Book review: Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike
By Grant Petersen
Many years ago I called Rivendell Bicycles, Grant Petersen’s bicycle company, to inquire about a line of English-made, leather-trimmed canvas bicycle bags. When I asked about the size of a certain model (the Nelson Longflap), the person on the phone (I don’t know who) said: “It is a very big bag, if you set it in the corner of a medium sized room and you stood in the opposite corner and threw apples at it at it, you’d probably get about half of them in.” I didn’t get the bag. But the description of its size; the blend of elegance, common-sense, functionality, and idiosyncrasy; sums up why Petersen is a an anti-hero in the world of cycling.
Although this is his first book, Petersen’s writing–in catalogs, newsletters, and his website–is extensive and authoritative and is both controversial and influential. The pervading theme of Just Ride is that one doesn’t need to wear spandex, ride narrow tires, or use toe clips (much less clipless pedals) to have fun–and ride fast. I learned several things, especially about cornering techniques and frame design; and many cyclists–novices and experts alike–will find his essays informative and engaging. His admission that he does not enjoy working on bikes is particularly refreshing. Petersen brings science and experience to bear as he writes on fitness; helmet laws; the hypnotic effects of blinkie lights; and why the nicest looking bikes are the most well-used ones. All while taking to task those who believe that every bicycle ride should begin with slathering one’s crotch with anti-microbial moisturizing cream.