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Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of…
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Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle (original 2022; edition 2022)

by Jody Rosen (Author)

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1312209,646 (3.69)3
"The bicycle is a vestige of the Victorian era, seemingly out of pace with our age of smartphones and ridesharing apps and driverless cars. Yet we live on a bicycle planet. Across the world, more people travel by bicycle than by any other form of transportation. Almost anyone can learn to ride a bike-and nearly everyone does. In Two Wheels Good, writer and critic Jody Rosen reshapes our understanding of this ubiquitous machine, an ever-present force in humanity's life and dreamlife-and a flashpoint in culture wars-for more for than two hundred years. Combining history, reportage, travelogue, and memoir, Rosen sweeps across centuries and around the globe, unfolding the bicycle's saga from its invention in 1817 to its present-day renaissance as a "green machine," an emblem of sustainability in a world afflicted by pandemic and climate change. Readers meet unforgettable characters: feminist rebels who steered bikes to the barricades in the 1890s, a prospector who pedaled across the frozen Yukon to join the Klondike gold rush, a Bhutanese king who races mountain bikes in the Himalayas, a cycle rickshaw driver who navigates the seething streets of the world's fastest-growing megacity, astronauts who ride a floating bicycle in zero gravity aboard the International Space Station"--… (more)
Member:Mishiruffy
Title:Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle
Authors:Jody Rosen (Author)
Info:Crown (2022), 416 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:to-read

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Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle by Jody Rosen (2022)

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There's a good argument to be made that the world doesn't need yet another cultural history of the bicycle, least of all one written by a middle-class New York journalist who was a bike messenger in his student days. You'd have thought that the previous seven or eight of those had pretty much covered all the essential ground. And you'd be right. You already know everything you really need to know about how the bicycle was invented as an aristocratic toy in Regency Europe, how it became an essential, liberating means of transport for disadvantaged people around the world from the 1890s on, how the only slightly later development of the motor car negated that liberating effect in many rich countries, and how cycling became a catalyst for protest and activism in many of those same rich countries from the 1960s onwards.

Rosen tells the story engagingly, so if you've been living on another planet, this would be a good entry point for learning about cycling as an Earth-phenomenon. To be fair, he does also pick up a few threads that earlier writers have missed, although he has to go rather out of his way to find them: we learn about bicycles and sex; the bike culture of Longyearbyen, in Svalbard; the rickshaws of Dhaka; the nascent fixie culture in Beijing; and the royal cyclists of Bhutan. He also brings us up to date on the role of cycling during the Covid lockdowns and BLM protests of recent years. So not a complete waste of time, but it's certainly well over on the "journalism" side of the scale, more of an affectionate tribute to cycling as a worldwide phenomenon than any sort of serious analysis. ( )
  thorold | Jun 11, 2023 |
This book is mainly about how the bicycle has been perceived by the general public and used. It has many details about key inventions including the revival of Karl von Drais's Laufmaschine (the hobbyhorse or Velocipede), which had two wheels but lacked pedals or a drive train, as a child's training bike, and the development of the pneumatic tire. It has a chapter about the use of the bicycle by the North Vietnamese military against the American's aiding the South Vietnamese military. It touches on the decline of bicycle manufacturing and use in China as the government supports the building and use of automobiles for personal transportation, It has a chapter on bicycle rickshaws and the lives of rickshaw-wallahs in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It has some personal refllections by the author on learning to ride, his time as bicycle courier in Boston one summer, and his attempts to ride a fixed gear bike (No freewheel - no coasting!). It considers the slow development of bike lanes on road built for cars, and pure hatred of most motorist for cyclists. Pretty good for a nonserious book. ( )
  BraveKelso | Nov 3, 2022 |
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"The bicycle is a vestige of the Victorian era, seemingly out of pace with our age of smartphones and ridesharing apps and driverless cars. Yet we live on a bicycle planet. Across the world, more people travel by bicycle than by any other form of transportation. Almost anyone can learn to ride a bike-and nearly everyone does. In Two Wheels Good, writer and critic Jody Rosen reshapes our understanding of this ubiquitous machine, an ever-present force in humanity's life and dreamlife-and a flashpoint in culture wars-for more for than two hundred years. Combining history, reportage, travelogue, and memoir, Rosen sweeps across centuries and around the globe, unfolding the bicycle's saga from its invention in 1817 to its present-day renaissance as a "green machine," an emblem of sustainability in a world afflicted by pandemic and climate change. Readers meet unforgettable characters: feminist rebels who steered bikes to the barricades in the 1890s, a prospector who pedaled across the frozen Yukon to join the Klondike gold rush, a Bhutanese king who races mountain bikes in the Himalayas, a cycle rickshaw driver who navigates the seething streets of the world's fastest-growing megacity, astronauts who ride a floating bicycle in zero gravity aboard the International Space Station"--

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