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Book Review: Bike Snob

Posted Jul 27 2010 7:33am

Summary: BikeSnobNYC’s first jump from new media to old falls flat in an attempt to create an intro to cycling book with an edge.

Rating: 2/5

Price: $16.95

In the world of bike bloggers, there are the earnest and the snarky. Usually the twain never meet, but BikeSnobNYC has become one of the rock stars of cycling new media with a lot of the latter sprinkled with some of the former. The once anonymous writer built an impressive, widely read site with extremely funny, sharp pieces poking fun at all of cycling’s various archetypes with fixie urban hipsters getting a good dose on a regular basis. Logic would say you take this great writing and put it to paper, and you’ll have something great. Unfortunately, taking the magic of one format and medium to another isn’t so simple as we’ve recently seen .

The strength of the BikeSnobNYC’s online work has been responding to the latest ludicrous happenings in bike sport, advocacy, and industry and his observations of cycling on the streets of New York. If one post falls a little flat, no biggie. Just wait until tomorrow’s post. This freshness and timeliness is difficult to covert to a medium that must stand by itself in a book store with no links to background stories, funny pictures, or previous related posts. Instead, BikeSnobNYC is shoehorned into what can only be described as an introduction to bicycling book. There are chapters on what to wear, how to do basic repair and maintenance, and bike safety. Bizarrely, the book begins with a pretty straight history of the bicycle. Interesting, but not exactly BikeSnobNYC territory. Throughout the book, the austor attempts to convince the reader how great cycling is and why you should take up the activity. This bee line shift from snarky to earnest is a little off putting regular readers of the ‘Snob.

It’s not all straight forward bike advocacy and education. The chapter Velo-Taxonomy attempts to define the tribal splits within cycling brings BikeSnobNYC back to his more familiar territory of satire with pseudo-encyclopedia entries on the Roadie, the Righteous Cyclist, the Contraption Captain, and the Beautiful Godzilla. This was probably the funniest chapter and the one regular readers will enjoy most.

There are also some real moments of clarity in describing our car addicted culture and the aggression motorists often take out on cyclists. Take this gem:

The fact is that a motor vehicle is a “major purchase,” and major purchases are how people express their self-importance and project it to the rest of the world. But they’re not important; they’re merely self-important. And that’s the real reason everybody is trying to kill you. . . when you do something as audacious as question someone’s importance by obstructing the physical manifestation of that importance with your bicycle, you are an affront to their very existence.

Unfortunately, these insights and the old sharp tongue of BikeSnobNYC are few and far between. Whether the print medium required this mediocre moderation for mass market appeal or the ‘Snob is trying to pay karmic amends for past systematic and merciless satire is uncertain. It is probably the former as BikeSnobNYC is now also featured with a seriously toned down column in Bicycling, no doubt to provide some edge to the flaccid publication. What we are left with is a book that will go over the head of a newbie not steeped in bike culture and fall flat on the fan of BikeSnobNYC. The good news is that while this book is not worth picking up unless its on discount, his blog is still going strong with great, funny posts on a daily basis. I recommend you bypass the watered down Bike Snob book like a Walmart Huffy and head straight over to his blog for unfiltered truth.

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