The Bike Snob book! As noted in a previous post, Bike Snob has authored a blog by the same name for many a year. I have been a fan for four years or so; his pithy observations and opinions about cycling and cyclists in all their forms – pro racing, amateur racing, commuters, messengers, hipsters, and more – are wise and hilarious. I admire his writing, both its style and its profusion. I have wondered, does this guy have a full time job? Because he sure does blog furiously! And I thank him.
So it’s rather strange that it’s taken me this long to get a hold of his first book. (There is already a second out there somewhere.) And it’s well worth it! Like his blog, the book is filled with observations and judgments, always irreverent, tongue-in-cheek, and usually laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, I laughed out loud all the way through this short book. It includes chapters like “Velo-Taxonomy” (the various subsets of cyclists, along with their compatibility with other cyclists – funny gold, here) and “A Brief Guide to Etiquette for Non-Cyclists” (which I appreciated very much, and which begins with a request to “let bikes inside”). Bike Snob is an actual, helpful education for newer cyclists, non-cyclists or regular citizens, and yes, for the experienced cyclist as well.
The Snob imparts astute wisdom. Even though I believe firmly in helmets for everybody at all times, I can respect his recommendation that, if you’re only going to use a helmet or brakes, that you should use brakes, because a helmet will only protect you from some injuries. But perhaps the most awesome feature of this book is the laughs. Anybody with a little bit of cycling experience will recognize the truth and humor in his statements about triathletes (“why other cyclists don’t like them: they’re the turduckens of the cycling world. Compatibility with other cyclists: can occasionally mix with Roadies, like when you see a couple of pigeons hanging out with a bunch of seagulls.”) or how bike messengers’ functional gear has become ubercool even where it’s not functional. I appreciate that many of his philosophies of cycling expand to life in general (further proof that cycling is life!). For example: bikes are great, but they’re for riding, not polishing to a high shine and storing with an aura of reverence at the expense of getting out there and experiencing the world. And bikes get stolen. So enjoy them while you can, and know that possessions are ephemeral, while experiences linger. Don’t let your possessions own you.
It is worth noting the visual design of this book. I don’t usually get very interested in physical features of books (I am a reader of print books. but if it’s print, that’s good enough; I don’t go for gilded pages or whatnot), but this one was remarkable. The end and fly pages are decorated with a variety of bicycles and chain rings; there are little design details throughout, including tire treads and whatnot, that draw the eye. I dug the gold color theme, strangely. And as a final bonus, the book came with four Bike Snob stickers! I am the second owner of my copy, presumably, because one sticker was missing and I took a second; there are two left, possibly for the next two owners, but I don’t intend to get rid of it any time soon. Good job with your marketing, Bike Snob, you are now represented on the beer fridge in the garage.
I recommend this book highly. Although, I should point out that one of my cycling friends quit just a few pages in, feeling the Snob was full of himself and unfunny. It takes all kinds, and everybody’s tastes vary; bring an appreciation for the absurd and an expectation that the Snob won’t take himself at all seriously, and hopefully you’ll love his sense of humor as much as I did.
A note on the author: the Bike Snob remained anonymous for years of fame, being photographed (for example) for the very mainstream Bicycling magazine with his face covered, etc. When this, his first book, was released, he knew he’d have to come out of the closet of anonymity to promote it, and that was an event of some newsworthiness (the Wall Street Journal cared). We now know his name is Eben Weiss. I’ve kept “Bike Snob” as the name of the author for this review, because that’s how the book was originally listed.