Book Review: CycleCraft, by John Franklin
Until recently, for folks out there who are interested in learning how to ride on the streets safely, there were not many choices.
If you were lucky enough, you found a training class, or maybe you found a mentor who could show you how to ride. Or, with the Internet you could surf to find fleeting glimpses of articles and thoughts of how to ride safely, now being accumulated in web sites like this one (yes a shameless self-promote).
Still there are many of us who enjoy a book where the author can take time to pull together all the different ideas of cycling safely and then present them to you in a well written and illustrated fashion. This is exactly what John Franklin has done with CycleCraft.
Few instructional books on riding safely in traffic have been written. The most notable is Effective Cycling by John Forester. Effective Cycling was one, if not the first, and it introduced the term “vehicular cycling” to the cycling community. Effective Cycling covers bicycling in very deep detail, and includes everything from bicycle history to bicycle construction and make-up, to road racing training and technique, to finally riding competently on the streets. This makes for quite a lengthy book, and with so few illustrations many may find the concepts hard to visualize and the book, in general, tough to read. I think this is one of the areas where CycleCraft does a better job of presenting materials to the reader.
CycleCraft is a smaller book (250 pages vs over 500) and it seems to me Franklin spends less time “spinning his wheels” so to speak. Unlike Effective Cycling, there was less emphasis on history, bike construction, racing and training technique, and more emphasis on teaching the reader how to ride safely. CycleCraft also makes judicious use of illustrations, and highlights important points made in its chapters. I found it easy to stop reading, look at diagrams to confirm my understanding of what was being said, and then return to reading again.
CycleCraft starts out explaining what is needed to get started with cycling, and continues with advice to parents, bicycle parts and how a bike works, and accessories needed to ride efficiently and safely (e.g clothing, lights, etc.). Next up, cycling skills are covered, starting with the basics (e.g. starting, stopping, pedaling, avoiding obstacles, looking behind), and then progressing into how to ride on roads (e.g. sharing the roads, observation, positioning) and everyday maneuvers and typical traffic situations that will be encountered. This is where I found effective use of diagrams picturing the scenarios and situations being explained in the book.
There are also chapters dealing with the issues of busier or faster roads, non-traffic hazards (e.g. bad surfaces, RR crossings, pedestrians, dogs), issues with urban cycling (e.g. choosing routes, filtering), cycling in the country, cycling at night and in bad weather, and bike paths and other facilities (more on this later). The final chapters deal with special bicycle situations such as carrying children and baggage, riding tandems, tricycles and recumbents, and riding in groups.
A big difference between Effective Cycling and CycleCraft is the treatment of controversial subjects, like wearing helmets and use of bike lanes. For example, regarding bike lanes and their use, Forester is quite dogmatic in his views on this subject. Franklin in CycleCraft takes a softer, more pragmatic approach. I personally found this more refreshing.
CycleCraft was originally published in the UK, and only now has become available in a North American edition. For anyone who is interested in having a book that covers all of the basics and then gets right into how to cycle safely and enjoyably, I highly recommend this book. It delivers the information in a way that is concise, easy to read, easy to picture (with the help of the diagrams) and up-to-date.