I’m such a fan of books about cycling, and after years of blogging I’ve got shelfs full that I call on for reference and inspiration. I’ve just added one that falls into the latter category: Words to Ride By: Thoughts on Bicycling by Michael Carabetta.
This compact, 112-page compendium deftly pairs notable quotes about cycling with delightful photos, drawings and graphics that convey glory, speed, romance, humor and derring do. It’s the kind of volume that invites picking up off a desk or coffee table, encourages browsing and gladdens the heart in the process.
“I envisioned a book that might bring together the philosophic and kinetic aspects of bicycle and bicycling, quotations and visuals, which might capture some of the sensations cyclists feel when riding,” Carabetta writes in the introduction.
Carbaretta, who is creative director of Chronicle Books, is an lifelong cyclist who uses a bike for transportation, but also rides long on weekends in his native Marin County. He pedaled a cruiser as a kid, then jumped onto the mountain biking trend just as it was blowing up in his backyard. Still, Carbaretto considers his true immersion to have started when he found his way to a road bike.
So, the beauty and drama of road cycling are celebrated in Words to Ride By. One or my favorites quotes in the book is by Ernest Hemingway: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them.”
But there’s also wonderful visual variety in the depiction of cycling pioneers, celebrities and everyday riders. For example, Carabetta chose for the cover an image of the writer Henry Miller in ordinary clothing pedaling upright. (Miller himself wrote a book in late life called My Bike and Other Friends.)
“He’s an everyman,” Cararetta observed of that photo at a recent appearance at the Rapha Cycle Club in New York City (right). “There’s something about it that reminds you of the pleasure of riding, not just competing.”
Some of the quotations will be familiar, among them women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony’s declaration that the bicycle “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” (Hear! Hear!) Others musings are less known, at least to me, but no less engaging. Consider Bill Nye the Science Guy’s observation: “Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There’s something wrong with a society that drives a car to work out in the gym.”
With gift-giving ideas often a challenge, this small book of big inspiration is a good one to keep in mind.
Words to Ride By: Thoughts on Bicycling, $12.95
Photos: Lead, Amazon; above, velojoy