Author(s): Robert Penn
The bicycle is one of mankind's greatest inventions - and the most popular form of transport in history. Robert Penn has ridden one most days of his adult life. In his late 20s, he pedalled 40,000 kilometres around the world. Yet, like cyclists everywhere, the utilitarian bikes he currently owns don't even hint at this devotion. Robert needs a new bike, a bespoke machine that reflects how he feels when he's riding it - like an ordinary man touching the gods. "It's All About the Bike" is the story of a journey to design and build a dream bike. En route, Robert explores the culture, science and history of the bicycle. From Stoke-on-Trent, where an artisan hand builds his frame, to California, home of the mountain bike, where Robert tracks down the perfect wheels, via Portland, Milan and Coventry, birthplace of the modern bicycle, this is the narrative of our love affair with cycling. It's a tale of perfect components - parts that set the standard in reliability, craftsmanship and beauty. It tells how the bicycle has changed the course of human history, from the invention of the 'people's nag' to its role in the emancipation of women, and from the engineering marvel of the tangent-spoked wheel to the enduring allure of the Tour de France. It's the story of why we ride, and why this simple machine remains central to life today.
This book follows the experiences of a well-seasoned ‘bike enthusiast’ as he tours the world to source the finest components for his dream bike. Along the way Penn relates the backgrounds of the people he meets to the collective passion for cycling, whether that be road-, touring-, or mountain-biking. The story is carried along by Penn’s own enthusiasm and passion with anecdotes of his own travels on bike across Himalayan passes and Iranian deserts. I found Penn’s passion was infectious through his prose and developed for me a newfound appreciation for the unnoticed intricacies of my own bicycle and the adventure of riding itself. This book is a must-read for those with even the vaguest of interests in all things cycling, especially with the re-growth of cycling popularity, in all forms, throughout New Zealand; although, be warned, this book may leave you yearning for a bespoke bicycle all of your own! - Dougal
Gem of a book Economist Penn writes with a Bill-Brysonesque facility for concentrating a lot of information and research into an easy-to-read ... Best of all ... his account enriches your enjoyment of a ride -- Tim Dawson, Cycle Guy Sunday Times Fantastic ... Well worth a read if, like me, you love cycling! - Paul Smith Artfully, Penn turns his quest for hardware ... into a worldwide spin around cycling and its culture - William Fotheringham Guardian The pages overflow with pioneers, mavericks and geniuses - certainly, it is hard to imagine anyone who reads this book being able to buy a bike "off the peg" again - Tim Lewis Observer I've just spent a week pedalling slowly from Windermere to Aviemore with a copy of Penn's zealous eulogy in my pannier. His infectious admiration for the exhilarating sociability of cycling, coupled with reverence for quality craftsmanship, made highly engaging company ... appreciate the wit and enthusiasm of this unusual odyssey - James Urquhart Independent Penn tells us that the bicycle, as we know it, was invented in 1885 and is the most efficient form of transport ever devised... A joyful book - William Leith The Scotsman Bike-lit is booming, and while 'cross-country hardtail' might not have the same ring to it as 'penny-farthing', there's evidently little to do with cycling about which Robert Penn can't wax lyrical. Whether his subject is spokes or saddle sores, he is relentlessly enthusiastic... Penn's amiability is puncture-proof - Stephanie Cross Daily Mail [H]is adrenalin-charged enthusiasm... delivers a good ride... The social history is snappy and his almost religious quest for ultimate craftsmanship full of wit. - James Urquhart Financial Times
Robert Penn rides a bicycle to get to work, sometimes for work, to keep fit, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, to savour the physical and emotional fellowship of riding with friends, for fun, occasionally to impress someone, to scare himself and to hear his boy laugh. He's ridden a bicycle most days of his adult life, in over forty countries on five continents. In his late-twenties, he pedalled around the world. A journalist, Robert writes for the Financial Times, Observer and Conde Nast Traveller, as well as a host of cycling publications. His last book The Wrong Kind of Snow, was praised as 'jam packed with grand themes ... intelligently done' (Daily Mail) and 'endlessly fascinating ... written with flair' (Financial Times). Robert lives in the Black Mountains, South Wales with his wife and three children and commutes to work across a heather moor on a mountain bike.