Bike Snob – Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling, by Bike Snob NYC
(Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2010) First let me say that the freedom and affordability for everyone to blog as they please have caused some pretty ghastly stuff to be published on-line. Pokings-about in the primal ooze of cognition in bad grammar – not nice stuff, not fit to be read. I am no exception, I am frequently tempted to let my nastiest thoughts get out and write what ought not to be expressed. (Thankfully, you can always edit it out the next day.) So I was a bit taken aback when I realised that this cute little book had been written by a blogger (www.bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com). However, it is actually very good; witty, astute observations about cycling and cyclists, and the motorists who try to kill them. Bike Snob knows his Sociology theory all right.
Bike Snob, a.k.a. Eben Weiss, explains the basics about bikes and why people want to ride them, something that I, as an absolute beginner, found very useful. He includes the basic terminology, without making it sound like IKEA assembly instructions in Japanese. I laughed out loud at his very apt and well-observed descriptions of types of cyclists, in other words, “velo-taxonomy”, from The Roadie, to the Beautiful Godzilla, to The Lone Wolf (me!). It was a relief to discover I did not stick out like a sore thumb after all – I am a sore thumb by definition, in biking terms. He has sensible advice, like having fenders, brakes and lights on your bike, wearing a helmet, and expecting bad weather and accidents. Also, how to mind your manners with other cyclists, such as avoiding the “L” word (Lance Armstrong). Funny that, since Lance Armstrong endorses the book in a nicely self-deprecating way on the back cover. He prefaces each chapter with a quote from a famous person. I thought they were real until he quoted Charles Manson – “I’m the paté on the universal cracker…”?!
The book is beautifully designed in Edwardian graphics style in gold and black, with illustrations by Christopher Koller, and removable Bike Snob stickers. Even the page edges are decorated with patterns of bike tracks and chains. There is an insert of photos of actual good and not so good (pretentious, over-done, unridden) bikes, following on Bike Snob’s philosophy of keeping things real. If you are going to go counter to the on-line trend, then do so with conviction and make your paper product as nice to touch and hold as this one.
Weiss has a succinct and direct writing style, which allows him to come up with plain ol’ truths like this one: “There’s a reason you don’t see cyclists hanging out at White Castle, and it’s not because they’re health nuts. It’s because cycling and eating White Castle will make you want to throw up.” OK. Got it. The biggest insights I gained were; expect to have your bike stolen at some point, and expect to fall off. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve frequently done the latter, so I expect the former will follow in due course. Reading this book is hugely entertaining, and would be even for non-cyclists, and I recommend it highly.
Eben Weiss started the Bike Snob NYC blog in 2007. A former bike messenger and frequent bicycle commuter and racer, he both celebrated and skewered the world of cycling with an acerbic wit that soon made him one of the most popular bloggers in cycling. In 2012 he published “The Enlightened Cyclist” and “Bike Snob Abroad” in 2013. He is a columnist for “Bicycling”, the world’s leading cycling magazine, and he has been published and profiled in numerous publications, including the “New York Times” and “Outside”. He lives in New York City with his wife and son.