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Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180 Hardcover – June 15, 2004

68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lance Armstrong has shown the world what tremendous athleticism it takes to be a champion cyclist. Now Magnuson weighs in on the sport, from the point of view of a regular guy. The author of Lummox: The Evolution of a Man is a 255-pound, pack-a-day 40-year-old who's desperate to get his life back into shape. And he chooses the challenge of cycling to achieve that, largely because of its total lack of mercy. "I needed the crap beaten out of me," Magnuson explains. So he launches into his own journey, one where he succeeds in spades, drops pounds and quits smoking to become a true road warrior. It's a compelling premise, made all too real by the cover image of a mostly nude, overweight man on a bike. Magnuson approaches the book with that kind of humor, and a rapid pace that mirrors the sport he's fallen in love with. The downfall is that the colloquial fun often drifts into silly superficiality (on reading Samuel Beckett: "I'm like totally wow, blown aw?y, this stuff rocks!"). And although Magnuson, a university creative writing professor, occasionally tries to inject a bit of intellectual heft, dropping in Kafka and Camus references alongside his racing stories, it just never works as a thrilling narrative. This life makeover is an admirable achievement, but doesn't make for great reading.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Mike's one of the only writers in the world who makes reading about cycling so much fun you're nearly tempted to skip your next ride and keep turning the pages.” —Bill Strickland, executive editor, Bicycling magazine

“Forget Dr. Phil and the South Beach Diet. Forget Atkins and scary pills. Mike Magnuson found another, much more enjoyable way to shed pounds and get healthy: cycling.” —Chicago Sun-Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; First Edition edition (June 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400052408
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400052400
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,354,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ron Atkins on July 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Heft on Wheels" tells the story of how a man resolves to get his life in order, via a bicycle. Mike weighs in over 255 pounds, chain smokes, and spends 3-4 nights a week getting drunk. Mike admits he tends to become obsessive about whatever he does (smoking, drinking, eating), and decides to turn this tendency into something healthful-cycling. Mike begins to live off protein shakes and 300 miles per week on the bike. One year later he has lost about 80 pounds and finds he has transformed his life, although not necessarily for the better. In the process of becoming obsessive over his cycling, Mike feels he may have sacrificed some aspects of his teaching career, and pushed the limits with his marriage and family obligations. The Kafka, Camus, and Beckett references are minimal and fit the narrative, despite Publisher Weekly's negative comments. This book is a great read for cyclists over 40 and should not be approached as a guide to professional cycling, dieting, or training. It is however very motivating and has inspired me to crank up the intensity level of my cycling workouts.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Casimir on January 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was shopping for a bike maintenance book in my local bookstore and stumbled on this novel. The cover catches your eye; how could it not? I had to buy it.

I started reading that night and never stopped. It's a compelling story of a regular guy, maybe a little compulsive, getting his act together. I think most of us have, at one point or another, fantasized about making those huge changes in our life. Mike got fed up and did it.

While I read the story I couldn't help but think "damn, that sounds like me" over and over. Today I'm going for a ride. It could be step one.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. McCullough on January 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"We" being the many other middle-aged clydesdale riders.

Mike Magnuson decided to start taking his cycling seriously when he finally grew tired of being dropped on club rides. He had been cycling for some time but at one point he decided to quit drinking, smoking, and to lose weight - and he ultimately ends up completing some truly challenging rides like the "Bridge to Bridge Incredible Cycling Challenge" (100 miles of steep mountain ascents).

I read this book last summer and found it to be inspirational. Like Mike, I am a large middle-aged athlete, and I lost sixty pounds via cycling (and running, mostly) and various lifestyle changes. Right now I'm training for my eighth full (running) marathon in five years. Although I wasn't inspired by Mike to make the change, having done that five years ago, I found this book helpful as ongoing encouragement for me to continue my newfound habits. Unlike Mike, I still get dropped during hilly club rides, and I'm not as competitive as Mike, but I'm going to guess that he is a sort of hero to lots of people like me.

I am reviewing this book now because I just finished reading a novel, *The Memory of Running,* which has some similarities to this book. The narrator of that novel quit drinking, smoking, and overeating and rode his bike across the United States to ultimately find love, and to become an active member of the human race again. Mike Magnuson's story is much different. Unlike the passive, nearly "empty" character in *The Memory of Running,* Mike is aggressive and goal oriented. I like the way he made a plan and stuck to it instead of just letting success accidentally roll over him like Smithy did in *The Memory of Running*. Mike chose his change.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am a 47-year old lawyer who has no connection to the author or the publisher of "Heft on Wheels" ("Heft"). On one level, Heft is the story of a man who uses cycling as the vehicle to end his long (and loving) relationship with alcohol, tobacco and excessive eating. My main criticism of Heft is that the title and cover give the impression that it is merely a weight loss or cycling enthusiast book. In fact, it is beautifully written memoir that compares favorably to Martin Amis' magnificient "Experience." Magnuson's writing is lean and vivid, especially his epiphany on Mount Mitchell. In the end, it is the story of a man who wanted to leave some things behind, but instead got a little distance (and perspective) on himself. You will find your own perspective sharpened after reading this short, but surprisingly hefty book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Larue in CT on September 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Mike Magnuson's story really is uplifting and inspiring. To go from roughly 5'11" and weighing 250-260lbs down to 173lbs in a years time, exclusively thru cycling, is amazing. That really is him on the cover and the 'after' photo of him on the back, hammering up a ridiculously steep switchback, is stunning. And his love of cycling with a boyish enthusiasm is infectious. I say 'okay' writing because the books does sag a little in the middle and the timeline is not exactly linear or what you might expect from this type of book. Though the opening chapter on being hit by a negiligent pickup truck is the very best type of non-fiction in my opinion. His compassion and understanding for the offending driver is stunning and uplifting. Magnuson does lean on quotes from great philosophers a bit much for me and the selections don't always work with the moment in the book and can be a bit jarring. But I applaud him for openly exploring one of the most obvious realities about pursuing an endurance sport to a significant level; what happens to the family left behind? As throughout the book, he's open and honest and helps those considering taking up a similiar challenge to consider all the outcomes, good and bad. Overall I really enjoyed the book and found myself wishing him continued success. Hammerin' on big guy.
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