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It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness On Two Wheels Hardcover – 29 Jul 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Particular Books; 1st edition (29 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142628
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142628
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.3 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert is currently writing a new book: 'The Man Who Cut Down Trees' will be published by Penguin in 2015.

His last book 'It's All About the Bike: the Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels' ('Gem of a book' - Economist) was a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK. It has been translated into 11 languages.

He presented the BBC4/2 documentary 'Ride of My Life: the Story of the Bicycle' ('A journey into the mindset of a bike obsessive... charming to watch' - Independent) and the BBC Four series 'Tales from the Wild Wood' ('an understated gem' - Independent). His most recent TV adventure was cycling the Trans-Amazonian Highway with Freddie Flintoff: 'Flintoff's Road to Nowhere' was broadcast on Sky 1 in April 2014 ('Brilliant telly' - The Times).

As a journalist, Robert writes for The Observer, Sunday Times and Condé Nast Traveller, as well as a host of cycling publications.

Robert Penn rides a bicycle to get to work, sometimes for work, to keep fit, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, to savour the physical and emotional fellowship of riding with friends, for fun, occasionally to impress someone, to scare himself, for a moment of grace and to hear his boy laugh. He's ridden a bicycle most days of his adult life, in over forty countries on five continents. In his late-twenties, he gave up a career and pedalled around the world.

Robert is a director of the cycle holiday company Bikecation: www.bikecation.co.uk.

He lives in the Black Mountains, South Wales with his wife and three children, and commutes to work across a heather moor on a mountain bike.

www.robpenn.net

Product Description

Review

A book as brilliant as the invention it celebrates. A wonderful read (Nick Crane, Author Of 'clear Waters Rising' And 'bicycles Up Kilimanjaro' )

What I'm left with after consuming the book is a sense of poetry. A distinct and lingering feeling of elegance, design history and aesthetics. It made me look at the hundreds of thousands of bicycles I pass every day in Copenhagen in a completely new light. It made me wonder what my perfect bicycle would look like (Mikael Colville-Andersen Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog )

No matter how shiny and costly the item of bike bling, there is a back story, usually a good one. Artfully, Penn turns his quest for hardware ... into a worldwide spin around cycling and its culture (William Fotheringham Guardian )

[Penn] writes with authority, humour and refreshing candour ... A celebration of craftsmanship over technology and of a bygone era when things were built to last ... If Penn is to be believed, we are entering a golden age of cycling, when it really will be all about the bike once more (Sunday Telegraph )

[Penn] writes with a Bill-Brysonesque facility for concentrating a lot of information and research into an easy-to-read and surprisingly compelling tale. Best of all ... his account enriches your enjoyment of a ride (Tim Dawson, Cycle Guy Sunday Times )

Gem of a book ... Penn ... describes his quest to build the perfect bicycle, mixing in an entertaining dose of cycling history and culture in the process (Economist )

Fantastic ... It is a really interesting read with some great stories on the science, history and culture of the bicycle. Well worth a read if, like me, you love cycling! (Paul Smith )

I've just spent a week pedalling slowly from Windermere to Aviemore with a copy of Penn's zealous eulogy in my pannier. His infectious admiration for the exhilarating sociability of cycling, coupled with reverence for quality craftsmanship, made highly engaging company ... appreciate the wit and enthusiasm of this unusual odyssey (James Urquhart Independent )

The pages overflow with pioneers, mavericks and geniuses - certainly, it is hard to imagine anyone who reads this book being able to buy a bike "off the peg" again ... As a depiction of a world you might vote for, Penn's does not sound bad at all (Tim Lewis Observer )

Whizzed through Robert Penn's 'It's All About the Bike'. Must read for cyclists and/or obsessives (Tweeted By Alistair Campbell )

Penn tells us that the bicycle, as we know it, was invented in 1885 and is the most efficient form of transport ever devised... A joyful book (William Leith The Scotsman )

Bike-lit is booming, and while 'cross-country hardtail' might not have the same ring to it as 'penny-farthing', there's evidently little to do with cycling about which Robert Penn can't wax lyrical. Whether his subject is spokes or saddle sores, he is relentlessly enthusiastic... Penn's amiability is puncture-proof (Stephanie Cross Daily Mail )

[H]is adrenalin-charged enthusiasm... delivers a good ride... The social history is snappy and his almost religious quest for ultimate craftsmanship full of wit. (James Urquhart Financial Times )

About the Author

Robert Penn rides a bicycle to get to work, sometimes for work, to keep fit, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, to savour the physical and emotional fellowship of riding with friends, for fun, occasionally to impress someone, to scare himself and to hear his boy laugh. He's ridden a bicycle most days of his adult life, in over forty countries on five continents. In his late-twenties, he pedalled around the world. A journalist, Robert writes for the Financial Times, Observer and Condé Nast Traveller, as well as a host of cycling publications. His last book The Wrong Kind of Snow, was praised as 'jam packed with grand themes ... intelligently done' (Daily Mail) and 'endlessly fascinating ... written with flair' (Financial Times). Robert lives in the Black Mountains, South Wales with his wife and three children and commutes to work across a heather moor on a mountain bike.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Paul Etherington on 30 July 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this after having watched the TV documentary of the same name and i was not let down!
I had some initial reservations about watching the programme, city guy moves to wales to rediscover himself and finds cycling in the process, it has british movie industry written all over it! The lifelong passion for the bike that was revealed however left me once again chiding my own preconceptions, and yet another inward promise to be more open minded and less reactionary!
Obviously the book fleshes out the broad strokes painted on the tv, but the passion and almost reverence that comes across is a joy to read. Clever writing prevents the book going the way of a sentimental eulogy to craftsmen passed, and instead reveals a soaring demand for the bespoke bike, albeit for a very different user. As a cyclist myself i was particularly gratified to learn that the principal aim of the author attaining his dream bike was to ride it all the time, celebrating it through use, and not just having it as another expensive accessory, (penn himself compares the skill and artistry of a framebuilder to that of a watchmaker or tailor)thus needing it to be absolutely perfect in every detail. Any jealousy at the author having the time and money to be able to trek globally in order to acquire the components for his dream bike are soon forgotten thanks to the total passion that is revealed for every detail of the bike through very skilled writing. It's always gratifying to connect with a fellow bikie, even if through the pages of book, and i was very pleased to see that i already own most of his selected reading!
If you like cycling, buy this book.
If you like travel, buy this book.
If you want a dollop of inspiration to get you back on your own bike, buy this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. taylor on 8 April 2011
Format: Hardcover
I bought this after reading an excerpt in a craft magazine.
Having just started cycling regularly again, and planning some touring, this was perfectly timed to inspire me to look beyond what my LBS offers.
Firstly, this book combines a great potted history of bikes and cycling with Robert's personal quest for his ultimate bike. The historical stuff is all very interesting and well presented, never boring, and overall very informative while remaining fun.
On to the inspiring stuff: I have been planning to invest in a proper touring bike, and had a shortlist of four or five - none hand-built, all from my LBS - when I picked this book up. Whilst I do. It have the time, money nor inclination to travel and research in the same way, I am now far more aware of the components and how they are made, and what the true functions are.
Wile I don't have the money for e Rourke frame - the builder Robert chose for his frame - I searched out one of the other frame builders he mentioned, and am planning a visit to Bob Jackson's workshop and shop in Leeds soon (I am currently selling like mad on eBay to fund the new bike!) and am as yet not certain if I will be able to buy a custom frame or not.
The information Robert presents is both incredibly interesting and useful - this book has been the most useful tome whilst I consider my next push-iron.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is planning to spend good money on a bike, anyone with an interest in bikes, and anyone who cycles regularly.
Simply brilliant!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ivan on 7 Jan 2011
Format: Hardcover
I gather this book was related to a television series, though - as I prefer life without television - I did not see the programmes.

I enjoyed the book very much and recommend it to bicycling enthusiasts.

Why?

'All About The Bike' interweaves masses of information about the history of the bicycle (and of companies associated with that history) with the writer's quest to assemble a bicycle that would be perfect for his own use. From what he tells us, it is clear that the adventurous Robert Penn is one of the most serious and devoted cyclists you can imagine: he has pedalled his way round the world and been on numerous other cycling expeditions. So he knows his subject.

But he can certainly write, too! It is unusual to find a book about cycling that is so literate. The use of vocabulary is sharp and you are frequently struck by the originality and effectiveness of a simile. Yet the writing has the fluency of good journalism.

And the book has been well edited: I did not notice any typographical errors.

Within the book there are, unfortunately, no colour photographs. (I suppose that helps keep down costs.) But the illustrations, though generally small and black-and-white, are always useful and effective. And the photo of the writer's 'dream bicycle' - appearing on the dust sheet in colour - is a useful point of reference.

The hardback feels luxurious in the hand, too, and is printed on good-quality paper.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Petersen on 10 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback
This book was a very, very fun read. In a former life, some 20 years and 50 pounds ago, I rode, raced and worked in a bike shop. Robb's story reminded me of the pure fun, enjoyment and joy that I find in riding my bicycle. I pulled out my old Bianchi, tuned it up and have looged some 500 miles since mid June. I encourage everybody to get back on there bikes to just ride and live!

Oh, and watch the one hour BBC special based on this book. You can find it on YouTube.
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