Thursday, January 7, 2010

Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac

I am a little afraid of failure. This literary journey is only for my personal enlightenment and was never intended to represent my abilities as reader, reviewer or writer. Nonetheless...the idea of not finishing the 100 books in 365 days immediately transports me into a terrified mindset my therapist has called an "Achievement Complex." (To which I plan on addressing, in the not so distant future with The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth.)

That being what it is, I wanted to give myself a good strong showing out of the gate and reached for Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac BA 42-300, subtitled "The Practical Bicyclist's Handbook and Basic Field and Street Manual for Utilitarian Riding."

Why choose this book? 1) It's thin - only 126 pages, and 2) It came into my possession for a mere $6 at the incredibly entertaining bike 'n beer festival Tour de Fat this past summer. A nice guy from Oregon sold it to me while dressed in vintage men's golfing knickers and a newsboy cap.

Now it may have been the numerous New Belgium libations offered at the festival, but at the time I couldn't think of a better purchase than what I thought was a handbook for the would-be hardcore urban cyclist, which incidentally, I am not. Now, having read every word of Boneshaker 42-300 - I've come to the conclusion that "Almanac" was a strange word choice for this nifty little book. As a child, I remember paging through a couple of farmer's almanacs that were kept around my grandparents' house from way back before weather reporting was a beautiful people's game. They were full of planting tips and graphs charting the phases of the moon - not - as far as I can recall, interviews with gardeners who hate non-gardeners or poetic chapters depicting the righteousness of farming in the worst of conditions. Both of which can be found within the pages of my 2009 bicycling almanac, should you replace "gardener" and "farming" with "cyclist" and "riding."

Despite the inclusion of multiple anti-motorized vehicle stories, the editors of Boneshaker manage impressively to stay pro-bicycle in a completely non-judgmental way. Take Boneshaker's review of a collection from the 8th Annual Bicycle Film Festival 2008 on Page 75: "Solid. An impressive blend of cycle-centric pieces. One worries, though, about the effect the highly stylized (and totally fucking exhilarating!) shorts about alleycat/street/stunt races will have. Do they give a dangerous/rebellious name to cyclists, especially to the motorists who are, albeit stuck in traffic, following the rules and not wreaking havoc?"

Its length allowed me to finish the book quickly, and in just a few pages, I learned about a painter who turns antiquarian bike race photos into awesome works of modern art. I read a want-ad seeking a non-motorized companion for a '98 Korean sportscar, and laughed outloud with the cyclist who tosses used cigarettes BACK into the vehicles from which they came, before pedaling off in indignation. Pages 112-115 claim indebtedness to Thomas Stevens, Pee Wee Herman, and all persons and things in between. At the end, I think I learned a lot more about the bicycle culture than I'll ever learn about changing a bike tire or how much weight a barnacle basket can handle before taking down the beach cruiser to which it is attached.

This short collection may be appreciated by avid cyclists, readers who are curious about the seemingly free and fearless riders passing them on the street, and anyone who enjoys a good beer-and-poem combination.


  1. I do love a good beer-and-poem combination and I do love Boneshaker. Just stumbled across your blog while browsing bike rides in Portland. Great project! Enjoy.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Melissa, and have fun on your Portland rides - what a great city!