Robert Penn has saddled up nearly every day of his adult life. In his late 20s, 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.
©2011 Robert Penn (P)2012 Tantor
"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 does a terrific job weaving together the history of bicycling, and specifically, the history of the bike components, with his own extensive biking experience and his own passion to supervise the building of a new bike. Anyone who has a passion for bicycling, even of the spinning variety, will enjoy, and be enlightened, by this book.
interested in history, science, and pulp fiction
An orgy of minutiae about cycling and the history of manufactury! I heard Robert Penn interviewed by Jack Thurston on The Bike Show, and I was excited to see the book listed here. History buffs of any stripe will enjoy it - Penn takes us from present to past, and across the globe, expertly weaving together technology, social movements, and vivid characters. For example, a visit to Chris King Headsets diverges seamlessly into a reverie about the nature of the child hood experience of learning to ride; Mark Twain's essay Taming the Bicycle; and 20 years of urban planning and tattoos in Portland, Oregon. I enjoyed hearing about the "glory days" of cycling, when cheap fast transportation changed lives in unpredictable ways. I loved Penn's take on the title - which he doesn't acknowledge until late in the book - as a reclamation of the elegance of the bicycle, a most enduring invention. This is one of the few books I have listened to twice. I recommend it heartily.
(The narrator is affable, but may make a listener cringe with his unfortunate mispronunciations of European names - the great cyclist Hinault does not rhyme with "salt," for example.)
The complaints about this book are that it spends too much time on tangents, minutea, and history. THAT'S arguably the entire point of this book. A good education in cycling history and some of the iconic characters who helped shape it into what it is today.
Yes, there is so much information in this book
The writer's experience finding the best parts was fantastic
So much history I never knew
The author details the building of his dream bike and with this is a bit about bicycle history and trips to the most respected bicycle component builders in the world. I thought it would be boring yet it entertained me start to finish
I loved this book and the narration by Jonathan Cowley was excellent. This book gives a sound historical background of the bicycle which is interwoven with the story of the author's entertaining and enlightening quest to build the perfect bespoke bicycle. I listened to this all winter, over and over, whenever I wanted to be out on my bike but the weather kept me in. Educational, entertaining and extremely pleasant. Cannot recommend this audiobook enough!
I'm a bit fuzzy on some of the components' histories afterwards, so I plan to give this story a listen again so I can more accurately remember. I believe the author has favorites for certain kinds and brands of components, which is why those are featured in the story, but I won't hold that against him. After decades in the saddle, I expected him to develop preferences.
I really loved the author's inclusion of the history of the bicycle, it's components, the artisans, and the great riders and their cycling accomplishments in his story of building his ultimate bike.
I liked when the author shared the story of the guy in the pub who thought he'd committed some sort of automotive crime that relegated him to riding a bike everywhere.
I've learned you can build a bespoke bike from scratch. I'm looking forward to buying mine someday.
I'd definitely recommend this to listeners who enjoy leisurely, social, or competitive bike riding. It's a good "history of bike craft" book wrapped in one person's bespoke bike journey.
The book is not just about the bike. A lot more stuff on bicycle history however interesting in small amounts but this was too much. I was expecting the author to build the bike or at least the wheels, but he didn't he agonized over the paint color. End selection of parts was no surprise either.
Don't know never read the print version of this book. Did enjoy the audible version but do not want to read the print version
I liked the planning and building section of the book and the feelings that it all brought
Yes he put much feeling into the book
I have biked for many years and have gotten away from it and more into running. My later years the running is taking a toll on my knees and want to do more bicycling and this book has inspired me
Highly recommend this book
This book is fantastic for those among us who love the technology and craftsmanship that goes into the best bikes of today. Personally, I LOVE to ride, but I also very much appreciate, admire, and love to work with the craftsmanship that goes into the finest components and frames. In so many ways our bikes have souls of their own and this book lavishly examines that part of the overall cycling experience.
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