The Practical Cyclist
This short nonfiction book aims to energize and inspire people to become bicyclists. Haines’ main arguments for it include saving money, not polluting the environment, and improving your health. He does not insist that you completely give up your car, or go completely granola. Rather, he says that the benefits are just nice side effects of having fun while biking. The Practical Cyclist is divided up into ten sections: the first three are an introduction and exhortation to biking; the following four chapters are about the nuts and bolts of biking; and the final three are advice about where and how to bike now that the actual bicycle has been sorted out. The narrative is peppered with little jokes and one liners.
This book has been recommended by Mother Earth News.
I enjoyed this book overall. It certainly accomplished it’s goal: I took at least one bike ride before I even finished reading. Of course, I’m not a very hard sell. I’ve always loved biking, and far prefer it over walking. I own a single speed, coaster brake cruiser-style bike. I try to bike to work during the spring and summer, but am frequently thwarted by my bad habit of sleeping in.
Haines’ writing is smooth and conversational. His jokes were sometimes funny and often groan-worthy. The author reminded me of an older family member that you might go to for advice. He certainly had the expertise necessary to write this; he’s been riding for over twenty years. The organization of the book was adequate, although it did spend too much time persuading readers to ride. I thought those parts could have been summed up by simply saying “It’s fun!” After all, readers of this book are already more likely to take a bike ride based on the title and their interest in it.
The lack of pictures or simple diagrams was the biggest weakness of the book. Although Haines repeatedly emphasized that this book was not a how-to manual, he did spend a bit of time describing how to take off tires and the mechanics of gears, among other things. If nothing else, I would have liked a visual glossary to accompany the text. After all, the book is geared towards new riders without much experience with bicycles. This population is unlikely to be familiar with the specialized terms and parts of bicycles.
I would recommend this book to other nonfiction readers that are looking for a hobby or fitness routine.