Friday, August 31, 2012
 

Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike

We've recently finished reading Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen. Grant is the founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, makers of fine lugged steel bicycles. Grant is a bit of an iconoclast. Just Ride is a reflection of his belief that people don't need special bikes or gear just to ride their bikes. From the Introduction: "My main goal of this book is to point out what I see as bike racing's bad influence on bicycles, equipment, and attitudes, and undo it."

People should be able to just get on their bike, a practical, functional bike, and ride. In the book Grant tries to debunk many accepted beliefs about riding a bicycle. We agree with most of them. The book is comprised of 212 pages with 89 one- or two-page chapters, most containing interesting tidbits about riding, gear, safety, food, accessories, maintenance, bike fit and frame geometry, and "velosophy," his contrarian views and opinions about biking.

Here are a few example chapter headings from the book:

Don't count miles - "It is discouraging, adds pressure, and takes away fun."
You have way too many gears - "For all-around riding over a variety of surfaces and terrain, you need eight gears."
No ride too shore (one of my favorites) - "One of the problems with becoming a serious bike rider is that you stop going for short rides because somewhere along the line it sinks in - falsely - that a ride you don't have to suit up for doesn't count. That's your inner racer talking and you need to shut it up." I've often heard from cyclists that they don't bike commute because the ride is too short. What they mean is it's too short to suit up; so don't suit up. In that case maybe you need two bikes, your fast recreational bike and your "just hop on" utility bike.
Paddling beats pedaling - "Training wheels are bad because they teach your child to turn a bike by turning the handlebars. Get your child a tiny bike designed to paddle, not pedal."
Don't overthink your underwear - "When the bike is a good and friendly part of your everyday life, you shouldn't have to change your underwear before riding." He includes a caveat about rides longer than 4 hours.
Racers don't ride bike paths. More room for you. - "Racers avoid bike paths because they have too many joggers, slow riders, dog walkers, and baby strollers." I wish this one were true; anyone riding on the W&OD Trail on a weekend knows there are many racer-wannabes out there using pedestrians as slalom poles and refusing to slow down when passing. Maybe they should turn off their power meters when they enter the trail.
Be saintlike on the bike path - "You are the predator so ride slowly and defer to everyone." Yes.
Hi-vis beats high risk - "When I was a racer, I thought that the hi-vis look, with reflectors up the wazoo, was for timid riders unsure of their bike skills - usually tourists and commuters."
Riding is lousy all-around exercise - "If you want to be healthy and achieve all-around fitness, you have to do other things."
Drink when you're thirsty, not before - "How many times have you been told to 'eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirsty'? Eating before you're hungry will make you fat - no surprise there. Drinking before you're thirsty will make you pee a lot. It's unnatural, too."

That gives you a flavor of what's in the book. You won't agree with everything but it's definitely thought-provoking and mostly practical advice. I especially like the four chapters about bags, fenders, baskets, and kickstands; definitely "unracer" gear.

For those of us who like bike touring but can't always find the time for multi-day rides, Grant recommends the S240. "The most fun I have on my bike is during overnight bike-camping trips in the local hills. I call them Sub 24-hour Overnights and mine average sixteen hours, typically from 5:30 in the evening to 9:30 the next morning."

I highly recommend the book. I've seen copies in some local bike shops including bikes@vienna (full disclosure, I know they carry the book because I work there).

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Comments:
Drink before you're thirsty -- Bad advice (within reason) if you're on a high-workout ride in the heat. Don't take the risk. Trust conventional wisdom.
No Ride Too Short -- Ha, I'm guilty of that. But some things have to be done no matter how short the trip, at least more than a mile... change of shirts (if you want to be presentable), helmet, bike shoes/extra shoes (if your only bike has clipless), load up your backpack/bag, bike lock, bike check. Walking/driving requires less prep.
Don't count miles -- Depends.
 

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