Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Robert's Mini Bike Book Review- The Bicycle Commuter's Handbook

The Bicycle Commuter's Handbook: Gear you Need, Clothes to Wear, Tips for Traffic, Roadside Repair
By Robert Hurst

Review by Robert Leone, Bike Coalition Board Member

If you'd like to get ready for the Bike Month of May, and Bicycle to Work Day, The Bicycle Commuter's Handbook by Robert Hurst should be on your reading list. Rightly, Hurst keeps most of the focus on general principles in this skinny (less than 100 pages of text) and small volume in the “Falcon Guide” series.

For example, Hurst gives a wonderful plug for the benefits of proper bike and rider fitting, but he doesn't give specifics on how to perform this often delicately nuanced task. He properly notes that for many of us the “favored route to get to work in the car could be absolutely nasty on a bike.” He also has a preference for using the largest scale maps with the best details combined with bike-borne reconnaissance, as many times the best bike commute routes depend on often undocumented features and facilities not found on, say, the smaller scale regional maps such as the SANDAG 2010 bike map the SDCBC often hands out to people who want to know where to ride.

Hurst does make specific recommendations when he has particular expertise or experience, or where there is a pressing need. For example, his years as a bicycle messenger leads him not to recommend a messenger bag for hauling to and from work. In the section on roadside repair, a wonderfully specific photo essay on patching tubes is matched for verve by Hurst's vivid hatred of the dreaded “puncture vine,” also known to many riders as “goat head thorns.” The only real error is in the bike type descriptions, where Hurst's photographed sample of a touring bike is, despite it's many eyelets for adding fenders and racks, is actually positioned as that brand's cyclocross bike. Further, his discussion of bike types omits purpose-built commuting bikes, and the two pages spent on the vital subject of lighting omits mention of modern hub generators. Aside from those minor quibbles, this is an excellent book. The Bicycle Commuter's Handbook makes a great read for those who'd like to, but are uncertain as to how to ride to work (or school) and back.

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