The world changed in 1972. Richard Ballantine’s first bike book was published. To call a book “Richard’s Bicycle Book“, might seem like the ultimate act of a supreme egotist. However Richard is far from that. The title is simply a simple descriptive truth.
Cycling wasn’t particularly popular then. It was possible to cycle around Edinburgh on a January day and be surprised to see another cyclist. Cycling was, more or less, what (a few) people did if they couldn’t afford a car – or liked road racing. R’sBB wasn’t really for either group. It was more for people who cycled by positive choice and even more (though perhaps neither he nor they knew it) for people who would become the ‘new cyclists’.
It was really a manual for how and why people should cycle – for their own health and economic well-being and also as a sane transport ‘solution’ to urban problems. BUT it didn’t preach, it wasn’t ecologically earnest. It was written with experienced knowledge, unique insights and understated humour. It pretty much pioneered the idea, to a wide audience, that cyclists had a right to be on the road, but sometimes needed to assert that – positively rather than aggressively.
In the past thirty five years there have been updates and variations, including the Piccolo Bicycle Book (aimed at children) and Richard’s Ultimate Bicycle Book (aimed at the coffee table). Now there is a new variant. City Cycling is as simply honest as the first book’s title. The city is undoubtedly London (it’s Richard’s adopted home), but most of the truths in the book are universal.
If you’ve read any of his previous books about cycling you’ll know (roughly) what to expect – eclectic, far from eccentric, though, as ever, he is interested in interesting bicycles. The longstanding friendship with designer/engineer Mike Burrows is mentioned and illustrated with his evolutionary bikes. The book makes good use of good photos.
City Cycling is a ‘good read’ though not really a book for one session. There is enough bike fixing advice (even for the bike owning technophobe) to be worth the £9.99 cover price. There’s also lots of seriously good advice for city cycling – suitable for the nervous novice and accomplished urban mover. Entertaining, informing, inspiring. Due in book shops on the first of August.