The last couple of weeks have not been pleasant thanks to an unknown digestive tract invader. There were several days that I was too ill to leave the house, so I curled up on the couch with a cat and some books. Even if I was too sick to cycle, I could still read about riding.
The first book was found in the recycling bin of the local bike co-op. How anybody could toss such a gem as “Bike Tripping” by Tom Cuthbertson is beyond me.
Featuring amazing illustrations by Rick Morrall that scream “I was made in 1972,” this book is a snapshot in time to when cyclists were more on the fringe than they are today, and the ten speed was the latest and greatest thing in the bike world. And it’s a really entertaining read.
How to get out of sticky situations, from aggressive dogs to drunken gun nuts taking pot shots out of their pickups (thankfully, we have so evolved here on the prairie since the 70’s that we no longer have to fear guns on the road since the DB’s have switched to paintball) is tackled with straight talk and humor.
“Many people are thinking and talking about cycling trips these days, not only because they are attracted to the sport itself, but also because they are getting turned off by other trips which have had their day and gone sour.”
There’s a seriously groovy tone throughout. Suddenly the 70’s bike boom makes sense in context to all the burned out survivors of the sixties.
“Ride out to the country. Expand your consciousness a little, and turn on to good old Mother Nature, before she starts turning on us.”
Then again, he said it better than I ever did, which reminds me, now that I’m feeling better I ought to start planning some serious rides of the rural persuasion.
Switching into an urban cycling gear, I read “The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power” by Travis Hugh Culley.
This is a well written, fast paced memoir following the author’s exploits as a bike messenger and the happenings of the the Chicago bike scene in the late nineties. Alley cats, Critical Mass, crazed drivers, secret underground shortcuts, fast riding in traffic, cryptic messenger lingo; this book has it all. This was one ride I didn’t want to stop, and it may or may not have encouraged some courier like cycling behavior. Highly recommended.
In a time when cycling is becoming increasingly mainstream, both of these books are reminders of the days when bikes were for outlaws and outliers. While I think this rebel cache may once have been used to help sell bikes to the masses, I wonder if the normalization of cycling will also mean the decline of distinct cycling subcultures. I’d hate to lose one of my (secret) favourite things about riding – the cheeky yet harmless bad-assery.