I loved the dust jacket, and it was wonderful to feel the heft of a well bound coated stock book that was reminiscent of so many college texts. This book is lavishly illustrated with historic period posters and illustrations as well as photos of historic bicycles and bicycling artifacts. It is an incredibly detailed history of the physical development, cultural place of, professional and recreational use of, and every other aspect of... The Bicycle.
This book will look lovely on your coffee table and it is a research resource that will answer every single Trivial Pursuit bicycling question out there! What do you mean there are no Trivial Pursuit bicycling questions? There should be some! Seriously though this book is exhaustive in its thoroughness. Although the initial mention of a human powered vehicle in this record was in 1696, "Bicycle" begins its coverage in the early 1800's with the velocipede or Draisine, named after its inventor Karl von Drais, a novel two wheel vehicle your propelled along by sitting astride it like a bicycle and then sort of ran along with it between your legs.
This work is exhaustive, did I mention it is exhaustive? Well it is, and in case you might have not caught on by now, it is NOT a light read! I do not believe that the author intended it to be. It is a scholarly work on the history of the bicycle. Ok it is more readable say than your text on World History in college, and parts of it are actually amusing and fun to read, but it also sits neatly on that line between a reference book, and something you might actually read cover to cover, which I did! But you really have to be into bikes to do it!
I would say that this work serves many possible biking reader purposes. First it will educate you as to precisely how your hobby developed, and did you know that most of the gear we are so proud to call modern was actually pretty well set down before the 1900's and that what really changed are the materials and assembly methods. Did you know that the first Bicycle-Only path in this country was set down in Brooklyn, from Prospect Park to Coney Island in 1896 and that 10,000 cyclists participated in its inaugural parade. Did you know that since Bicycles and Automobiles began sharing the road that Bicycle rights to use those roads has been an issue, even though the bicycle was the first reason that the roads were paved anyway?
Well facts such as these literally litter the pages of this work. If the words Sturmey Archer and New Departure mean anything to you, you probably should own this book. Well footnoted and thoroughly indexed, it is very easy to look up facts, just as I did above.
Seriously, if you are serious about your cycling, you probably want this book, but I am not certain you will read it cover to cover as you might a novel. I do guarantee you that you will dog ear its 470 pages looking up facts to settle bets. Did you know for instance that the first American Winner of the Tour De France, Greg LeMond (1986) was absent the following year because of a near fatal hunting accident, and that when he returned to racing in 1989 he premiered the aerodynamic helmet and what were basically aerobars? Well I didn't until I read, David Herlihy, Bicycle: The History.