The Way of the Bicycle

Summary: Bicycle book in progress on tips, tricks, designs and techniques for touring, commuting and mountain biking, bicycle activism, honed over 25 years touring and commuting in 25 countries, three million feet of elevation gain on the same mountain bike.


Bicycles are my first design love. For ten years I ran a shop making custom transport bikes for people without cars.

Much of my early writing and many of my inventions are bicycle related. I am currently compiling this info into a book tentatively titled The Way of the Bicycle. If you have anything you'd like to contribute to this project, or if you'd like notification when it is done please  Email us . In the meanwhile, I'm posting it piece by piece on the web. Here's the first piece:

Invincible bearings

Here's some excerpts from the rest:

Transport bike with lockable, waterproof carrier bins.
Using transport bikes such as this Schwinn cruiser with lockable, waterproof bins instead of a car saved me enough money in ten years to pay for two years of overseas travel.
Bikes, busses and pedestrians co-exisisting on Copenhagen street.
There's a better balance between different kinds of transportation in Denmark, where the policy is to optimize mobility for the whole society, as compared to the US, where the policy is to maximize profitability of transport. The only system which would be more expensive than car based transportation would be personal aircraft, which is eagerly being pursued. At a communications industry retreat in Montana, nearly all the participants arrived in dozens of private jets.

Sliding (from a section on the art of falling from a mountain bike)

Sliding is a good place to start. Sliding hardly even qualifies as falling, but it loosens one's attachment to complete control of the bike, gradually teaching one to find comfort—pleasure even—in the sensation of letting go and forcing a bicycle in and out of an unpredictably skidding state. Besides the psychological benefits, you'll have a much better chance should you find yourself atop a sideways skidding bicycle unintentionally, and you'll be able to corner a lot faster and safer on fire roads.

Find a kid or motocross rider to tutor you, and head to a good surface. Just about any smooth expanse of dirt will do. Hard sand at the beach is actually ideal for practice, if you don't mind thrashing your bike. Accelerate. Then, with one foot skimming the surface, turn hard enough to break both wheels loose into a slide ("two wheel drift"). Practice at different speeds, making the front and then rear wheel break loose more, ending up at different angles and speeds, and finally leaning the bike over enough to plant the pedal into the ground.

In the perversely understated lexicon of the early Santa Barbara mountain biking clique, "steep"had a very narrow definition. A "steep"section is defined as one where if you brake hard enough to lock up both wheels completely, not only will you continue to slide forward, but you will continue to accelerate û slide forward faster and faster. In other words, you have left the realm where friction dominates, and entered the realm where gravity alone reigns supreme. Anything else was broadly defined as "flat."As in, "don't worry about it, Art, after this one steep section, the rest of the ride is flat," used to describe a cliff, below which is a trail which climbs and then drops three thousand feet, the trail lacking any sections of greater than 25% grade. Anyway, I mention this because if you find yourself on a "steep" section, your only hope of slowing down is to lay the bike all the way down, planting the pedal deeply into the ground like an ice axe...

Part IV: The Interior of the Island (from a section about touring through Fiji)

Soon I had climbed up into the afternoon deluge. The heavy squalls blasted down in huge machine-gun drops which you could hear coming all the way across the valley. It was still 78"F and I couldn't tell what was rain and what was sweat. I scrubbed my hair and under my armpits; it was easily as forceful and copious as a home shower. In minutes I was as soggy as if I'd fallen in the river, but it was nonetheless more comfortable than riding in the scorching sun. I soon learned that riding up 25 degrees shadeless slopes a few degrees south of the equator is actually done most comfortably during the afternoon downpour: the sheets of rain functioned as a heat-ablative agent for my steaming body.

[PHOTO 228: GUY WITH UMBRELLA ON HORSE] Other than the once a week bus, this is the type of traffic you encounter on the Magadro road.

After a few hours of this I ducked under a bus shelter in Namau for a break.

"Ram, ram!"

"Ram, ram!" I replied.

Some Indian farmers came over and tried to talk with me, but we had few words in common.

"Beautiful here," I said. It was one of the most spectacular and exotic vistas I'd beheld. Small clusters of grass houses were surrounded by fields, with great formations of lava rock jutting out of the jungle above them. "This road as beautiful?" I queried, gesturing ahead.

"Navala more beautiful," he replied. It was hard to believe.

The squalls eased and I rode on. Straight up for half a mile, then straight back down. Sections over 15% grade were mercifully paved. Never in my life had I heard of or seen such a roller-coaster of a road.

"Eh, uh, eh, gasp," I grunted up the last of a mile and a half, 18% climb to a sharp saddle. The Fijians practiced only enough cut and fill to prevent cars from getting caught with their underbelly on the ground and all four wheels in the air.

"You've got to be kidding!!" I shouted at the road. Sniggering, it shot straight down to a river crossing 400 feet below, then up the other side to crest only 50 feet higher than the one I was on. An awful lot of work for so little gain. The scenery, however, was spectacular. The sun was preparing to set, and a singularly durable double rainbow was stationed under the dark clouds which shrouded the high peaks. The fifty foot higher saddle opposite turned out to be the real saddle, the one which the dozen others had been leading up to. I sucked my breath in. The sun was setting into a great thunderhead over the distant ocean, which I was now high enough to see again. God-like rays splayed out in all directions, geometric lines in a terrific tumult of clouds of extravagant color. A vast, verdant valley opened beneath me, walled with vertical outcroppings of volcanic rock, waterfalls spilling between them. The languid Ba river wound through steep, forested bluffs, then around a great sloping plain on which there were perhaps half a hundred Fijian bure in a circle û the village of Navala. It felt like a vision from a dream; a genetic memory from the distant past. Opposite the sunset, the rainbow had now grown to a complete arch spanning the rim of volcanic peaks. As I watched, the full moon rose exactly at the center of the rainbow, in a gap between two peaks. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful: the most spectacular image I'd seen in three years of bike travel.

My twentieth-century observer pricked me: "if you do not record this image it is worthless." I pointed my camera, with the full moon in the center of the frame. The rainbow was well outside the frame on all sides. I put the camera away. As with all of life's greatest images, this one could not possibly be captured. The beauty extended in a complete sphere, and in all five senses. Ever so slowly, I started inching down the hill, riding my breaks, still drinking in the spectacle.

"Bula! Bula!" Three women down the road called to me. Soon I overtook them. They were heavily laden with the big yellow guavas which were growing everywhere along the road...

Table of contents for The Way of the Bicycle

Introduction: A Personal Bike Journey

Crashing into the bike biz
#Interlude I: Mountain Biking in Fiji
Why bicycle?

Bike Selection and Setup

Lessons from a running a communist bike shop
Bicycle Customizing
Bike Riding
Safety & comfort
Seeing and being seen
Breathe! ûve cycling tricks for cleaner air
Bicycle Thermodynamics
#Poetry interlude: The Power Song
Old fashioned Mountain Biker Etiquette
#Poetry interlude:Senses Awake
Hand Signals
How to use a quick release
Falling: an excellent cross-training sport for mountain bikers

Bike Maintenance and Repair

Putting a chain back on
Fixing flats
Routine Maintenance
The Ultralight Workshop
Field Repair for Mountain Bikers and Travelers
#Travel interlude: Cuba


Shifty Tactics By Bike Makers
Bike trivia
Healthy is Sexy, Ride a Bike
Equal Opportunity Mobility
Car Free Please
Why Support Your Bicycle Coalition?
Highway Robbery
State street
#Travel interlude: Failed Foreign Aid in Egypt

Bike Design Details

Gearing: Simpler is Better
The Real Wheel
Make your bearings invincible
#Interlude: Junk Bike Touring
A Different Kind Of European Bike Tour: On Junk Bikes Through Poland