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It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels
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It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels [Kindle Edition]

Robert Penn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Robert Penn has saddled up nearly every day of his adult life. In his
late twenties, 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.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wales resident Penn, a contributor to Condé Nast Traveler and various bicycle publications, has traveled 25,000 miles on a bicycle, and his expertise is evident. Seeking "craftsmanship, not technology," he met with top bike mechanics in order to customize an ergonomically efficient dream machine: "I want a bike that shows my appreciation of the tradition, lore and beauty of bicycles." Coasting past the large manufacturers who service the cycling masses, he visited the U.K.'s few remaining artisan frame builders, where he analyzed the angles of frame geometry: "Along with the immaculate fit and the right tubing material, geometry is an intrinsic part of buying a bespoke bicycle." As he writes about handlebars, gears, wheels, and saddles, each component gets a chapter, and the reader feels Penn's enthusiasm at seeing his steed assembled. Along the way, he looks back at bike history, beginning with the 1817 Draisine, propelled by paddling one's feet along the ground. Saddles were a concern to the conservative elements of Victorian society: "That bike riding might be sexually stimulating to women was a real worry." These pages are a delight, packed with facts, informative illustrations and two-wheeled tales, they map a path into the heart of cycling culture. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

"It’s All About the Bike puts [Penn’s] vast and endearingly shaggy bicycle boffinry on a brisk round-the-world tour. Penn’s energy never flags, and he knows when to change gears. The book is as a wheel-builder named Gravy described Penn’s just completed, perfectly tuned, 28-spoked rear wheel: ‘Well, my friend. It’s true.’"—New York Times Book Review
 
“A fantastic new chronicle of the bike’s story, from its cultural history to its technical innovation to the fascinating, colorful stories of the people who ride it. [Penn] approaches his subject with equal parts humor, humility, and authoritative intelligence as he sets out to find himself a new bike. Entertaining, illuminating and beautifully illustrated, It’s All About the Bike is a rare and precious portal to the heart and soul of bike culture and its surprising footprint—tireprint?—on all of culture.”—Atlantic
 
"The social history is snappy and his almost religious quest for ultimate craftsmanship is full of wit."—Financial Times

"It's All About the Bike is more than just a gearhead's hejira, a globetrotter's catalog of componentry for the cycling crowd. … With humor and insight, Penn examines the historical, social, and cultural significance of the bike."—Philadelphia Inquirer

" … if you've ever felt the wind rolling over your back as you tuck into a downhill or cleaned a log with a bunny hop, give it a shot. It’s a quick read and even serious cyclists will learn something."—Associated Press

"The author’s ability to describe the joys of bicycling—the space for thought that the rhythm creates, the freedom of swooping down a hill, the satisfaction of having pedaled to the top—is one of the book’s strengths, along with anecdotes of his experiences cycling around the world years earlier.  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 Reviews

"[Penn’s] expertise is evident… These pages are a delight, packed with facts, informative illustrations and two-wheeled tales, they map a path into the heart of cycling culture." —Publishers Weekly

"Gem of a book"—Economist
 
“The bike is the heart of our cycling lives, but it's a starting point for all sorts of journeys, literal and metaphoric. So Penn's title merits a tiny edit: it's not actually all about the bike, it's all about the stories behind the bike. But it's all the better for it.”—William Fotheringham, Road.cc
 
“Investigating the bicycle's long history while he's at it, Penn makes building one's own bicycle seem like the most natural, obvious and enjoyable thing to do.”—The National (UAE)

"Robert Penn relates his quixotic quest to procure the perfect bicycle with authority and humor, infusing his fluent narrative with thoughtful and provocative digressions that invoke technology, ergonomics, history, and social ideals. He richly deserves his $5,000 ‘dream machine.’"—David V. Herlihy, author of Bicycle: A History and The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance

"Robert Penn has assembled a splendid patchwork quilt of bicycle history, arcane workshops, and fascinating people into a passionate journey in search of his dream machine. After reading him, you'll never look at a bicycle the same way again and will enjoy riding yours even more. And you'll probably start your own velocopedal quest for perfection into the bargain. A simply lovely excursion not into bicyclists, but into BICYCLES. You must read this before you watch the Tour de France!"—Brian Fagan, Author of Elixir and The Great Warming, and an avid recreational cyclist with a Penn-like steel framed bike.

"The pages overflow with pioneers, mavericks and geniuses – certainly, it is hard to imagine anyone who reads this book being able to buy a bike ‘off the peg’ again.—Tim Lewis, Observer (UK)

"No matter how shiny and costly the item of bike bling, there is a back story, usually a good one. Artfully, Penn turns his quest for hardware ... into a worldwide spin around cycling and its culture."—William Fotheringham, Observer (UK)

"[Penn] writes with authority, humour and refreshing candour ... A celebration of craftsmanship over technology and of a bygone era when things were built to last ... If Penn is to be believed, we are entering a golden age of cycling, when it really will be all about the bike once more."—Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"[Penn] writes with a Bill-Brysonesque facility for concentrating a lot of information and research into an easy-to-read and surprisingly compelling tale. Best of all ... his account enriches your enjoyment of a ride."—Tim Dawson, Sunday Times (UK)

"I’ve just spent a week pedalling slowly … with a copy of Penn's zealous eulogy in my pannier. His infectious admiration for the exhilarating sociability of cycling, coupled with reverence for quality craftsmanship, made highly engaging company ... appreciate the wit and enthusiasm of this unusual odyssey."—James Urquhart, Independent (UK)
 
"A hell of a fun ride tracing the symbiotic relationship of bike and rider, this will have you thinking about how and why you ride."—Library Journal (starred)
 
"Warning: do not even casually flick through this book if you have promised your significant other that you will not be cluttering up the garage/shed/landing/bedroom with any more bloody bike … Penn uses his own personal mission as a peg on which to hang a fascinating history of two-wheeled travel."—Helen Pidd, Guardian Bike Blog (UK)


Product Details

  • File Size: 1350 KB
  • Print Length: 209 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1608195384
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004QO965G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,623 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent quick read November 15, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book based on a review in The Economist that made it look interesting. I'm not a bike nut, though I have one and ride it a couple times a week. This book, though, is not written for the bicycle fanatic, but for a layperson for whom bikes are, and have always been, part of the background of life. There's detail on the origins and development of the bike, along with enough -- just enough -- insights from the author's experience to make it not a sterile read. It's also interesting to meet the people involved in various aspects of the bicycle business, from mountain-bikers in Marin County to handlebar manufacturers (who knew there was so much technology in a handlebar?) in Italy. There's also enough here, in terms of content and accuracy, to make it of interest to people who ARE already knowledgeable about road bikes: two of my friends who are competitive road biciclists have read it with enthusiasm. So, all in all, a pleasure to read, and over way too soon.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good primer on bikes and bike history September 25, 2010
By jbs
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
well written, well told, well explained, complete with diagrams and pictures of bike mechanisms, history and design. funny and interesting, a travel journal cum bike celebration.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an obsessive account of the design of a bicycle October 24, 2011
Format:Hardcover
This is an odd book. Robert Penn owns a lot of bikes, but decided he wanted one more and that this one would be perfect -- it would have a custom frame, and exactly the components he wanted, and it would be assembled by the best mechanics in the world. The task took about a year, and while Penn never tells us what the bike cost, one can estimate that with the cost of his flights around the world to view the components being built, it was almost certainly over $10,000.

This is the first oddness of the book. It is simultaneously anti-consumer ("I am not going to buy a Toyota Corolla and replace it every five years; I'm going to buy a bicycle that will last me for the rest of my life.") and intensively consumerist ("This is the list of expensive things I am going to buy for a bicycle that I clearly don't need because I already have a shed full of bicycles at home. This bicycle is going to define me as a person.")

Penn describes some of his previous bicycle adventures, and he discusses the history of bicycles generally and bicycle components in particular. This material will have nothing new to those who have read Herlihy's Bicycle: The History, which is clearly Penn's major source, but it's fun to read.

The second major oddness of the book is that, though it tells the tale of the design and assembly of a bicycle, and contains many photographs and diagrams explaining the origins of different bike parts, it does not end with a photo of the completed bike. Penn takes delivery of his completed bike and rides off into the rain. The end. No photo. Odd.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's All About the Bike... Parts August 2, 2011
By tamar p
Format:Hardcover
Without a doubt, Robert Penn is a great writer. However, this book failed to catch my attention due to its highly technical nature. This is not a criticism - if you're into learning about what every piece of the bicycle is called, what it does and its history, then this is the right book for you. Personally, I would have been more interested in reading a book with more of an emphasis on the author's travels on his bicycle and less emphasis on the angle of the handlebars, but hey, that's not what this book is about. I really did enjoy the beginning of the book, when the author delves into the history of the bicycle and its impact on human civilization - definitely fascinating and worth a read just to understand that although bicycles are routinely dismissed today by the average person, they were once a huge step forward in transportation and a BIG DEAL.

One thing that is a criticism, though, is the lack of images in the book. The bulk of this book is devoted to talking about parts of the bike, but it's hard to understand what the author is describing without images to accompany the words. There a few images scattered here and there, but it's simply not enough, especially when the author gets nitpicky about the parts he's discussing. I think I would have found the book more interesting had more things been illustrated for me, because after a while I found it tiring to have to imagine all the parts of the bike in my head, and I wasn't even sure if I was getting it right.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Bike (3.75*s) June 22, 2011
Format:Hardcover
The author's love for all aspects of bicycling is quite evident in this book: the history, its culture, the joy of riding, the challenge of long trips, and the bike itself. But most of all, he is intrigued by "old-school" bicycle craftsmen, who know virtually everything about bicycles, tend to use traditional tools and techniques, and are committed to quality above all else. The basis of this book is the author's quest to have the perfect - for him - bike built, utilizing the knowledge of bicycle artisans/experts scattered across Europe and the US, most of whom he spends time with in the book - a process that he calls "bespoke," or one-of-a-kind.

He sees these modern-day craftsmen as following in the footsteps of long forgotten bicycle innovators, who spent nearly a century from the 19th into the 20th centuries reinventing and perfecting the bicycle. He notes the development of the basic diamond bike frame in 1885, followed by the slow perfecting of steel ball bearings, headsets, handlebars, drive trains (chain, bottom bracket, free wheel, and derailleur), saddles, wheels and tires, and light weight, steel-alloy tubing. In his search for quality, he is allowed inside some of the most revered bicycle component manufacturers, such as, Chris King, Cinelli, Campagnola, Brooks, Columbus, and Continental, many being key players in component development over several decades.

Beyond the perfect bike, it is the social implications of bicycling that most interest the author. The production of literally millions of the so-called "safety" bicycle in England in the late 19th century had a significant effect on, not only, expanding distances that could be traveled in a day's time but also on the emancipation of women, now more able than ever to make trips on their own.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Bicycling Knowledge 101
Great read on the history of bicycling. Loved the detailed information on what goes into building a bike and the author's personal journey of bicycling throughout the book.
Published 27 days ago by Rich Blanchette
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Still reading but very good
Published 1 month ago by clair gardner
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 1 month ago by Marilin Kaspri
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed taking the trip while he built his custom bike
Was an interesting read . Enjoyed taking the trip while he built his custom bike.
Published 1 month ago by David Knight
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dream Bike comes to life
This is the story of a man who decided to build his Dream Bike after many years getting experience as a bicyclist. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Andy
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich history of bicycling through each bike component
Mr. Penn pens a superb book on his effort to build the perfect bicycle by crossing the globe in search of the finest components. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rick B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Building a Dream Bike
This is two books in one. The author is collecting components for his dream bicycle and takes you on the journey. Read more
Published 3 months ago by T. Loewenberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun book to read
Learned a lot of new history. Fun book to read.
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Just Perfect book for a bicyclist. It's on my bedside table
Published 3 months ago by scott tippets
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for Bike Nerds! :)
I got this for my dad for Christmas - later in the afternoon we were wondering where he was. He was holed up reading this book! Read more
Published 4 months ago by GHL
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More About the Author

Robert Penn rides a bicycle to get to work, sometimes for work, to keep fit, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, to savour the physical and emotional fellowship of riding with friends, for fun, occasionally to impress someone, to scare himself, for a moment of grace and to hear his boy laugh. He's ridden a bicycle most days of his adult life, in over forty countries on five continents. In his late-twenties, he gave up a career as a solicitor and pedalled around the world. As a journalist, Robert writes for the Financial Times, The Observer, Sunday Times and Condé Nast Traveller, as well as a host of cycling publications. He wrote and presented the BBC documentary 'Ride of My Life: the Story of the Bicycle' ('A journey into the mindset of a bike obsessive... charming to watch' - Independent). Robert lives in the Black Mountains, South Wales with his wife and three children and commutes to work across a heather moor on a mountain bike.
http://www.robpenn.net/

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