Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Why should anyone steal a watch when he could steal a bicycle?" - Flann O'Brien

I've never stolen a watch or a bicycle, nor - knockonwood - have I had either stolen from me, but Flann O'Brien is the perfect man to introduce a new display shelf on our (previously referred to) landing, in praise of bicycles.

It's easy to overlook the ubiquity of the bicycle in the Bay Area, or to take for granted our generally bike-friendly city, but having spent a year in central Illinois, where, upon taking my bike out for its inaugural ride through the corn fields, I was shouted at from a car: "Haven't you heard of a sidewalk?" I can assure you that I am more than happy to be biking in a city with bike lanes, fellow riders, and drivers who are (sometimes) aware. All the more so because that question hurled from a minivan came on a road that didn't even have a sidewalk to ride on, if I were so inclined.

While our modest selection of bicycling books doesn't claim to be comprehensive, we're happy to be able to recommend to readers and bikers some titles that speak to the joy of pedaling:

I read Tim Krabbe's The Rider in one breathless sitting and have since found myself obnoxiously recommending it to anyone interested in road bike racing or excellent journalism. I've never had much ambition or desire to be a racer, but Krabbe, a former chess-player-turned-rider, recounts a grueling 150km race through the Cevennes mountain range so convincingly, with such obvious passion, that I found myself tempted to start practicing climbs on my own.

Flann O'Brien's Third Policeman is, in addition to being a fundamental text in the television series Lost, an incomparable masterpiece of Irish literature, madcap and surreal, full of absurdity and the source of such delightful passages as this:

The gross and net result of it is that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles...when a man lets things go so far that he is more than half a bicycle, you will not see him so much because he spends a lot of his time leaning with one elbow on walls or standing propped by one foot at kerbstones.
Then there's Pedaling Revolution, Clark's staff pick. I can't do justice to the glory of Clark's shelf-talker and its addendum, so I'll invite you to come into the store to see it for yourself.

Rounding out the display is the ever-useful SF Biking and Walking map, with its sweat-saving routes; the Moon Bay Area Biking guide, a great resource for planning short or long rides; and David Herlihy's lavishly illustrated history, Bicycle. Herlihy is also the author of one of our current bestsellers, The Lost Cyclist, a gripping account of the search for a cyclist who attempted an around the world ride in the late 19th century.

And, of course, everyone's favorite cheese-loving rodent, Anatole, whose primary means of locomotion is, naturally, the bicycle.


Anonymous said...

What about "Cycling's Golden Age" The Horton Collection - - A great cycling history and photos with an SF connection!

jenn said...

jenn said...

oh, oh! and this