Reading in gear

Bicycle Diaries
by David Byrne
Viking Adult, $25.95, hardcover, 320 pp.

He of Talking Heads fame, it turns out, packs his bicycle when he travels, and his book is part travelogue, part cycling advocacy, part David Byrne's reflections on the world. Byrne includes Detroit in his "American Cities" chapter — Berlin, Istanbul and London are among the cities that got their own chapters — and it's fun to know that he rode our streets even if his observations are a bit tiresome for those of us who live here: "As I leave downtown, I find myself riding first through what seems to be the remains of a ghetto, now overgrown and returning to the earth: vast vacant lots, covered over with grasses and some filled with rubble." He should come back and check out the new greenways! 

Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities
by Jeffrey Mapes
Oregon State University, $19.95, paperback, 288 pp. 

As a bike commuter to his job as a political reporter, Mapes started noticing how his hometown of Portland, Ore., was doing small projects that improved his ride: a new lane on a bridge, marked lanes, etc. Like a good reporter, he dug in and found Portland and other American cities were part of a global phenomenon that has changed — improved, he'd say — life around the world as people embrace two-wheeled transportation. He has entertaining and educational accounts of his meetings with cycling advocates, congressmen and the guy who recently brought the bike porn film festival to Detroit. 

The Art of Cycling: A Guide to Bicycling in 21st Century America
by Robert Hurst
Falcon, $14.95, paperback, 288 pp.

Authored by a bike messenger, this sassy yet practical guide to riding covers everything from the early history of biking to what you can expect to encounter riding to work today. An important section: "The Door Zone," where Hurst describes how riders can anticipate and avoid getting clobbered by drivers opening car doors after they've parallel parked along roadways. It's great for cyclists but even better for motorists who may be reminded just who is sharing the roads with them by reading this work.

Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling
by Bike Snob NYC
Chronicle Books, $16.95, hardcover, 208 pp. 

From the anonymity of his website,, the Bike Snob has been satirizing and heralding what's known as "bike culture" for three years. Now outed as Eben Weiss, a former bike messenger, the Snob has published his musings, advice, insight and opinions in a quirky little manual. He explains the various subsets of cyclers — such as the roadies, mountain bikers, cyclocrossers, triathletes, urban cyclists, messengers, "retro grouches," "righteous cyclists," lone wolves and contraption captains — along with their likability and compatibility with other cyclists in a Cosmo-magazine-quiz style. And he includes the obligatory advice on what to wear in what conditions, and how to make basic adjustments to your bike. He also explains that no, like other inanimate objects, bicycles don't really have souls.

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