For a lifelong cyclist – not a faddish fixed-wheeler, David Byrne’s book has instant appeal. The lovely tactile cover, tasteful black and white photos and the thought of being able to cycle, wherever, had me running for the cash till.
The Bicycle Diaries follows Mr Talking Head as he tours the world, from New York to Buenos Aires , with folding bike packed neatly into a large suitcase. Each chapter focuses on a different city; Berlin is civilized, with cycle lanes and traffic lights for bikes, Manila is ‘not the most bike friendly city in the world’ and San Francisco has steep hills and smart maps that tell cyclists the gradient of each street. It starts slowly in American towns, such as Columbus, Ohio and Sweetwater, Texas but once Byrne’s off on tour, then we’re freewheeling.
Essentially this is the art-rocker’s diary, as he tours the world playing global music, to anyone who’ll listen, and meeting various artists and musicians along the way. More a collection of Byrne’s observations on politics, music, architecture than a book about cycling. But as the 57 year-old points out, in some places, cycling is not part of the culture – or it implies poverty. In Las Vegas, he’s told that the only people who cycle are ‘the ones who’ve lost everything, probably through gambling.’ It’s an enjoyable read with regular bike rides thrown in, and just like on holiday when you spend time searching for the real people and places, Byrne manages to get behind a city. But for a two-wheel fanatic, there just aren’t enough pictures of bicycles – and you don’t even get to see Byrne on a bike, which feels like a missed opportunity. Though I like the chapter with practical tips on what to wear, bicycle security and the best folding bikes (big wheels are better than small, but I knew that anyway). And Byrne’s bike rack designs for New York City (see above) are fun.
So as compensation for the lack of bicycle photos, here are a few of my own. Including the best bike rack in the world, found in Valletta, Malta. David Byrne, if you’re reading, please take note.
Photos from the top:
1. Maltese bike rack, Valletta
2. Outside a bike shop, Lecce, Italy
3. Jack Spade bike shop, New York (enough said)
4. Chained up bikes, NoLita, New York
5. Man on bike (and it’s not David Byrne), Lecce, Italy.