the pain experienced. This and other straightforward bicycle fit tips are a break from what one might have read in articles that are more “technical.”

Overall, this is a nice little book – well written and well organized.

_ _ _ _ _
*Hurst, Robert, The Bicycle Commuter’s Handbook, (Guilford, CT), 2013, ISBN 978-0-7627-8468-4, US$12.95.

3 Comments

Filed under Bike Tech, Comings and Goings

3 responses to “Commute by Bicycle – Book Review

  1. Jason

    Nice little review. But it’s not true that the US never had a bicycle culture. In the late nineteenth century there were lots of great bicycle clubs in the US. The first to form was the Boston Bicycle Club in 1878. In New York City, each ethnic group had it’s own cycling club – Poles, Italians, Japanese, even Mongolian. This from the Times of 1895:

    “The Cycle Club of Brooklyn has already gone into history because of its prosperity and increasing growth during the Winter, its prettiest and most charming of all Brooklyn’s pretty and charming young women; the best of her young men; the most esteemed heads of families and attractive matrons; because of its costume rides, and its sociable teas, champion polo and football team, and because of its nice little merry-go-round organ, to the music of whose tuneful airs its members swing gaily around the ring morning, noon, and night.”

    I wonder if Albany had a club like this. Buffalo did.

  2. Jason

    Good point. But it’s also not true that the USA never had a bicycle commuter culture. Many 19th century bicycle members used their bikes to commute.

    That said, the sentence “The USA never had a bicycle commuter culture” can be read in at least two different ways. One one reading, the sentence is false if there is an American cultural movement in which bicycle commuting predominates. On another reading, it is false only if that culture pervades the national culture. So on one reading it is true, on another it is false.

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