In the City of Bikes by Pete Jordan

A history of Amsterdam’s love affair with the bicycle contained within an American cyclist’s memoir.

After the close of his first memoir, Dishwasher, Pete Jordan moved to Amsterdam for a semester to study urban planning, with a focus on his passion: bicycles. He never left.

Jordan’s decision to move was rather capricious–he knew almost nothing about Amsterdam–but he found a city packed with bicycles and rich with cycling history. In the City of Bikes is the story of his journey from itinerant dishwasher to settled family man, as well as a thoroughly researched history of the bicycle in Amsterdam. Beginning with the early bikes of the 1800s and cycling’s golden age in the 1890s, when the safety bicycle hit the streets, Jordan moves on to the tire shortages and (in this case, bicycle-related) atrocities of the city’s Nazi occupation before concluding with his own place in modern cycle-crazy Amsterdam.

Joining Jordan are his new wife, Amy Joy, and their son, Ferris, a passenger and later pilot of Amsterdam bicycles since his conception. When Amy Joy becomes proprietor of a local bike shop, the Jordans have truly found their home in the Dutch capital. Considering his reason for going in the first place, Jordan is especially well suited and qualified to tell this story, and he lives up to expectations with a meticulous detailing of Amsterdam’s bikes. Full of personal anecdote, self-deprecating humor, local lore and a history of cycling that positively bursts with enthusiasm, In the City of Bikes is both a memoir and an ode to bicycles.

This review originally ran in the May 3, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 7 tire-powered light generators.


Bonus photo I couldn’t resist, of me in the early 2000’s, cycling in Bruges – but it may as well be Amsterdam, and I did ride there too – on a Dutch-style bike. (Hoping this gives me extra reviewer-cred!)

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