Review: Two Wheels Good – The History and Mystery of the Bike

Nothing you’ve read two wheels good advance will fully prepare you for the eclectic mix of content it contains: whether it’s a different take on the story or Jody Rosen’s personal experiences, there’s plenty of surprising material to reward you .

When I was trying to figure out what was in store for me in this book, pretending it was a “panoramic revisionist portrait” of the bicycle didn’t really help me. However, the idea of ​​”combining history, reportage, travelogue and memoir” made more sense and hints that large-scale content is to be expected when exploring “history and mystery of the bicycle.

Many stories of the magnificent machine have already been written; recent examples are the publications of Michael Hutchinson and William Manners, which have followed different styles – despite largely covering the same story. Rather than compete with these (and others) when describing the history of the bicycle, Rosen decided that “the major themes were left to other chroniclers”, letting him “put in highlight some different stories.

This is evident immediately, where Rosen’s account of the origins of the bicycle centers on ‘The Bicycle Window’, a 16th century stained glass window in St Giles’ Church, Stoke Poges. Some claim that it represents a precursor to the bicycle. Rosen agrees that this is a tall tale and therefore uses it as the focus of this part of the story, but concludes that “it has nothing to do with bicycles”.

In most cases, when it comes to historical accuracy, Rosen judiciously uses bicycle design by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing as guide, a book which, if I were to review it here, would be an easy 10/10. (It’s available in hard copy if you’re interested.)

Beyond that, it is difficult to describe what is offered by two wheels goodmainly because it’s full of unexpected information – and it’s this unpredictability that holds your interest.

After all, where would you hear about “Trotify” (other than of course)? It is “a wooden device that rests on your front wheel” and emits a “sound eerily similar to that produced by a galloping horse”. The manufacturers even claim that it is the “world’s first bicycle-horse hybridizer”. First? There are others ?? readers will also be familiar with Bike Smut, whose “flagship event” is the Bike Smut Film Festival. According to Rosen, it distinguishes “between mainstream bike porn and a more underground variety”, with “the peeping camera lenses aimed at platters and diamond frames as much as human limbs and kidneys”. Even so, I would still be a bit cautious to investigate further at work.

Moving on to safer ground, a visit to Danny MacAskill adds little to what we already know of his biography, but is the centerpiece of a chapter on tricks, stunts and artistic cycling. In fact, “safer” is a poor choice of word: Rosen takes the opportunity to ride with the man himself, with predictably painful consequences. If you’ve had your fill of Danny Mac videos, Rosen suggests a YouTube link to what could be the very first bike tricks to be captured on camera.

Rosen updates with an exploration of the ‘Great Covid-19 Bicycle Boom’, and also covers the rise of Peloton, and the idea that ‘if Peloton meets its membership targets, it can still claim the most great mass bike rides in history – a virtual phalanx of millions, pedaling together through cyberspace”.

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As one would expect from the headline, Rosen clearly believes that two wheels are good, but doesn’t quite follow the “evil four wheel” campaign route. He believes that “the motto smacks of morality: the certainty that bicycles are morally superior to cars, and that cyclists are nobler than motorists”. (This audience is best served by the excellent work of Peter Walker bike country.)

Although two wheels good provides some history, it’s selective; Rosen knows he’s not trying to compete with others, which means his work is a good complement to other publications, rather than the full story. The mystery aspect is best served – you can never tell where Rosen takes the narrative next, but everyone will find something interesting.

If your interest is piqued by something and you want to know more, the biggest chapter is the 43 pages devoted to a bibliography and a list of sources: it’s a rich seam of fascinating nuggets that will reward the curious.

Compare this abundance to the sparseness of the photos: the cover is quite minimalist and this theme continues inside. With only a tiny black and white image at the start of each chapter, don’t come here for the illustrations.


Unusual but pleasant foray into the many facets of cycling and its history

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Brand and model : Two Wheels Good The History and Mystery of the Bicycle

Tell us what the product is for and who it is for. What are the builders saying? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

From the publisher:

A revisionist panoramic portrait of the 19th century invention that is transforming the 21st century world.

The bike is a holdover from the Victorian era, seemingly out of step with our age of smartphones, ridesharing apps and driverless cars. Yet, across the world, more people travel by bicycle than by any other mode of transportation. Almost anyone can learn to ride a bike – and almost everyone does.

In Two Wheels Good, writer and critic Jody Rosen reshapes our understanding of this ubiquitous machine, an ubiquitous force in human life and dream life, and a flashpoint in culture wars for more than two hundred years. year. Combining history, reporting, travelogue and memoir, Rosen unravels the saga of the bicycle from its invention in 1817 to its current rebirth as a “green machine” in a world plagued by pandemic and climate change.

Readers meet unforgettable characters: feminist rebels who rode bicycles to barricades in the 1890s, a Bhutanese king who raced mountain bikes in the Himalayas, astronauts who rode bicycles floating in zero gravity aboard the International Space Station.

Two Wheels Good examines the past of the bicycle and its future, challenging myths and clichés, while revealing the bicycle’s connection to colonial conquest and the gentrification of cities. But the book is also a love letter: a reflection on the sensual and spiritual pleasures of cycling and an ode to an engineering marvel – a marvelous vehicle whose passenger is also the engine.

Tell us a bit more about the technical aspects of the product?

Title: Two Wheels Well

Author: Jody Rosen

Publisher: The Bodley Head

Date: 08/04/22

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 416

ISBN: 9781847923073

Price: £25

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Rich and varied content.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The few images add little and are hardly worth the effort.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider purchasing the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes – selectively.

Use this box to explain your overall score

It’s very good – different enough from most other books to make for an interesting read, slightly let down by the lack of pictures.

Age: 60 Height: Lester:

I usually ride: My best bike is:

I’ve been riding since: Over 20 years I ride: most days I would classify myself as: Expert

I regularly practice the following types of riding: Touring, club rides, sportsmen, general fitness riding,

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