Book Review: It’s All About the Bike, The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, by Robert Penn
It’s been almost three weeks since I reached the end of the cycle4retirement tour . The transition from daily cycling to life with a car has been tough. I’ve missed the daily rides, the scenery, the feeling of accomplishment, and the overall fun of our cycle tour.
On a positive note, I have had more time for reading. I’ve just finished reading It’s All About the Bike, The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, by Robert Penn, and I can honestly say I got almost as much pleasure from reading this book as I do riding my bike ride. This book made me happy, taught me lots of things I didn’t know, and put into words much more eloquently than I ever could why I love cycling.
To briefly summarize, the author decides to purchase his “dream bike”. He spends the remainder of the book talking about the history of each component, finding the best components for his purposes, and traveling to the factory or source to purchase each part. The book is well-written, the research is thorough, and the style made me keep my Kindle under my pillow where it was easy to reach during the night when I kept waking up to read more.
Penn and I share a love of bicycles and the happiness they bring. When he writes,
If you’ve ever experienced a moment of awe or freedom on a bicycle; if you’ve ever taken flight from sadness to the rhythm of two spinning wheels…if you have ever, just once, sat on a bicycle with a singing heart and felt like an ordinary human touching the gods
I feel like he’s reading my mind every time I hop on the saddle. For the entire cycle4retirement, I jumped out of bed eagerly and started pedaling. I loved every day.
Penn taught me many things I didn’t know about the bicycle; its development, its place in history, and its contributions to future inventions to name a few. I know for some people, the chapter about the development of the ball bearing might sound like a “snoozer” but I, a non-mechanical person, found the chapter really interesting. It might be the fact that Eric and I had to replace several hubs and cranks due to heavily worn ball bearings that made me keen to learn that ball bearings have been around since 1883 thanks to Frederick Fischer (Father of the modern ball Bearing)
The company [Fischer] founded is still going strong. In was this, the development of precision steel spheres with extremely hard surfaces meant that the ball bearing spread to every rotating part of the bicycle, and subsequently motorbikes, airplanes, automobiles, ships, skateboards, printing presses, pretty much any machine you can think of.
Penn helped me understand in historical context why I became so adamant about purchasing and my first 10 speed bicycle.
In 1974, the oil crisis – the OPED embargo…was in full swing. Bicycle sales were booming and the number of bike fanatics grew daily.
In was exactly 1974 when I was 14 years old and had a summer job teaching swimming lessons. I had my eye on a beautiful, blue 10 speed Nishiki with Shimano components. I was saving all my money for its purchase. However, when the time came to actually plunk down my hard-earned cash my dad stepped in and voiced his dismay, “You’ll soon be 16 and driving. You’ll never use the bike again. It’s a waste of money.”
My response was probably a bit of defiant teenager “Even if I can drive, I won’t have a car. I’ll definitely use the bike. Besides, it’s my money!”
I can proudly report that my 1974 blue Nishiki took me over many Colorado mountain passes, through four years of university, and on my first three night cycle tour from Ridgeway, Telluride, Cortez and Durango, Colorado. Reading It’s All About the Bicycle helped put my passion in historical perspective.
I highly recommend this book. If you don’t already own a bike, it will definitely help you understand more before you go to the bicycle store.