The full title is actually “BICYCLING Magazine’s Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills – Your Guide to Riding Faster, Stronger, Longer, and Safer” which is pretty self explanatory, and I probably shouldn’t have to even do a review, but here goes anyway.
This appears to be a compilation of articles from Bicycling Magazine on various subjects particular to the art of road riding and road racing. In all honesty, I picked this up thinking that it would either be a bunch of tips and tricks I’d already read elsewhere or else a bunch of information about blood oxygen levels and intervals and other things that, while they might be interesting scientifically speaking, do not interest me subjectively speaking. But I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.
The first few chapters were super basic, but well written and focused on preventing bad habits from forming early on, one could assume. A great deal of what followed was a good mix of stuff I’ve heard before, but written by professional cyclists (Davis Phinney authored several of these chapters, which is noteworthy since he is the husband of one of the authors of the first book I reviewed, Connie Carpenter-Phinney) with specific, thoughtful tips, and stuff which I’d not heard or long forgotten.
There’s a good chapter on breathing. It may sound odd, but I’m a big fan of focusing on my breath when I ride. I try to turn some rides into a kind of pseudo meditation. Or maybe it’s more like yoga. Either way it’s rarely discussed in the other books I’ve read about cycling. There are chapters on climbing and the benefits thereof, which I appreciate because I primarily notice my fitness level based on how I handle the hills in and around my home town of Portland, Maine. They actually covered a wide variety of subjects that apply to any fan of riding bikes, from beginners to commuters. There are a few chapters that are mostly directed at road racers, but even many of these also pertain to long distance riding and touring.
The book was published in 1998, so there are some small elements that might seem dated, but overall it holds up really well. Good advice is good advice. There is a chapter toward the end titled “For Men Only” that was a lot about impotence and not being able to feel one’s penis for a month or more. It seems like much of this has been shown to be incredibly rare or just generally debunked. Which isn’t to say there aren’t risks. But still…
The following chapter was titled “For Women Only” so I skipped it. I try to respect the wishes of the books that I read. Plus it allows me to imagine all sorts of bizarre stuff that could be in that chapter. Kind of a Schrödinger’s cat of vulva mythology. But there was one thing that I read in this book that I will never forget.
In one chapter they explain how stop lights detect cars using metal detectors under the pavement, which was awesome because I didn’t know that. They also explained what to look for if you want to roll over the detectors to increase the odds that your bike will actually ping the thing and make the light change for you without any cars having to come up in the lane right behind you. Which I greatly appreciated. But then the guy goes a lot overboard by suggesting that cyclists should go so far toward obeying the vehicular rules of the road that, when you find yourself waiting at a light that just won’t change, rather than waiting for an opportune moment to just ride through the red light they could dismount and lay their bike down on the detector to help it detect the steel (this is assuming your bike is made of steel) and change the light. I feel that this would do so much more to confuse and disrupt any potential traffic that might witness such a scene than it would to actually make said cyslist safe. But of course I also really want to see someone try it.
I enjoyed this book. I recommend it to anyone who has been riding for a little while and who feels like they could ride a little smoother and a little better. Or really anyone at all interested. Don’t hold back just because I failed to properly pigeonhole you.