by Julia Thiel
At first glance, On Bicycles seems to be aimed at the cycling novice, someone with a theoretical interest in biking who's never really gotten into it: the first ten essays are dedicated to why to ride a bike, the next 15 explore types of bikes and gear. For those of us who've already drunk the Kool-Aid, it's old news. But it's easy to skip over the less interesting parts to essays like Deb Greco's engaging "The Well-Tempered Cyclist," in which she discusses how she changed her "bad-tempered bicycling behavior" of running red lights and ignoring pedestrians. Greg Borzo's "Thanks for (Bike) Sharing" covers the history and current state of bike-sharing programs around the world (including Chicago) in surprising detail, considering it's only a few pages long. And John Greenfield talks about the admirable work that West Town Bikes does with getting low-income kids into cycling through its earn-a-bike program (one of about 80 in the U.S.). My favorite chapter, though, is the one on freakbikes (choppers built from old bike parts), written under the byline Megulon 5. After writing about the personal joy he gets from cutting up bikes and putting them back together in bizarre ways, he ends with this:
I probably haven't convinced you that this isn't an incredibly moronic activity to undertake—I haven't convinced myself, either. But I have no regrets. Freakbike riding has made me able to do things I wasn't able to before. I've jousted, derbyed, and set my bike on fire. . . . I can smuggle contraband while singing at the top of my lungs I can ask girls out on dates after crashing in front of them.
Flippin' superpowers. Is that enough of a reason?