It's All About the Bike
For the first time the bicycle, one of the world's most popular inventions (it consistently tops such polls), receives the appreciation it deserves in this romantic, addictive, book.
The Pursuit of Happiness On Two Wheels
The bicycle is one of mankind's greatest inventions - and the most popular form of transport in history ever invented. Robert Penn has ridden one most days of his adult life. In his late-20s, he pedalled 40,000kms around the world. Yet, like cyclists everywhere, the utilitarian bikes he currently owns don't even hint at this devotion. Rob needs a new bike, a bike that reflects how he feels when he's riding it - like an ordinary man touching the gods. In It's All About the Bike, Robert tells of his journey to design and build his dream bike. En route, he tells explores the science, history and culture of bicycles. From the artisans of Stoke-on-Trent who hand-built his frame to the birth of the mountain bike in California (where Rob tracks down the perfect wheel), from Portland to Milan by way of Coventry, birthplace of the modern bicycle, this is the story of our love-affair with cycling told through the machine that makes it possible. It's a tale of perfect components - parts that set the standard in reliability, craftsmanship and beauty - and the role of the bicycle in changing the course of human history, from the invention of the 'people's nag' to the emancipation of women, to the marvel of the tangent-spoked wheel and the quasi-religious admiration for Fausto Coppi in Italy - tales that explain why we ride, and why this simple machine remains central to humanity today.
'A book as brilliant as the invention it celebrates. A wonderful read', Nick Crane, author of 'Clear Waters Rising' and 'Bicycles Up Kilimanjaro''What I'm left with after consuming the book is a sense of poetry. A distinct and lingering feeling of elegance, design history and aesthetics. It made me look at the hundreds of thousands of bicycles I pass every day in Copenhagen in a completely new light. It made me wonder what my perfect bicycle would look like', Mikael Colville-Andersen Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog'No matter how shiny and costly the item of bike bling, there is a back story, usually a good one. Artfully, Penn turns his quest for hardware . . . into a worldwide spin around cycling and its culture', William Fotheringham Guardian'[Penn] writes with authority, humour and refreshing candour . . . A celebration of craftsmanship over technology and of a bygone era when things were built to last . . . If Penn is to be believed, we are entering a golden age of cycling, when it really will be all about the bike once more' Sunday Telegraph'[Penn] writes with a Bill-Brysonesque facility for concentrating a lot of information and research into an easy-to-read and surprisingly compelling tale. Best of all . . . his account enriches your enjoyment of a ride', Tim Dawson, Cycle Guy Sunday Times''Gem of a book . . . Penn . . . describes his quest to build the perfect bicycle, mixing in an entertaining dose of cycling history and culture in the process' Economist'Fantastic . . . It is a really interesting read with some great stories on the science, history and culture of the bicycle. Well worth a read if, like me, you love cycling!', Paul Smith'I've just spent a week pedalling slowly from Windermere to Aviemore with a copy of Penn's zealous eulogy in my pannier. His infectious admiration for the exhilarating sociability of cycling, coupled with reverence for quality craftsmanship, made highly engaging company . . . appreciate the wit and enthusiasm of this unusual odyssey', James Urquhart Independent'The pages overflow with pioneers, mavericks and geniuses - certainly, it is hard to imagine anyone who reads this book being able to buy a bike "off the peg" again . . . A depiction of a world you might vote for, Penn's does not sound bad at all', Tim Lewis Observer
Robert Penn has worked as a solicitor, waiter, builder, DJ, journalist and photographer. The constant factor has always been bicycles: he's ridden one nearly every day of his adult life, in over forty countries on five continents. In his mid twenties he pedalled 24,000 miles around the world. As a journalist, Penn writes for the Financial Times, Observer and Condé Nast Traveller, as well as a host of cycling publications. He lives in Wales with his wife and three children and commutes to work across a heather moor on a mountain bike.