At some point in your life, I bet you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror and said, “Hey, I should take up biking. It seems so fun and cool and dammit, I bet the exercise’d be good for me.”
Then you realized you didn’t know much about cycling, lived in a city that has less-than-stellar bike infrastructure, and were intimidated by things like cars. Oh well.
But wait! Portland, Ore., bike blogger/evangelist Elly Blue has produced the 127-page solution to all of your pedaling problems — Everyday Bicycling: How to Ride a Bike for Transportation. This little green book is a handy toolkit for the bicycle curious, full of practical info for people of all shapes, lifestyles, and wheel preferences.
At times, Blue’s words of wisdom may seem obvious to a seasoned cyclist, but that’s her magic: She is like that friend who knows everything about a topic but can still explain it in a way that doesn’t make you feel like a complete idiot. Everyday Bicycling has all the pretense of a Jimmy Buffet concert — and thankfully, none of the Hawaiian print.
And Blue knows bikes. She has four of them, but prefers her Xtracycle cargo bike, which she’s been known to hook up to a bamboo trailer and pull around a ukulele player or two. She writes books like Bikenomics: How Bicycling Will Save the Economy if We Let It (which grew out of a series she wrote for Grist under the same name), runs a bike publishing company called Taking the Lane, and takes the bicycling message on tour in what she describes as a “very nerdy traveling [bike] circus.”
In Everyday Bicycling, she starts at the beginning — the first chapter is called “How to ride a bike ” — and proceeds to cycle through a variety of topics ranging from the merits of different commuter bikes to ways to get involved in a biking community. Here’s a sampling of the conundrums Blue solves between the book’s covers:
- Can’t I get that Huffy from Walmart? It’s a great price … (Elly Blue’s pro tip: Beware the big-box store bargain bike — if you use it with any regularity, you’ll have to replace it within six months.)
- How do I get grease off of my favorite pants? (Says Blue: Apply a citrus-based solvent, let it soak in for several hours, wash like normal, and bam! Clean pants.)
- How do I bike with my kids sans near-death experiences? (Blue lays out all the options — from trailers to longtails to trailer bikes — then provides the pros and cons for each.)
On top of the practical advice, Blue also delves into topics like bike advocacy and helmet politics — and she’s well-versed in the complexities. When discussing helmet laws, Blue writes that it’s a good idea to wear a helmet, but where helmet use is required, “fewer people tend to ride bikes — which has had the effect of making cycling more dangerous.” More bikes on the streets, she explains = more awareness = fewer crashes between bikes and cars.
Everyday Bicycling is a great book for the budding cyclist with know-it-all aspirations and little time to commit. And it’s something you can grow with as a cyclist, with helpful reminders that what’s right for one is not necessarily right for all. So whether you’re struggling with basic bike mechanics or are stumped by the term “Copenhagen left,”* Elly Blue’s new book is worth a look.
* A Copenhagen left is a maneuver by which a cyclist rides through an intersection on the right side of the street, then stops at the far corner and waits for the light to change before proceeding to the left. Still confused? Watch this video — or get yourself a copy of Elly Blue’s book!