For once, I’m glad that I know most of you only virtually: For the last month and a half, I’ve been sick to various degrees. I’ll spare you the detailed explanation of what’s been wrong with me at what points, but suffice to say that other than a few short neighborhood rides and a handful of commutes, I’ve not been on the bike much this year. Like Dottie, I’m not interested in biking when it doesn’t feel right and am happy to cede the hardcore title to others when necessary (I have biked four whole winters at this point, after all.). And chest colds and biking in the cold air don’t mix! Good news is, I’m finally feeling better and had my first commute in a while yesterday.
While I was off the bike, I’ve been biking vicariously via some interesting reading material. Bikes and Riders, by Jim Wagenvoord, was one of my flea market finds last month. The book was originally published in 1972, and much of it reads completely of the time—would that today’s cycling advocates adopt the fashion sense of Harriet Green, who wore “a brushed suède riding cloak over dark-blue hot pants” (sadly, not pictured) to a demonstration in New York City.
On the other hand, some of it has the feeling of “the more things change . . .” Like this passage on media coverage of bike rallies.
From the press’s standpoint it wasn’t so much the bike-lane demands that had drawn them but the fact that bikes—just about anything about bikes—had with relative suddenness become a story.
Isn’t this more or less where we are now? The press coverage is all well and good, but will bicycling still be something of a novelty story in 40 years?
Speaking of things that date the book, Futura is pretty popular these days–but its use in longform text definitely screams ’70s.
The back cover copy on this book cracks me up—once again, 40 years on, the same concerns about people being stuck in front of the TV.
But on to the content! Bikes and Riders focuses mostly on urban cyclists, which was obviously of interest to me, but it also includes a pretty comprehensive history of the bicycle’s development and use throughout history. Did you know bikes were used in combat?
Photographs of early cyclists are always of interest, and there are plenty here. Here’s a little reminder that riding in a suit has been the rule rather than the exception in the history of cycling!
I was tickled to discover this twin of Le Peug in the book’s pages. And the rider is a woman to boot! I might have to recreate that shot.
I want to do a little research on Jim Wagenvoord. If the flap copy is to be believed, he’s some sort of Renaissance man, so surely he has more of a legacy than this book, The Violent World of Touch Football, How to Surf and Flying Kites. After all, “[t]here have been witty writers, good researchers, and fine photographers before, but never within one 6’2″ frame.”
Have you read any good books on biking lately?