Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Book Review: Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling

The Bike Snob is a bit of an institution in NYC cycling circles. I first started reading Bike Snob NYC's blog about a year ago and like many others, I have found it hard to keep myself away from his trademark dry wit, that's as parched as the Simpson desert, and his relentless satire, ever since.

Like Stephen Colbert and his musings about American politics, Snobs musings about cycling are rarely serious. He is constantly trying to show the lighter side of a sport that all too often takes itself too seriously. And perhaps because of this it's not that easy to start reading his posts. Unless you are an original fan, you can't help but get lost in his in-jokes and bizarre references. And don't try asking what the hell he's talking about in the comments, you'll just expose yourself as a noob to his loyal legion of fans who compete for top position in the comments of each new post.

And so, with the blogs increasing number of hits and with more and more public appearance requests, it seems the Snob got a book deal.

I was interested to find out how the Snobs rants would translate into the the traditional printed book form. His writing on the blog is strongly supported by imagery and embedded content - and there's no possibility of a YouTube link in a book.

All in all, even if I wanted to, I don't think I could be overly critical of the book. The Snob has been published and achieved notoriety from his simple little cycling blog. A feat that provides inspiration to me and others in the blogoshere I'm sure.

His comedy shines through from the first page to the last, there's not as much humour as there is in his blog - but this is unfamiliar territory for the Snob. The wordplay and anecdotes are laid on thick and fast, yet some of the stories are almost completely devoid of sarcastic overtones. Which is kind of refreshing. The description of his ride through Long Island, during which he traces the historical origins of cycling in the area is fascinating. And the entire chapter on the history of the bicycle is a treat - I never realised there was so much I didn't know about the origins of our sport.

It's a pretty easy read, the text is regularly broken up with superb illustrations and there is a pictorial section in the middle that is an extension of a feature of his blog where he awards the seal of approval or disapproval to random peoples bikes.

The section that categorises all cyclists into 11 defined groups is hilarious! The cycling regular will get a kick out of this for sure. The groups are instantly recognisable and you'll find yourself nodding and laughing to yourself as you read about the peculiarities of the 'Roadie', the 'Lone Wolf' or the 'Beautiful Godzilla'!

As the book trudges on and as he continues his attempt to cover all facets of cycling things do begin to get a bit tedious. I found it hard to not skip the section that details how to go about locking up your bike. I mean, wouldn't the intended audience already know how to lube a chain or adjust a saddle? You know that bit in Star Wars where Luke goes and meets Yoda in the Dagobah System, it's all a bit boring and the movie stops dead? This section of the book is a little like that. So... living up to the high standard set in the early chapters proves difficult for the Snob and the book does drift off toward the end. But, like the final battle scene in Star Wars, the book does recover and in the end, the dark side is defeated with the epilogue.

All in all, it's a great read and the book is a well produced package to boot. The hard cover, the quotes, the typesetting, the illustrations, the photos and the thick paper stock make for a really nice package. So grab it, and read it. There's a lot of worse things you can do with your hard earned! Our bike budgets are so big already, with all the repairs and the new parts and the clothes, what's another thirty bucks?

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