“Just Ride”

It’s title is “Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike.”

In this book about bicycling in the U.S., author Grant Petersen questions a lot of popular trends – everything from clipless pedals to the value of cycling to lose weight.

And he’s not always diplomatic when writing about something he thinks is B.S.

Clipless pedals (which, of course, have clips that attach to cleats on cycling shoes) are of little or no use to most of the people who use them, according to Petersen.

Such pedals are supposed to enable riders to both push and pull their pedals as they ride. But studies have failed to prove cyclists actually pull.

Another of the ideas Petersen challenges in “Just Ride,” is the idea that exercise alone enables people to lose weight. Most people who have tried to slim down by walking, running or pedaling haves learned that exertion alone won’t cut it.
“Losing fat isn’t as hopeless as it sounds,” Petersen writes. “Just cut back drastically on carbohydrates.”

But bicycle lore tells riders that carbs — bananas, oatmeal, pasta and so on — are the perfect types of food to eat before a long ride.

To lose a pound of fat, the average person must burn 3,500 calories, Petersen writes. A cyclist weighing 170 pounds (I wish) who rides a moderately challenging route for an hour will burn 500 calories.

That means riding seven hours without eating or drinking any calories to shed a pound of fat.

Cutting the carbs seems like a much better idea.

Too much about cycling is influenced by racing, Petersen argues.

Most people don’t need the super-light, carbon-composite bikes that racers in the Tour de France ride. What do the few pounds saved on the weight of a cycle matter compared to the weight of a rider? he asks.

One of the nice things about the book is that it’s organized in such a way that you can read just a portion that pertains to a subject you’re interested in.

Petersen is the founder of a bike-building company, Rivendell Bicycle Works.

“Our mission is to make things that wouldn’t be made if we weren’t here, to offer an alternative to racing-centric bikes and parts, and to espouse a different approach to riding,” it states on the company’s website. “And to resurrect and keep healthy many of the better ideas, designs, and styles of bicycles, clothing, and accessories that we personally like to use or wear.”

I don’t necessarily agree with all of Petersen’s ideas, but have found his book thought provoking. It might be that I’m just too invested in some of the practices Petersen argues are unnecessary or just plain wrong. Or, it might be that clipless pedals and riding a bike that looks like a racing bike is part of why I enjoy cycling.

But it’s worth reading because it makes you wonder how much of what you do in your cycling is because that’s what other people are doing and it’s what the industry pushes. You may continue doing it, but “Just Ride” might save you some time, money and worrying about what you’re doing differently.