everyday bicycling. elly blue. cantankerous titles. 127pp illus. $9.95

everyday cycling elly blue

those of you with any interest or involvement in the world of pre-press may conceivably remember the concern and worry on having finished a particular document, then having to select that package for output option. in the world of clever, secretive and clandestine software, endless lines of code would then scurry around the mac, finding all the fonts, images and anything else you may have dropped into the publication, and conveniently placed them in a folder for scrutable delectation. there was even a text file to allow the input of instructions for the folks who would open the folder at the other end.

the scary part was then casting an experienced eye over the list of errors; had i used a typeface that wasn't on my computer; had i converted all my images from rgb to cmyk; was there anything else on which i had been remiss? if the answer to any of the foregoing was affirmative, corrections were due and the whole process to be gone through again.

then along came adobe's portable document format or, as it is more acronymically known, pdf. leveraging the marvels of the postscript page description language, all that appeared before my eyes could quickly and efficiently be converted into a format easily recognised by the imagesetters in the world of colour output. heck, it would even convert those rgb images to cmyk on the fly. how utterly cool was that? except every new technology, in the process of curing one ill, generally brings with it several other, hitherto unknown ills, and that was the case with pdf.

for instance, there are several pdf standards, so which one ought to be chosen? did i need to impose all printers' marks or should i restrict myself simply to registration and crop marks? which output standard ought i to choose from the huge range of options available? so, despite one part becoming immeasurably simpler, the stage that had previously been the preserve of the printer had now become something that i need to know and understand. you can, of course, see the obvious route for salvation here; exactly: ask the printer.

thankfully, the printers with whom i had been working for several years were particularly amenable to question asking, without even a hint of superiority or arrogance. so it took only a few print jobs to have all satisfactorily sorted out, even removing a previous difference of them using different page-layout software than i. in this particular situation, i was fortunate to have moved through perceived difficulties with relatively little trouble. to this day all colour work arrives back on islay looking even better than when it left my computer.

this is a particularly adult situation, in that i think it relatively unlikely that kids of early teenage years or younger would have found themselves in such a predicament. and so too, the asking of pertinent questions should you be of mature years and wishing to either learn to ride a bike or decide which might be the best bicycle for your needs. the obvious solution, as in the above, would be to ask an expert, quite probably the guy behind the counter in your local bike shop. leaving aside the possibility that such an emporium doesn't exist, that very notion is fraught with problems, not least of which might be embarrassment.

for if i might point out my use of the phrase mature years the last thing you want to be doing is asking a service assistant quite possible a decade or two younger, where he/she would recommend learning to ride a bike. if even that were not the initial sticky wicket, ie, you can already ride a bike, enquiring after a suitable bicycle would more than likely lead to a recommendation involving one of the very models sitting on the shop floor. even this is not necessarily an insurmountable hurdle, but there's always the possibility that it's not the size, colour, style or brand that you'd hoped it might be. so where, in this day and age, would you turn for some erudite and independent advice?

though distinctly american in nature and purpose, elly blue's everyday bicycling is quite simply (and i mean that in every sense of the word) one of the best i have read.

in thewashingmachinepost's earlier days, i had thinks about providing a lesser version of that which miss blue has published in book format. for, i reasoned, what was the point of me prattling on each day about the arcane issues and technicalities of the bicycling world, when there may well be a sizeable proportion of prospective readers who understood little of what i wrote (that probably hasn't changed). but each daily posting takes a considerable amount of time, and to embark upon such a series of explanatory pieces in parallel to the daily postings would have meant much burning of midnight oil, something i fear mrs washingmachinepost would have frowned upon quite vociferously.

but i can now rest easy in my bed. everyday bicycling is so comprehensive a publication, that i can but praise the endless patience that must pervade the personage of elly blue. "Let's start by looking at the very basic things you need to know about operating a bicycle on the road. Then we'll help you integrate these bicycling skills into your daily life, choose the right bicycle and keep it in good working order."

for those of us who are already practised pelotonese, think on to that which you now take for granted when it comes to riding a bicycle, riding in traffic, deciding how to carry 'stuff', fixing the darned things when they refuse to do as they are bid, and the ease with which you settle on that which will be your next bicycle. garnered skills and information over the years will probably make these processes relatively simple, at least far simpler than for those starting at point zero. elly blue, however, has translated her own considered knowledge into the this compact and bijou book's 127 pages. everything is separated into carefully considered paragraphs and chapters that, despite a demonstrative need for pedantry, never devolve into a patronising of the reader. in fact, quite the contrary, much of what transpires is eminently readable by even those assured of superior knowledge.

though obviously not quite the point of the exercise, place yourself in elly's pedals and think how you would deal with a similar project; ruddy hard work. in truth, i think it relatively unlikely that i have too many readers who are in need of this particular volume, but i'd be willing to bet that there are many who have been asked the questions to which the bulk of answers are contained within. and in our own, devil may care manner, wouldn't it be a whole lot simpler to hand over a copy of everyday bicycling and leave more time for our own cycling endeavours?

untrammeled selfishness.

as mentioned at the outset, this is undisguised americana; there is reference to cycle lanes, riding on the right and several other practices that pertain to north american cycling. however, for british readers, it is but a simple task to ignore the paragraphs that plainly do not have a parallel in the uk, and simply convert those that are the wrong way round.

this is a well researched, well considered and well written guide to featuring the bicycle more regularly in daily life. it is entirely devoid of preaching or a holier-than-thou attitude at any stage and constructed in a way that a bicycling lifestyle, should that be what is eventually desired, can be approached a little at a time. even if there are only restricted and particular aspects of the subject that sit uneasily on the radar of the reader, it's worth acquiring a copy, or for the benevolent, giving one for christmas. i find myself quite in awe of elly's patience in writing this solid edifice of information.

a round of applause for a job well done.

everyday bicycling

thursday 29th november 2012


top of page.