Sunday, June 03, 2007

Building the Long Distance Bicycle

I was recently honored to receive a pre-release copy of an e-book entitled A Rider's Guide to Building the Long Distance Bicycle, by David Rowe. And now that life has given me a tiny free moment, I had the chance to sit down and enjoy it. I didn't have the opportunity to make it to the Handmade Bike Show in San Jose this year, but after reading this book, I'd certainly like to attend the next.

More than a book in which one person gives opinions based on his experience, this PDF e-book is a transcript of a panel that took place at the bike show, and includes the knowledge of four long distance veterans. Rowe (the author) was the host/moderator of the panel, and the participants were Terry Zmrhal, Matt Eames, Matt Bracken and Steve Rex.

The four distinct viewpoints on what goes into designing and building (and using) a good long-distance bike were a lovely read, and not surprisingly, certain common agreements and ideals emerge as the conversation carries on. Being a bona fide bike nerd myself, I can say that I didn't learn TONS of new information, but to have all this knowledge in one place certainly earns a spot on my digital bookshelf.

If I were new to longer riding, curious about the sport of randonneuring, or wanting a solid half hour read about the philosophy of long distance bike design and usage, this is one place I'd want to start. The beauty of this book is that approximately 99.478% of the ideas espoused in the book SHOULD carry over into 99% of the bikes people ride on a daily basis. This notion might be best summarized on p.51, where Rowe poses to the panelists:
"Having a bicycle that is comfortable and one where the rider is able to fix a problem and finish that event, or just get back home, that's the key to a great long distance bike, isn't it?"
I'd argue that David's words apply to a much larger audience than he intended. Simplicity, reliability and maintainability; those are the core virtues of any good bicycle, and especially bikes that will be ridden for many miles. Building on that foundation, there are a heck of a lot of ideas per dollar, and at the $9.95 price tag you really can't go wrong.

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