The Girls’ Bicycle Handbook: Everything You Need to Know About Life on Two Wheels, the new book by Caz Nicklin, couldn’t have landed on my desk at a better time, as I have been living life without my two wheels this past week, as the Princess has a poorly hub 🙁 So to ease the pain, I have instead been reading all about bikes in this lovely book.
Now I’m sure there is a feminist argument to be had as to why a bicycle handbook for girls (and why girls?) but I’m ignoring that for now, as this book seems perfectly aimed at people like me, who love to cycle but couldn’t tell a bottom bracket from a top tube. My lack of knowledge of a bike’s workings was brought home to me very much this week as my boyfriend spent many hours getting intimate with the Princess’s Sturmey Archer five-speed hub (you should see inside one of those things, how he’s worked out how to fix it I don’t know – but he has – yay!).
But back to the book — it is very clearly laid out, easy to read, beautifully illustrated, and gives just the right amount of information so as to be comprehensive but not make you glaze over with tech-speak.
There are sections on how to choose a bike suitable for your needs – clearly explaining the different types of bikes and their characteristics; what accessories, like helmets and locks, are needed, and how to fit them; the all important bike maintenance (which I must admit I leave to someone else, but now that I have the knowledge …); information on road safety; and finally, lots of sections on style and cycling chic. Now you wouldn’t get much of that in a cycling book for boys would you?
All this is interspersed with profiles of cyclists from all over the globe, which adds a human interest element and makes it an interesting read as well as a practical guide. There is a nice introductory preface called ‘Women and the Bicycle’, which gives a brief history of women’s cycling, and profiles of cycling ‘heroines’. I love the tale of Annie Londonderry, who at the age of 25, left her husband and three children to cycle round the world, with just one change of clothes, her bike, and a pistol. She completed the challenge in 15 months.
Is there anything I don’t like about this book? Well, I’m not in it is one thing 😉 I was also disappointed it did not feature my favourite British cycle raincoat company, The Cambridge Raincoat, but apart from those two minor points I think it is an excellent handbook – for girls. It would make an ideal present for someone thinking of taking up cycling, or who has done so recently, and its demystification of the technical aspects of cycling is reassuring for those daunted by the less glamorous elements, which should help get more women cycling, which can only be a good thing.
Tomorrow I am off to collect my Princess with her newly repaired and tweaked hub, and shall be cycling in style with increased confidence, thanks to this great little book.