Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review: Bike SnobNYC's Book

Alas, it's getting cold and my blog is falling to the wayside just like my bike riding. (I'm a wuss). I'm coming up with creative ways to keep blogging, although bicycle obsession clearly sustains bloggerdom. I recently read BikeSnob's book, which was fun and entertaining, although the "how-to" theme was not at all what I expected. First of all, BikeSnob's book is pretty, and I mean pretty in "I'm obsessed with letterpress stationery and tiny birds" kind of way. Check out all the cool accents and tiny bike details. My favorite is the aerial view of stick figure cyclists with different handlebars:

In terms of content, I expected BikeSnob's book to rehash some of his greatest past times and coin phrases, i.e. knuckle tattoos, ridiculous fixed gear accessories, "salmoning," and of course: AYHSMB (short for: All You Haters Suck My Balls). There were references to these things in his book, but the format was mostly a mock instruction guide to would-be cyclists. BikeSnob, ever the satirist, begins the book by referencing the Amish's denunciation of modern technology and he goes (literally) through Queens to the Rockaways, hoping to relive a New York Times article about cycling from the late 1890s.

Aside from his erratic analogies, I was struck by his explanation of what takes a bicycle a Truly Great Invention:

"A bicycle is a Truly Great Invention because it is part of the entire range of human existence, from frivolity to necessity."

Pause. I agree, of course, that the bicycle is a Truly Great Invention. But what really makes it that? Is it that some people spend thousands of dollars on the lightest carbon fiber components and others use their rickety old Schwinn to get to work? I would say: yes and no. I think BikeSnob's point is valid - the bicycle is a beautiful machine in its simplicity and its accessibility - almost everyone can learn to ride a bike. However, as far as covering the range from frivolity to necessity - that isn't what makes a bike super cool. Cars do that too - some people trick out their cars just like some people trick out their bikes and all us cyclists (as BikeSnob would say) would argue that cars are NOT a Truly Great Invention. What makes a bike a Truly Great Invention is what BikeSnob addresses shortly thereafter when he says a bike can "give you a feeling of freedom" and provide you with a "more rewarding life." It's a profound statement for the BikeSnob, but it's true.

Even more surprising than BikeSnob's roundabout discussion of the Amish was his reference of a Christian parable. I felt like I was back in CCD class when he spoke of "Footprints in the Sand," which is funny because BikeSnob's super Jewish name is Eben Weiss. His metaphor in this case was charming: instead of Jesus (his bike) following him around helping him out of a jam, he follows Jesus (in this case, cycling) around.

For all the snarky comments on his blog, BikeSnob's book was an homage to cycling and a guide to bicycling for beginners, including; the different types of cyclists (I still think about his 'Lone Wolf' description) and tips on bicycle maintenance. His love/obsession/career of cycling oozes out of every parable and he expresses sentiments that many cyclists would have to 'cheers' to, including the following:

"You can depend on cycling in a way you can depend on little else."

You got that right, BikeSnob.


  1. Your review put a smile on me. Glad you liked all the design accents I put into the bike snob book.

    I have a new book/journal with same type of accents coming out on Chronicle soon. I'd be stoked if you review it.,book-info/store,books/products_id,9289/


  2. I read your article..I like it..Thanks