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Posted April 12, 2008
I'm a big fan of Mr. Ballantine's numerous editions of his Bicycling Book, a groundshaking work that helped spawn the bicycle boom of the 1970s. That said, I was very disappointed in his latest effort City Cycling. City Cycling, while concentrating on the use of the bicycle as urban commuting vehicle, is in reality mostly a rehash of Ballantine's earlier efforts, which always advocating bike commuting anyway. There's only so much you can say about bike commuting, particularly when most of the book is targeted to urban bike commuting in the United Kingdom. That's not the only problem with Mr. Ballantine's book. He makes several unfortunate clunker recommendations, such as buying and using adjustable stems on everyday commuting bikes (an accident waiting to happen, as these use mere bolt friction to hold their position). He's out of touch in other areas too, such as recommending purchase of old-fashioned mountain bikes with rigid stems as a useful training device for those planning on using a mountain bike regularly - wow, what a big waste of money, when you'll almost certainly be jonesing for a suspension bike in a month or two!! Other ideas from the past, like putting in the usual skimpy, add-on chapter on bike maintenance and repair, have become obsolete with time. It may have made sense in 1980, but in 2008, when thick books devoted solely to bike repair must be limited to certain types of bicycles due to the immense diversity of components and design features, it's worse than useless, even counterproductive, to try and give such generalized repair advice (always followed by language such as 'when it gets complicated, take it to a bike shop and pay them money to fix it). Two stars is being generous. I'd certainly pass on this book and recommend Mr. Ballantine's earlier works, using bikeforums to fill in any gaps on today's bike commuter equipment.
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