Recommended Reading

by Old Bone Machine

Robert Penn is on a quest that is mythical and impossible.

In his book, It’s All About The Bike: The Pursuit Of Happiness On Two Wheels, he describes his quest to build his dream bike.

I need a talismanic machine that somehow reflects my cycling history and carries my cycling aspirations. I want craftsmanship, not technology; I want the bike to be man-made; I want a bike that has character, a bike that will never be last year’s  model. I want a bike that shows my appreciation of the tradition, lore and beauty of bicycles. The French nickname for the bicycle is La Petite Reine – I want my own ‘little queen’.

The book is cleverly structured with each chapter focusing on a component of the bicycle: the frame, the steering system, the drivetrain, the wheels and the saddle. Threaded into Robert’s account of the bike build are historical and cultural details of each of the components.

Decisions are not made lightly.

I’ve tried all the major frame materials, I’ve had aluminium road bikes with carbon forks, steel mountain bikes, aluminium mountain bikes, a steel touring bike, a titanium road bike, a full carbon road bike and an aluminium mountain bike with carbon seat stays. So which material, or combination, provides the best overall ride?

The writing is personal, fanatically detailed and compelling. But be warned, the book will have you yearning for your own ‘little queen’.

My brother-in-law, an engineer and someone who much prefers motorbikes over bicycles, also enjoyed the book. I imagine anyone with a passing interest in bicycles, machines or history would enjoy.

Robert Penn also narrates a documentary, Ride Of My Life : The Story of the Bicycle (Indus Films), that is based on the book.