Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels” as Want to Read:
It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,676 ratings  ·  194 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about It's All About the Bike, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about It's All About the Bike

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,676 ratings  ·  194 reviews

Sort order
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
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
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
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.
Alessandro Argenti
Sono appassionato di ciclismo ma l'idea che sta alla base di questo libro è irragionevole... Lasciamo stare che grosso modo metà contenuto è riferito a notizie storiche (che sinceramente in un romanzo proprio non vado a ricercare mai), il resto non è altro che una velata propaganda ad amici/costruttori di materiale tecnico. Fatemi capire, una bicicletta su misura non va bene, è necessario spendere quattro volte tanto per un altro mezzo costruito su pezzi unici che alla fine è....esattamente su m ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
περιμενα οτι θαταν πολυ ενδιαφερον αλλα δυστυχως απογοητευτηκα
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, for-fun-uni, 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~
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
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
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
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 all sounds so free spirited and liberalizing a reader might be sidled with grief for their own lack of exper ...more
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
Slávek Rydval
Na začátku byl jednoduchý sen: postavit si kolo snů, které perfektně sedne, nebude další sezónu obstarožní a hlavně toho hodně vydrží. Robert Penn dva roky hledal, sháněl, zkoumal, studoval, procestoval svět. Pletená kola v Americe, pláště v Německu, komponenty v Itálii… Jeho příběh putování za dokonalým kolem sepsal v hodně čtivé knize, kde kromě vlastních zážitků popisuje i mnoho zajímavých faktů z historie. Pokud je pro vás kolo srdeční záležitostí, tuto knihu si rozhodně nenechte ujít.

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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: cycling
This could have benefited from some pictures of that awesome bike he was building.
Matthew Bain
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great book, combining interesting history of the bicycle with industrial history of Britain & Italy. A bit geeky, with lots of data, but enough personal journalism to make it highly readable.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities
  • Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike
  • The Enlightened Cyclist: Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstacles on the Path to Two-Wheeled Trancendence
  • In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist
  • The Rider
  • Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike
  • The Rules: The Way of the Cycling Disciple
  • Bicycle: The History
  • Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy
  • Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France
  • We Were Young and Carefree
  • On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life
  • In Pursuit of Glory
  • The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons from the Street
  • 23 Days in July: Inside the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong's Record-Breaking Victory
  • A Race for Madmen: The History of the Tour de France
  • A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer's Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium
  • How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life
“A universal truth of bicycling is this - pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” 3 likes
“And though history sadly doesn't credit the man who first thought of tilting a bicycle's steering axis, it is more likely to be because of feet striking the wheel than an understanding of stability.” 1 likes
More quotes…