Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Just Ride, by Grant Petersen

Like so many cycling fanatics I know, I recently got my hands on a copy of this lovely little paperback, unusually tall, narrow, and well-designed (and released by Workman Publishng, New York, 2012).

I'm familiar with all the Petersen critiques -- he's a fanatic, too militantly unfashionable, too stuck on his own eccentricity. Well, it turns out that, no matter what rules you make up, they'll apply to some folks somewhere, and between his storied history at Bridgestone and his leadership at Rivendell, Petersen built himself a soap-box just tall enough to reach each one of that select few -- and created a sub-culture in the process.

Myself, I'm leery of cults of personality. Petersen's a master marketeer: his copy on the Riv website is enchanting and insidious. It feels just like it was written after hours over a beer and a burrito by a guy who deeply cares how you feel on a bike. Eventually, after one too many mini-articles touting his latest nouveau-retro innovation, I start worrying that my bike is too light, my tires are too narrow, and my handlebars are too low. 

He's got magnetism to spare; it's that Cali surfer-dude allure, shared with guys like Gary Fisher and, well, Jeff Bridges. It just makes the Northeasterner in me suspicious. 

And yet, I found gems in these pages. I like Petersen for his strong advocacy of common-sense bicycling. It supports my ongoing attempts to de-compete myself, to turn into a knowledgeable bike rider who has handsome, useable bikes, instead of a pseudo-racer trying to keep up with the latest guy who burned me. This is the book's main thrust -- the freeing of bicycling from the deleterious influence of professional bike racing -- and, for that, it gets three stars.

Turns out the book is a lot like Petersen: Charming, a touch too self-consciously quirky, and yet, occasionally alarmingly helpful. 

Face it -- sitting through the rantings of a guy who's been taste-making in the bike business for decades is always going to be worth it. I say, go for it. 

If you're unsure, do as I did, and request a copy through your local library. Or, splurge and buy yourself one; when all's said and done. the man runs an honest and passionate business, and that's a value we all need to support.

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