Holy Spokes! A Biking Bible for Everyone. By Rob Coppolillo. San Francisco: Zest Books, 2013.
Rob Coppolillo, an outdoor sports (climbing, hiking, cycling) enthusiast and writer from Colorado clearly knows cycling and some interesting cyclists – he has a foreword written by Dede Barry, an Olympic medalist, and one of his sidebars is a short Q-and-A with Joe Breeze. The title of the book suggests this book is for “everyone” but it quickly becomes clear it is intended for young adults (which is the usual audience for books from the publisher, Zest Books). The title and blurb on the back cover describe a guide that provides “in-depth information about bike designs, mechanics, and maintenance” when in its 187 pages with text in a large font, illustrations, and a fair number of blank pages, what you get is a detail-light introduction to these topics.
Aside from the writing style, the first giveaway that this book is not really for everyone is that the chapter “What's Your Bike Type?” that describes popular types of bike is followed by a chapter “To Fixie or not to Fixie” that seeks to firm up the target reader's interest in fulfilling any hipster- cyclist impulses. Later the chapter “Putting Your Bike to Work” talks about student internships and opportunities that would only be relevant to someone in high school or college. And there are the references in the discussion of bicycle sizing saddle problems to a man's “junk” that isn't a phrase much
used in writing for many demographics. (OK I guess I'm old.)
Aside: “Junk” is not in the ten page, otherwise highly detailed index – I don't recall reading a book with this thorough an index referencing a book with so little in it.
This book then has a fairly common problem – its “come on” suggests a broad audience in the hope that everyone will buy it – that it might make more sense to describe the intended audience accurately doesn't seem to occur to some publishers (or authors – not clear who controls this). But then is this a good book for a Millenial Generation audience?
Such a person would likely find that this overview of cycling (which is what this is) a fun quick read and so superficial way it describes the usual introductory guide topics (history of the bike, what kinds are there, where to buy, how to size, etc.) is fine despite the lack of detail. My main puzzlement is that it would have made the book much more interesting and useful to say more about the kinds of cycling communities and biking activities that go with the different type of bikes discussed which unlike a greater level of technical details would not have meant increasing the length of the book that much.
In a few places some technical specifics are offered. For example, procedures for determining saddle height and position are explained in detail worthy of The Paterek Manual while other aspects of bicycle sizing are covered haphazardly. One wonders how the author chose those limited areas where he decided to go in for detail.
There are a number of factual errors in the history section, which is odd. One sentence equates a “penny farthing” with a “boneshaker.” Later a sidebar about Major Taylor, the famous African American cyclist from over 100 years ago, says “he was eventually banned by bigoted race promoters,but found a new racing home in Europe” - Taylor could not race in the American south and suffered racist indignities of various kinds elsewhere in the U.S. but was not banned. He rode in France, Germany and Australia in part to escape racism but primarily to enjoy huge racing paydays; in any
event he didn't move overseas.
Coppolillo has an interview with his publisher that gives some insights into who he is, and there are some sample pages to look at as well.
By Michael N.