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It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels
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It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,881 ratings  ·  210 reviews
Robert Penn has saddled up nearly every day of his adult life. In his late twenties, he pedaled 25,000 miles around the world. Today he rides to get to work, sometimes for work, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, and to skip bath time with his kids. He's no Sunday pedal pusher. So when the time came for a new bike, he decided to pull out ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Bloomsbury USA (first published August 24th 2010)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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John
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is, for a bike junkie like me, a drug fix. On a strange quest to build his dream bike, Robert Penn takes us on journeys through the cultural and technological histories of bikes and cycling, as well as some of his own personal bike trips around the world. He made me want to get my bike out, polish it carefully, adjust it, tweak it, revel in the miracle of elegant simplicity and ultimate efficiency that it is, and then go riding.

He visits the factories that make some of the most renowne
...more
Mike
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Great for the Cyclist Enthusiast

I was given this book as a Christmas present, so I had absolutely no preconceptions about it. I have not read many books about bicycling. It seems like an activity that is best experienced directly rather than vicariously, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The book is written by a serious cyclist who loves the sport, and he communicates that in the book. All members of the Pedalers should be able to connect to this feeling.

The author Robert Penn, is a serious re
...more
Philippe
This is a delightfully entertaining riff on one of the greatest inventions of humankind: the bicycle. Cheap, elegant, efficient and clean, it had a tremendous influence on the social mores, urban development and technological progress of the last 150 years. The bicycle was a key driver behind the emancipation of women, the mobilisation of the working class, the expansion of cities and the unlocking of remote countryside. And it served as a precursor to the automobile and the airplane (the Wright ...more
Ragav
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
All about bike
I am a cyclist, it has become sort of my identity lately, and despite being one I had never read a book on cycling.

I was gifted this book and the subject of the book was very interesting to me, its about the author’s journey of building his dream bike , he travels to different part of the world and sources various components required for his dream machine.

What he describes in the book is not just his bike building journey the book is filled with rich history of bicycle, right from
...more
Kimmo Sinivuori
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Enjoyable paean to the bicycle and craftsmanship. Penn tells the story of his quest to build himself the perfect racing bike. While explaining how his bespoke bike is made by the best manufacturers and craftsmen of bicycles and bicycle parts, he also writes about the industrial and cultural history of the bike. With a good editor and half the length this would have been worth four stars. With good illustrations and caption it could even have been five stars.
David Sasaki
Somehow Robert Penn was able to convince his publisher to pay for a custom made, high-end bicycle by visiting all of the factories of that make the parts and writing a book about it. How did I not think of this!

Envy aside, the book is full of useful cycling history & trivia for enthusiasts like myself. The prose isn’t memorable, but I’d still recommend it to anyone who nods knowingly at the following description:

The bicycle saves my life every day. If you’ve ever experienced a moment of awe or f
...more
JK
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-fun-uni, 2017, cycling
Beautiful. The magic of cycling and bicycles all in one, and was a joy to read in the way a nice ride is joyful. Just felt swept along, and totally taken by the author's own joy and wonder at bicycles and bicycling history.

But I would not recommend it to anyone who wasn't into bicycles, they'd likely find it inane. Their loss~
Adrienne
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is definitely one of my favorite books I've read this year. I loved how each chapter was broken down into one major piece of his bike that he was building. Then on top of following that, we get all this history! I love bikes and I love history so this was a very enjoyable book for me. I will say since there is so much knowledge given, the book was a bit dense and took me a little while to get through. But even so, I really did thoroughly enjoy this book and everything I learned! It has enco ...more
Mark
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admit it, I'm biased in favor of this book from the get go. I have a background in history, I ride a bike, and I really enjoy industrial tours.

Oh, yeah, I'm also biased in favor of good writing!

You'd think this kind of thing had been done before and for all I know, it has. My ignorance of the existence and depth of such works worked in my favor. Given the quality of the writing, though, I don't think it matters how many other works in this style exist.

Here's the story of a man who has been rid
...more
Serena
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
This was a fun introduction into biking culture: much as I would've done as a child, if someone asked me to draw a picture of a bike and express what it means to me, I would draw some lines connecting two circles and say that biking was a fun way to get from Point A to Point B.

How naive.

Biking is not just an outdoor activity, but an intense culture that spans the globe, and the machine itself is quite fascinating when you pay attention. Reading this book was like finding myself at a party and ea
...more
Michael
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cycling
The author describes some of the history, particularly the early history, of the development of cycling along with an account of his selection of the bits and pieces that are eventually assembled to make his dream bike including visits to manufacturers, all in less than 200 pages. Since I have a coffee table book that describes the history of just derailleurs, he obviously summarizes, generalizes, and leaves some (OK, a lot of) stuff out. For me, knowing something about the subject, it was an in ...more
Ben
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, sport
I inherited a love of cycling from my Dad. I was encouraged to cycle as a child and found I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom and exercise. Living in the Fens at the time, you could go for miles without too many slopes to climb - although now I love the challenge. We also watched the Tour de France together, an annual ritual that has continued to this day, which I have in turn passed onto my son. This year was a year I never thought I would see as a cycling fan - building from Mark Cavendish winnin ...more
Michael
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
What can you say about a guy from Wales who rode around the world because an Irish woman inspired him? foolish? Naive? Soft hearted sentimentalist? I am sure somebody has already had their say about Robert Penn's private devices, his proclamatory penchant for his own garage, his mountainous ascents, the people he hob knobs with, his own rough scrapes flying down nepalese gravel roads...it all sounds so free spirited and liberalizing a reader might be sidled with grief for their own lack of exper ...more
Hannah Weinberger
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thorough research, spirited and melodic language, and deft synchronization of experience and context made this book a hell of a read. It's obscure enough to entertain and educate diehards, while accessible enough to inspire the uninitiated and encourage new riders. For anyone seeking out a madcap crash course in cycling design and its history, this book is hard to beat: Penn spent serious time with some of the industry's most eminent players to explicate how self-education of early and contempor ...more
Donna
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Such an interesting read! Granted, if you're not a bike aficionado nor a cycling widow, you may pass over this book. The author takes a journey through Europe and the US to collect components for his custom-built bike. This may all sound very self-indulgent but the passion and enthusiasm of the author and the bicycle 'artisans' he encounters is very contagious. I've never been so captivated by the descriptions of how a wheel is constructed and made 'true'.

The author also weaves the history of th
...more
Jennifer
May 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Robert Penn is a dedicated cyclist who decided to have his dream bike built for him. It's All About The Bike is his journey to get that bike built, but it also explores the history of biking and all the components that work together to create the modern bicycle.

At 208 pages it's not very long. but it is an informative read and pretty entertaining if a bit dry in spots where the writing gets technical.

I just wish just at the end when he finally has the bike assembled there had been a better pictu
...more
Mario La Pergola
Entertaining, informative, fascinating read with appropriate amount of details unlikely to get non-nerds lost yet enough to satisfy gear junkies (like me).
citybeagle
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a clever and enjoyable book. Ostensibly it's the story of a man who sets out to assemble his dream bicycle, starting with a bespoke frame and adding the best components he can find. He travels around the world, from England to Oregon, California, Italy, and Germany, to the places where each component is made. And if this were just bland tale of consumerism, it would hold little appeal for me.

But the quest to assemble the perfect bicycle is really an opportunity to explain the history of
...more
Kate
Jul 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bespoke bicyclists
Recommended to Kate by: Dan
Shelves: bicicletas
"An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come."

"Everything is bicycle."

"Be at one with the universe. If you can't do that, at least be at one with your bike."

"Handing over a bank note is enough to make a bicycle belong to me, but my entire life is needed to realize this possession."

"That a velocipede should maintain an upright position is one of the most surprising feats of practical mechanics."

"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live."

"You give up that i
...more
Jack Hope III
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, this book was bike porn, pure and simple.

This is the story of one man's trek across the world to buy the perfect bike. He visits the manufacturers of some of the best bike parts in the world, discusses the history of the bike from it's rough beginnings to it's current revival in status, and even takes a dive down Repack -- the birthplace of mountain biking -- in California.

I have often dreamed of my own custom bike sporting only the best parts available, and Penn has left me a trail of
...more
Holly
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a great read! The opening chapter was perfection-spare yet lovely writing that managed to convey the history of cycling, women's suffrage, industrial design, and the pleasure of riding a bike. While some of the chapters get a little technical (or at least detailed, with in-depth descriptions of different components of the bicycle), it is a coherent whole. What better tribute than to say it made me want to rush out and have a custom bike built just for me. Loved this book, and think it would ...more
Trike
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Bikes and their history are far more interesting than you might imagine. Penn writes part memoir, part technical treatise and part history book, all with great verve. Even if there are some things you aren't entranced by, simply persevere because he ties it together by cross-pollinating the colorful characters with their impact on the most popular and most-used form of transportation ever devised. I've learned so many cool things, the book seems like it's twice the length.
Julian Walker
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Skilfully woven around a central narrative concerning the creation of the author’s bespoke bicycle, the history of cycling is brought to life with wry comments and observations and a host of colourful individuals, for whom two wheels is the only way in life.

This is a fabulous read, escaping the norms of society and exploring a more exhilarating peloton in which to travel through life.

I bought this thinking it was something else and was delighted to have got it wrong.
Cheryl
Feb 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic
For serious bicycle enthusiasts. It's interesting to learn about how a craftsman can design a perfectly fitted frame or how ball bearings revolutionized bicycles, but the book does not draw the reader into the bigger quest. You have to already be deeply fascinated by every component of your bike before you have the stamina for the author's full journey to find his ideal bike parts, one after the other.
Tim
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you love bikes: the aesthetics, the culture, the history and above all the sheer delight of "flying" a meter above the ground, you will love this book. If bikes are simply a means of transport or something you payed on as a kid then look elsewhere. For those of us who "get it" it's a sheer deight.
Jaime
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
How can I incorporate my bike more into my day? Reading about bikes, biking to work, dreaming about bikes...this book helps. I don't pretend to understand all the references, or even all the parts listed, but one day I will. This book brings me a little closer to that day.
Ryan
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
The author brings the reader alongside of his journey (literally) to have his dream bike made. Throughout this journey, the author provides detailed insight into the history of what we know as a bicycle while also sharing anecdotal references to previous riding experiences.
Peter Baker
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
fantastic book. amazing exploration of the history of bicycles and cycling. I loved how it got into the specifics of the metal used in bike frames. facinating
Jack
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: cycling
This could have benefited from some pictures of that awesome bike he was building.
Dan Ragsdale
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyable! Everything you ever wanted to know about bikes and more.
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