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Bike to Work Day at LAPL: Great Books About Cycling for Everyone

Neale Stokes, Librarian III, Digital Content Team,
photo of two people with bikes
View from Palos Verdes Peninsula, 1981. Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

While today is Bike to Work Day, a few of us at the Library cycle to work every day. People ride bikes for many reasons, but for me it’s just a familiar habit. I worked as a bike mechanic for a while, and I've ridden a bike to get around for years. I drive a car sometimes, but since I can ride to work in 15 minutes, I don’t need to sit in traffic or worry about parking and gas.

Despite its car-centric reputation, Los Angeles can be surprisingly bike-friendly. The big reason is the weather: it never gets too cold, and rain comes just a few days a year.

LA has also seen cycling-related improvements: there are more bike lanes than ever, and Metro recently unveiled a bike share system. I feel like I see more people on bikes all the time.

I think more people would ride if they didn’t think of cycling as an exclusive club. Bikes are great for lots of things: quick errands, commuting, or long rides just for fun. There’s no requirement to wear special clothes or have exactly the right gear.

man with bike

Uniform for a casual commute. See more Library staff with their bikes at #laplbikes

I went through a period when I’d squeeze into high-tech clothing for intense rides and worry about meeting mileage and performance goals. A revelation came in part from Grant Petersen, owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works and author of the refreshingly contrarian Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike. Petersen says the influence of racing on bike design and marketing has made people think they have to ride, dress, and act like professional athletes.

Just Ride book cover

Instead, he advocates practical bikes and gear, and a more relaxed attitude: “Don’t suffer in the name of speed, imaginary glory, or Internet admiration; don’t ride bikes that don’t make sense for you; don’t wear ridiculous outfits just to ride your bike; don’t think of your bike as a get-in-shape tool and riding as something you have to suffer to benefit from. Your bike is a useful convenience, and a fun, somewhat expensive, toy, and riding is best for you when it’s fun.”

Blogger Eben Weiss (aka the “Bike Snob”) also challenges bike culture’s received wisdom in writings on the web and in books like Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling. While his blog can initially seem snarky, Weiss’ bite belies a deep love for cycling and a desire for inclusiveness; the true target of this “snob” is actually the snobbiness of bike culture.

Bicycle Owner's Manual book cover

This outlook is summarized nicely in his latest book, The Ultimate Bicycle Owner's Manual, when he asks that we stop worrying about what others think and be “content to be just another person on a bike.” I couldn't agree more. 

Whether you’re a cycling novice or a seasoned snob, here are some other cycling books and media that you might find amusing, useful, or both:

Did we miss something good? Let us know in the comments!