On the cover of my copy of the book, it's subtitled "A Manual for an Alternative Mode of Transportation". Oddly enough, the title page has it as "A Manual for Expanded Use of Bicycles". Both are good, but I tend to think the title page hits closer to the core of the book. Published in 1980 (thus written in the late 70s), this is the least known of three classic bike books written by the late Tom Cuthbertson, who passed away in 2005. The other two books are Anybody's Bike Book, and Bike Tripping, both classics of the 70s. Anybody's is one of the great repair manuals of its day, borrowing its approach and style from the famous John Muir How to Keep Your VW Alive, a Manual of Step by Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot , better known as "The Idiot Book". Full of quirky but helpful drawings and solid advice, it got many cycling enthusiasts started on bike repair. Bike Tripping is more of a "here's some fun ways to use a bike" sort of guide, and probably my least favorite of the three.
But the one I keep going back to now and then is Better Bikes! In it, Tom approaches something near and dear to my heart... basically he writes about how to get to where you can and will use your bike for TRANSPORTATION as well as recreation. It's full of lots of practical nuts and bolts tips, as well as some very helpful advice about how to change your thinking about bikes as transportation. It's not a manifesto, it's not advocating societal change on a grand scale, it just tells YOU how you can make a bike more a part of your life. Some of the hardware information is out-dated for sure, but the basic principles, and most of all the philosophy, still apply. And the book is full of charming drawings to illustrate the points.
Just a sampling of some of what's in here... the first part is all about taking that 10 speed (you remember... 2 chainwheels in front, 5 sprockets in back?) you have gathering dust, and preparing it (and you!) for regular use. He covers basic care as well as load-carrying options, all weather riding, theft prevention (his thoughts on status symbols and tubing stickers is priceless) and how to deal with flats. The second section covers what he calls "Alternative Bicycles", including those strange then-new creations he calls "clunkers" and we now know as mountain bikes. A good portion of that section is also devoted to setting up a "Three Speed Station Wagon" as he calls it, for shopping and lugging the kids around. I love this section in particular, and you can tell that this sort of bike was near and dear to the author. As I understand it, he was known around his native Santa Cruz as "the guy on the three speed in a kilt". How can you not like such an author?
The Alternative Bikes section also covers "bicycle trucks" of the sort used in Asia, and now becoming more common, in some variation, in Europe and the US. And he offers advice on the then-tiny folding bike market, as well as adding a motor to your bike to give you some extra help. When I first saw the book in 1982 (in a college bookstore in Arcata, CA), it seemed so forward-thinking and even radical. Today when I look at it, it still seems ahead of its time in some ways... or maybe it's more that it's even harder now to imagine Americans in large numbers embracing the bike as a transportation option. But reading it gives me hope still, and helps remind me about one of the very big reasons I love bicycles, and why they are such an intrinsic part of my life.
Oh, and Cuthbertson also made a "Bike Tripping" video sometime in the 80s. I managed to grab a copy a while back, and it's wonderful. I was particularly happy to get a chance to actually see and hear Tom talking about bikes. I never got the chance to see him in person, so this is as close as I'll get. Unless of course we happen to be on the same road on our bikes where ever it is I end up after this particular life adventure ends. :-)
Below are a couple of links to stories on Tom Cuthbertson that appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel around the time of his death. Worth reading.