If you thought that a book about bicycling would by default deal with the specifics of riding a bike, or perhaps the mechanical aspects, you should read David Byrne 's Bicycle Diaries . Indeed Byrne uses his transportation as the seed from which a whole ecology of thoughts grow.
Bicycle Diaries is a mix between a diary and the associations and musings of a superhumanly clear and structured mind propelled through the cities of the world on two wheels. I enjoyed reading it very much. In addition to the text there are also a few black and white photos to illustrate the essays. These are in some cases taken by David Byrne himself while biking around the cities and fit well into the narrative.
The main chapters are named after cities: Berlin, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Manila, et c. Each have its inspiration in David Byrne's experience when bicycling in that specific city during a visit or while living there. The cycling is only the beginning however and the thoughts quickly branch out covering topics from art and technology to politics and philosophy. The short sections are neatly tied into experiences and sightings. The text is flowing, and pleasant to read.
It is like following the musings of the author while he is bicycling the streets or visiting an exhibition. It is easy to understand that Byrne has been biking for a long time; using a bicycle in New York city long before it became popular as of late. Indeed, he acknowledges that it probably is not safe for most people to bike there even today. He does however try to do something about it, and is also an active advocate for biking. These ideas and the push for the bicycle as a serious, indeed superior, alternative to the car in most urban areas flows through the whole book.
There is no denying that the book is what might nicely be described as 'broad'. It does indeed branch out, and the subjects range widely, only occasionally seemingly touching bicycling. In the end this is a merit however. I never found it boring and after reading a chapter or two it becomes clear that, yes, this is about cycling! Not about the physical bike, but where the act and pace of cycling fits into society, art, and life.
I got this book as a gift and read it in just a couple of weeks. To show my appreciation in return, I am still searching for something to equal Bicycle Diaries.