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Book Review: It’s All About The Bike

Book Review: It’s All About The Bike

If you’re entranced by the stories behind bicycle components or the history of bicycles, have I got a book to recommend to you:

I’ve just finished reading the Kindle edition of Robert Penn’s “It’s All About The Bike“, in which he had a bespoke bicycle made and traveled to each of the factories and workshops where the components were manufactured. I’ll admit, I skim-read some of the parts about parts, and the bits about bicycle races were not for me – but the anecdotes describing the history of bicycle design kept me coming back for more. The lyrical passage in which he describes watching a legendary master at work lacing and truing a bicycle wheel is worth the price of admission all by itself:

“I’ve seen skilful bike mechanics work their magic and I had anticipated the visual pleasure. I hadn’t expected the wheel-building process to be an aural feats too. The metallic brush of the spokes being gathered in hand, the ting of a spoke as the elbow dropped into the flange, the scuffle of the nipples moving on the workbench, the whirr of the wrench fastening the nipples, the swish of the loosely suspended hub flopping about. Ping, ding, tinkle, chink, clink, jangle — as Gravy worked in silence the room was humming with the century-old melody of a bicycle wheel being made.”

I definitely feel like I have a much greater appreciation for the technical side of cycling and a deeper knowledge of bicycling history as a result of reading this book. If you’re a gearhead or a history buff, I think you’ll enjoy it too.
I’d actually suggest reading the hard copy of this, if you can. Due to the typesetting quirks of the electronic edition, I often would find myself in the middle of a paragraph before I realized that he was directly quoting the person he was conversing with. It’s incredibly annoying to have the flow of the story be interrupted by such a minor technical detail.
PS: This post is part of our series for the LGRAB 2011 Summer Games! This is a “read a book about cycling” post.

Google Books & a 1961 English maintenance manual

Google Books & a 1961 English maintenance manual

Look what is posted on Google Books! I have a hardcopy version I bought through eBay (from a UK seller), and while looking for more information about its London-based publisher I found the Google Books listing. My copy is where the photos and scans in this post came from. There is no version for sale on Google Books *yet*, but once that becomes fully functional, it will be. It looks like there will also be links allowing you to find it (and other books) in your local library or to buy copies for sale.  

Publisher’s information from the back cover.

What a cool way to do the table of contents!

Incidentally, scanning the book on my flatbed scanner gives a bright blue instead of the red seen by the eye and camera – which must be a clue as to which ink was used for printing, although I can’t find anything online that explains the effect. I’m wondering whether it’s one of the lead-containing inks that got vintage children’s books relegated to collectible status under the new CPSIA regulations in the US. Just in case, I’m storing it way out of reach of my kids, and washed my hands well after handling it.

Scanned figure from inside back cover. Not only does the red ink scan as blue, but the paper itself has a blue tint when scanned, which you can still see along the fold after colour-adjusting the image for readability.

Here’s the review I wrote on Google Books:

I have an original copy of this booklet, which is clearly written and has illustrations throughout. It was designed to be a quick reference, carried in the bicycle saddlebag, and it goes through common issues and how to fix them for all parts of the bicycle. If you own an English-made roadster-style bicycle of the period – or a modern bicycle manufactured with the English roadster as its model – you’ll probably find this extremely helpful.

Typical of the layout of the interior pages.
These pages show the entire entries for The Pedal and The Chain.

I wonder what other vintage bicycle treasures are lurking in Google’s database?