Bicycling’s Complete Book of Road Cycling delivers what it promises: a broad overview of issues related to road cycling from health & safety to road handling to racing and endurance tips. As an edited volume of short chapters, it’s shorthand in style. So rather than a collection of ideas organized as a narrative, the reader will instead find bullet lists and quick takes – which sacrifices a bit of depth to breadth but it makes for a good introduction to the many facets of cycling nevertheless.
The about-town riders will probably skip the sections like Riding Stronger and Longer and Fueling Your Engine and instead turn to The Basics and Safety in Traffic. The former section addresses positioning and bike maintenance, which are important in avoiding injury. And injury-free cycling is key to enjoyment. There, basic recommendations about bike fit and handlebar grip are worth a skim too since most of us learned the basics when we were six or seven years old.
Maintenance, however, is more important than you would think: many cycling collisions are solo spills. Maybe we’ve failed to check our brakes or quick-release skewers, say, and we can’t control the bike (or a wheel falls off). From time to time we do have to pay attention, if only because we’re sharing the road with motorists – not riding a country lane – and we need to be in control at all times.
For example, I enjoy pumping uphill on San Vicente toward Brentwood. It is great for getting up my heart rate up. But when a misadjusted pedal unexpectedly releases the shoe cleat, it brings the fun to an end. It can even send an unwary rider down (that’s speaking from experience!) because a leg akimbo at speed can be quite destabilizing.
Now, Bicycling’s Complete Book of Road Cycling book is not a bible by any means. But the best bicycling guide is the one that you’ve read, and this guide succinctly covers the nuts-and-bolts, including rules of the road, bike handling, and a prudent approach to road riding. Available for about $10 from Amazon, you can’t find cheaper advice on keeping safe in the saddle along with all of the other tips on offer. It’s a worthy gift for a new rider or the rider returning to the road after a hiatus.
For a bible I recommend the out-of-print Eugene Sloan’s Complete Book of Cycling (1988), a wonderfully-written book I fondly remember picking up in New York back when I was riding a cast-iron Atala around the Central Park circuit. The page edges are smudged with Phil Woods grease even today. It’s carried me though basic fixes to my current ride, a 1988 Scapin.
Currently in print is Sloan’s Sloane’s true-to-the-title Complete Book of Bicycling: The Cyclist’s Bible (25th Anniversary Edition) which covers much of the same ground in a newer package. Highly recommended. Every cyclists should have it.