Book Review: Just Ride – A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike

Just Ride Book ReviewAuthor: Grant Petersen
Publisher: Workman Publishing
Book Publication: 2012

Is your bicycle rusting away in the garden shed? Mine is. However, after perusing Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike, it won’t be for much longer. Summer is, after all, the season of the bike, when even the most casual of bikers dare to ride and enjoy the freedom and flexibility that only a bicycle can offer.

This sleek little book features more than 80 mini-essays (two to three pages average) on a wide range of bike-related subjects. Topics range from how many gears the ideal bike should have and what type of light at night is best, to how to behave on bike paths and the merits of the two kinds of kickstand, as well as five mini-essays on the bicycle chain.

As most of us learned to ride when we were children, Just Ride offers some tips that you might have forgotten, such as the best place for foot placement on the pedal and how to handle a possible car dooring (when a car door opens suddenly in front of you and you have no time to break). The book also includes information that you might have never learned, such as what are the best saddles (comfort is paramount), and what to consider when using your bike to transport passengers (i.e. children) and goods.

The book offers a lot of advice for those who are returning to riding or buying a new bike as accessories can be a huge expense and sometimes unnecessary. You don’t really need bike gloves (I stopped wearing mine when I noticed unsightly tan lines).

The author, Grant Petersen, is the founder and owner of a bicycle shop and has been a daily bike rider – he lives in California – since the early ‘70s, so he knows a thing or two about his subject. Petersen is a former – or more accurately for him, reformed – racer who now looks at cycling as the moments treasured, not the miles travelled.

A few things that Vitality readers might find wanting in Just Ride is how to get your bike ready for the first ride of the year after the snow has melted and the wind isn’t so bitter. However, given that our winters are becoming milder, many Canadian cyclists are becoming year-round riders, so this, alas, is moot. Petersen also neglects the issue of how to ride while wearing a skirt (removable earth magnets weighing down the hem in front might work for you) and how to avoid ensnaring your pant legs in the bike gears.

I also don’t entirely agree with Petersen’s stance on helmets (which he does not wholeheartedly endorse), but he makes an informed argument, which more than most do on this divisive issue.

All in all, Just Ride is a good guide to getting back on the saddle again.


Victoria Moorshead is an editor and writer, and a former staff member of Vitality Magazine.

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