"Find an old picture of Roger de Vlaeminck. Stick it to your bedroom mirror. Put your bike alongside it and sit on it until you get it juuust right."
it must have been a bit of a leap of faith to launch a series of books entitled (something) for dummies, if only on the basis that it's generally never a particularly great idea to insult your audience. or even your intended audience, come to that. for instance, starting an online business (for dummies); though presumably nobody would setup a business simply to sell to dummies, you would figure you'd have to be at least a couple of levels above dummy status to start a business of any kind.
and i should think that the number of dummies hoping to master html5 and css3 would be very few and far between. a risky undertaking i shouldn't wonder. however, the oft repeated phrase 'as simple as riding a bike...' would rather mitigate against any sort of manual describing how one coud become a cyclist. surely it's simply a case of waiting until dad, mum or childminder's husband has let go of that saddle and you're off and pedalling solo. after that point, there's no real need to look back (in fact, looking back might seriously compromise that recently learned stability).
however, the possible iniquity of releasing a book entitled 'how to be a cyclist' obviously never occured to either john deering or phil ashley, since they pushed ahead with publication nonetheless. and thank goodness they did. this is one of the most brilliantly entertaining, yet informative books on cycling i have ever had the pleasure of reading. granted, some of the philosophy behind its chapters may bear more than a passing resemblance to velominati's rules of cycling, but in truth, the latter is used more as inspiration; plagiarism it certainly isn't.
the narrative takes the form of several question and answer sessions, alphabetically arranged according to subject heading. the cycling newbie is throughout referred to as pilgrim, a satisfatory epithet which denotes aspiration without resorting to deprecation. the voice of authority we learn is the guide
"Invincible health, devastating erudition, unimaginable wealth and prowess with the ladies are all there for the taking, providing you listen to me and follow my instructions with care and deference."
"Well might you 'Wow', Pilgrim. I'm not fucking about with the little stuff here, son."
"Aren't they (bikes) easier to fix upside down?"
Oh yeah, much easier. That's why all garages turn cars over before they start work on them."
however, lest you think the contents of the book resemble little more than a pub conversation, there are plentiful nuggets of wisdom contained within, nuggets that, should we as pilgrims pay attention, will serve us well in our velocipedinal careers. subjects such as attitude, bike, etiquette, gears, kit, legs and mileage are all discussed in similar and often humorous language. but like my daughter's english teacher who she assumed spent each lesson telling jokes, yet provided the wherewithal for her to gain an excellent pass in her higher, the learning is endemic throughout. if you don't quite get some of it first time through, at least you'll have a very enjoyable read in the process.
"Bikes! Brilliant, yes! That's what I'm here for."
"Woah, hold your horses there boy. You're not here for bikes, you're here for cycling. An easy mistake to make, granted, but a mistake nonetheless. "
john deering entered the publishing fray with team on the run, an excellent treatise on the rise and fall of the linda mccartney cycling team and has worked with photographer phil ashley previously on the acclaimed '12 months in the saddle'. the latters images pepper the entire book, and though not specifically necessary for the premise of the book, they are a particularly welcome feature. think of the bass guitar in a band; you might not notice it's there, but you'd sure as heck notice if it wasn't.
and while we're on the subject of phil ashley's photos, it's not simply the narrative that leads to many moments of humour, but veritably the image captions. an picture of a casquette bearing italian on the upturned peak (tuttociclismo poggiali scandicci) is subtitled 'A cycling cap older than your teeth. Respect.'.
the subtle cleverness of the mode of narration is exemplary. whoever purchases this book, or receives a copy for christmas (now there's a good idea) will doubtless adopt one or other persona. you would, of course, expect a world famous cycling media person such as myself to adopt the stance of guide, whereas the less well-versed can happily assume the title of pilgrim without losing face in the cafe stop.
the only downside i can find to the whole publication is the guide's seeming infatuation with the band rush. neil peart may well be something of a cyclist himself (though more usually to be found on a motorbike), but they most certainly are not, as described, 'the greatest music ensemble of the twentieth century.' a minor failing in an otherwise superb book.
"You see, Pilgrim, not everybody will be as lucky as you to be so well-informed in the dark arts of bunch riding. And those (other) tits will likely make some other poor sod fall off before they do."
saturday 4 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................