I started biking in National Bike Month this year and have been regular since. I was recently looking for general books on the subject of biking and picked up Just Ride by Grant Petersen. This book is essentially a manifesto for bikers advising them to enjoy the rides and not worry much about technicalities. Just like photographers and runners, bikers tend to quickly get interested in acquiring a lot of expensive gear, learn advanced techniques and forget why they started biking in the first place.
In biking, the biggest influence on bikers are the racers. These are the folks who use super-light road bikes, wear special spandex clothes, worry about special supplements and drinks and do extremely long-distance high-endurance rides. Think Tour de France! The main thrust of the book is to suggest that racers are a terrible influence on most of the bikers who are not racers.
The book is divided into 8 parts. The first part is about riding: not to worry about how you pedal, how long your ride is, and the number of gears your bike has. In Suiting Up, the advice is to bike with normal day wear clothes that suit the weather and not get into the spandex bike clothes business. There are fabrics like seersucker, that are both practical to wear and to bike.
In Safety, Petersen gets into reflectors, reflector tapes, blinkers, lights, helmets and how to ride on bike paths. I do not particularly agree with his arguments about bike helmets. I would wear one no matter what. The part on Health and fitness was interesting cause while biking does get you fresh air, exercises your cardiovascular system and legs, it will not do a thing for your tummy, upper body and arms. This should be obvious, but it was good to confirm that. If you are doing biking for exercise, you will need to add some other fitness routine to cover your upper body. Also, just listen to your body: drink water when you are thirsty and eat when you are hungry. Do not bother with energy drinks or supplements unless you are a pro-racer doing hours of biking.
In Accessories, the advice is to install bells, bags, baskets, fenders and kickstands. They are all cheap and make your bike far more useful as a practical transportation device. The part on Upkeep was not particularly deep or useful. Technical details like bike fit, frame arithmetic, bike materials are covered in the part on Technicalities. Carbon fiber is not a great material for normal bikers. Aluminium is the most common material, but I was not aware that steel can be better and longer lasting. The final chapter Velosophy get into miscellaneous topics, but the gist is to have fun.
This book is not well organized, and the focus on racers is a bit too much. I guess that comes from the author being a racer for most of his life. However, I did find the philosophy of the book refreshing. It is something I had discovered in running too. As a newbie to biking, there was a wide breadth of topics I was able to learn about from this book. The organization and depth of the topics is a bit off, but I do not see how that can be achieved anyway in such a book. I think Just Ride is a simple, fun and eye opening read for bikers of all stripes.