Bike Snob NYC has long looked at the New York cycling scene through his own unique sense of humor and betterment. His new book deflates some of the traditional smugness associated with biking in the city and the joys and dangers of bike commuting in the city.
Your first book, Bike Snob, was more about the history of biking and encouraging new riders. What are you trying to achieve in The Enlightened Cyclist that you didn’t in that book?
My first book was about cycling in general, whereas this book focuses specifically on commuting and all the joy, frustration and controversy that comes along with it. I’m trying to encourage practical cycling and inject it with some much-needed humor to counteract all the smugness often associated with it.
How do you think a city like New York can transition from horses and cars to bikedom?
Amsterdam wasn’t built for cars or bikes, and they seem to do all right. To me it’s not about transitioning to “bikedom” so much as it is about incorporating all the ways people get around into the way the streets are designed. We already have bikedom. Sure, there are lots of new riders, but there have also been lots of people riding bikes here ever since the time they were first invented. We just need the infrastructure to finally reflect that, which has started to happen.
Grant Petersen, founder and owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works in Walnut Creek, Calif., is the author of Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike. The book will come out this May, during New York City Bike month. The eight-part guidebook covers everything from riding to safety to the biking philosophy known as “velosophy.”
What encouraged you to write this tell-all, back-to-basics guidebook?
I think people don’t just ride their bike for fun or recreation or for the right reasons. Bike riding is really fun, but it can become more of a job if you get caught up in the trappings of bike racing and competitions, of riding harder and longer. Pros don’t ride practical bikes; in fact, they ride really specialized and refined bikes that are quite impractical for just riding. And these bikes have become the default choice for the middle-aged man who starts riding a bike and has the money to buy those bikes. It’s not a good choice and I will defend that to my death.
Any pastime, certainly any that requires equipment, has the inevitability to get weird. Riding is more about having fun with a bike and using it in your life as warranted.
What is your message to bikers in your book?
Navigate around the racer-centric messages that are out there in the media and bike shops. There tends to be this idea once you’ve settled in as a bike rider that you need to start ramping it up, riding longer or harder, and that those kinds of rides are qualitatively better, but those rides would give anyone numb crotch. The most concise way to say my message is to just mellow out a little bit, not just for the sake of mellowing out but changing your relationship with the bike, feeling less bossed around and riding on your own terms. Not my terms. Certainly not racing terms.
What started as a Tumblr blog, “Rides a Bike,” images of Hollywood stars riding bikes, has turned into a 160-page hardcover book of more than 125 vintage images. Author and movie critic Steven Rea has painstakingly unearthed photographs that show our most beloved old-time stars, such as Rita Hayworth, Paul Newman, Robert Montgomery and Doris Day, both in and out of costume, candid or posed, riding bikes. These black-and-whites of gorgeous stars on beautifully crafted tandems, cruisers, roadsters and more, delight movie lovers and bike lovers and provide a glimpse into bike mania of yesteryear with that Hollywood haze.
What inspired you to start collecting these images and compile a book of them?
Well, my two greatest passions are movies and biking. So a few years ago, I started to collect photographs of movie stars on bikes. To find Humphrey Bogart or Veronica Lake on a bike was a pleasure for me, so I started collecting these photographs from Jerry Ohlinger’s in midtown, movie cards, Hollywood memorabilia and even eBay.
What is the appeal of these images? Why do people want to see these old stars riding bikes?
They are a lot of people into old cinema, vintages, Turner Classic and Film Forum; likewise, there are people into bikes who are into vintages bikes. There’s also this whole cycle chic movement, where people are riding bikes in clothes that look like they’re going to a cocktail party. These photos represent that glamor. The stars are wearing out-of-costume regular clothes or in some cases they’re actually in costume riding bikes between takes. I find this element of chic and coolness really charming.
This all started as a Tumblr blog, and now I have 500 followers, and when I look at their Tumblr blogs, a lot of them are kids, sort of the Urban Outfitters wearing kind, definitely a lot of hipsters. But even if you don’t know the complete filmography of Gary Cooper, you know, there’s something cool about looking at their images riding a bike. And also, it couldn’t make me happier if people checked out the movies.
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