Robert Penn has saddled up nearly every day of his adult life. In his
late twenties, he pedaled 25,000 miles around the world. Today he rides
to get to work, sometimes for work, to bathe in air and sunshine, to
travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, and to skip bath time with his
kids. He's no Sunday pedal pusher. So when the time came for a new bike,
he decided to pull out all the stops. He would build his dream bike,
the bike he would ride for the rest of his life; a customized machine
that reflects the joy of cycling.
It's All About the Bike follows
Penn's journey, but this book is more than the story of his hunt for
two-wheel perfection. En route, Penn brilliantly explores the culture,
science, and history of the bicycle. From artisanal frame shops in the
United Kingdom to California, where he finds the perfect wheels, via
Portland, Milan, and points in between, his trek follows the serpentine
path of our love affair with cycling. It explains why we ride.
It's All About the Bike
is, like Penn's dream bike, a tale greater than the sum of its parts.
An enthusiastic and charming tour guide, Penn uses each component of the
bike as a starting point for illuminating excursions into the rich
history of cycling. Just like a long ride on a lovely day, It's All About the Bike is pure joy- enriching, exhilarating, and unforgettable.
Wales resident Penn, a contributor to Cond Nast Traveler and various bicycle publications, has traveled 25,000 miles on a bicycle, and his expertise is evident. Seeking "craftsmanship, not technology," he met with top bike mechanics in order to customize an ergonomically efficient dream machine: "I want a bike that shows my appreciation of the tradition, lore and beauty of bicycles." Coasting past the large manufacturers who service the cycling masses, he visited the U.K.'s few remaining artisan frame builders, where he analyzed the angles of frame geometry: "Along with the immaculate fit and the right tubing material, geometry is an intrinsic part of buying a bespoke bicycle." As he writes about handlebars, gears, wheels, and saddles, each component gets a chapter, and the reader feels Penn's enthusiasm at seeing his steed assembled. Along the way, he looks back at bike history, beginning with the 1817 Draisine, propelled by paddling one's feet along the ground. Saddles were a concern to the conservative elements of Victorian society: "That bike riding might be sexually stimulating to women was a real worry." These pages are a delight, packed with facts, informative illustrations and two-wheeled tales, they map a path into the heart of cycling culture.