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It's All about the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheelsby Robert Penn
If you're not already enchanted by the idea of two-wheeled adventure, you will be by the time you finish It's All about the Bike. Lifelong cycling enthusiast Robert Penn recounts his quest to build the perfect bike in this funny, engaging, and informative book.
Synopses & Reviews
The bicycle is one of mankind's greatest inventions — and the most popular form of transport in history. Robert Penn has ridden one most days of his adult life. In his late 20s, he pedaled around the world. Yet, like cyclists everywhere, the utilitarian bikes he currently owns don't even hint at this devotion. Robert needs a new bike, a customized machine that reflects how he feels when he's riding it — like an ordinary man touching the gods. It's All about the Bike is the story of a journey to design and build a dream bike. En route, Robert explores the culture, science and history of the bicycle. From Stoke in his native UK, where an artisan hand builds his frame, to California, home of the mountain bike, where Robert tracks down the perfect wheels, via Portland, Milan, and back to the UK to Coventry (birthplace of the modern bicycle, natch), this is the narrative of our love affair with cycling.
It's All about the Bike is, like Penn's dream bike, a tale that's greater than the sum of its parts — but those parts are nothing to sneeze at. His components set the standard in reliability, craftsmanship and beauty. A cheerful and charming tour guide, Penn tells how the bicycle has changed the course of human history, from the invention of the "people's nag" to the bike's role in the emancipation of women, and from the engineering marvel of the tangent-spoked wheel to the enduring allure of the Tour de France. It's the story of why we ride, and why this simple machine remains central to life today.
"Wales resident Penn, a contributor to Conde Nast Traveler and various bicycle publications, has traveled 25,000 miles on a bicycle, and his expertise is evident. Seeking 'craftsmanship, not technology,' he met with top bike mechanics in order to customize an ergonomically efficient dream machine: 'I want a bike that shows my appreciation of the tradition, lore and beauty of bicycles.' Coasting past the large manufacturers who service the cycling masses, he visited the U.K.'s few remaining artisan frame builders, where he analyzed the angles of frame geometry: 'Along with the immaculate fit and the right tubing material, geometry is an intrinsic part of buying a bespoke bicycle.' As he writes about handlebars, gears, wheels, and saddles, each component gets a chapter, and the reader feels Penn's enthusiasm at seeing his steed assembled. Along the way, he looks back at bike history, beginning with the 1817 Draisine, propelled by paddling one's feet along the ground. Saddles were a concern to the conservative elements of Victorian society: 'That bike riding might be sexually stimulating to women was a real worry.' These pages are a delight, packed with facts, informative illustrations and two-wheeled tales, they map a path into the heart of cycling culture. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"[A] gem of a book." Economist
"Robert Penn relates his quixotic quest to procure the perfect bicycle with authority and humor, infusing his fluent narrative with thoughtful and provocative digressions that invoke technology, ergonomics, history, and social ideals. He richly deserves his $5,000 'dream machine.'" David V. Herlihy, author of Bicycle: A History and The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance
“The pages overflow with pioneers, mavericks and geniuses — certainly, it is hard to imagine anyone who reads this book being able to buy a bike ‘off the peg’ again." Observer (UK)
“[Penn] writes with authority, humour and refreshing candour...A celebration of craftsmanship over technology and of a bygone era when things were built to last...If Penn is to be believed, we are entering a golden age of cycling, when it really will be all about the bike once more.” Sunday Telegraph (UK)
“I’ve just spent a week pedalling slowly....with a copy of Penn's zealous eulogy in my pannier. His infectious admiration for the exhilarating sociability of cycling, coupled with reverence for quality craftsmanship, made highly engaging company...appreciate the wit and enthusiasm of this unusual odyssey.” Independent (UK)
“Warning: do not even casually flick through this book if you have promised your significant other that you will not be cluttering up the garage/shed/landing/bedroom with any more bloody bike...Penn uses his own personal mission as a peg on which to hang a fascinating history of two-wheeled travel.” Guardian Bike Blog (UK)
"The author’s ability to describe the joys of bicycling — the space for thought that the rhythm creates, the freedom of swooping down a hill, the satisfaction of having pedaled to the top — is one of the book’s strengths, along with anecdotes of his experiences cycling around the world years earlier. If you don’t long for your own bike at the end of this book, you will at least never look at one the same way again." Kirkus
Robert Penn has saddled up nearly every day of his adult life. He rides to get to work, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, and to stay sane. Hes no Sunday pedal pusher. So when the time came for a new bike, he decided to pull out all the stops and build his dream machine.
Its All About the Bike follows Penns journey, but this book is more than the story of his hunt for two-wheeled perfection. En route, Penn brilliantly explores the culture, science, and history of the bicycle. From the United Kingdom to California, via Portland, Milan, and points in between, his trek follows the serpentine path of our love affair with cycling. On the way to building the perfect bike, Robert Penn brilliantly explains why we ride.
Robert Penn has saddled up nearly every day of his adult life. In his late twenties, he pedaled 25,000 miles around the world. Today he rides to get to work, sometimes for work, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, and to skip bath time with his kids. He's no Sunday pedal pusher. So when the time came for a new bike, he decided to pull out all the stops. He would build his dream bike, the bike he would ride for the rest of his life; a customized machine that reflects the joy of cycling.
It's All About the Bike follows Penn's journey, but this book is more than the story of his hunt for two-wheel perfection. En route, Penn brilliantly explores the culture, science, and history of the bicycle. From artisanal frame shops in the United Kingdom to California, where he finds the perfect wheels, via Portland, Milan, and points in between, his trek follows the serpentine path of our love affair with cycling. It explains why we ride.
It's All About the Bike is, like Penn's dream bike, a tale greater than the sum of its parts. An enthusiastic and charming tour guide, Penn uses each component of the bike as a starting point for illuminating excursions into the rich history of cycling. Just like a long ride on a lovely day, It's All About the Bike is pure joy- enriching, exhilarating, and unforgettable.
Robert Penn has worked as a lawyer, waiter, contractor, DJ, photographer, and journalist-and biked to every single job. He writes for the Financial Times, the Observer, and Condé Nast Traveler, as well as a host of cycling publications. Penn lives in Wales with his wife and three children.
Praise from the UK for It's All About the Bike:
"[A] gem of a book." -Economist
About the Author
Robert Penn has worked as a lawyer, waiter, contractor, DJ, photographer, and journalist-and biked to every single job. He writes for the Financial Times, the Observer, and Conde Nast Traveler, as well as a host of cycling publications. Penn lives in Wales with his wife and three children.
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