The Bicycle Book – Bella Bathurst

September 7, 2011 at 15:03 | Posted in bicycles, books | Leave a comment
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For Father’s Day I got bought a book about bicycles. What fun! I’m also in awe of Mrs Chillikebab’s ability to remember and organise this kind of thing just days after having a baby; that’s assuming that she did so and it wasn’t Toddler Chillikebab using her initiative and ordering it online – something that is entirely possible, given the expertise with which she wields the computer mouse. (I also got a rather handsome tin of biscuits too, so I suppose my Father’s Day gifts lived up well to the ‘Books Biscuits and Bicycles’ mantra).

In this easy to read and quite entertaining book Bella Bathurst looks at various aspects of cycling culture – she visits a framebuilder and makes her own bicycle from scratch, she gives some insights into the historic role bicycles have played in wartime and as vehicles of female emancipation and she interviews a range of cyclists, from Tour De France racers to bicycle couriers.

It’s a fun read, but for me also a little frustrating. For this is the picture of cyclists as the outsiders; as unusual people pursuing a passion that is understood by only a few. It’s essentially a range of portraits of different cycling sub-cultures which, whilst illuminating and entertaining, has virtually nothing to say about cycling as something normal. In one short passage Bathurst describes riding in Germany as something ‘strange’, where cyclists ‘have nothing to prove’. It rather leaves the impression that Bathurst (a cyclist herself) rather wants there to be something to prove and actually prefers the aggression-laden streets of the UK to the bike paths of Germany and Holland. It’s a point I touched on in this post a little while ago.

Still, it’s a fun book that will raise a few wry smiles from any keen cyclist.

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