Title: Words to Ride By – Thoughts on Bicycling
Author: Michael Carabetta
Publisher: Chronicle Books
What it is: inspirational quotes and images, on the topic of cycling
Strengths: The layout is engaging
Weaknesses: A lot of these quotes are past their sell by dates
Here's author Michael Carabetta in his introduction to Words to Ride By:
I envisioned a book that might bring together the philosophic and kinetic aspects of bicycle and bicycling, quotations and visuals, which might capture some of the sensations cyclists feel when riding. The deeper I dug, the more I discovered – a motherlode of evocative, insightful, and sometimes funny words and images: men and women of letters and science, feted athletes, actors, musicians, and anonymous riders; smiles, grimaces, aches, antics, and the reflections of the riders lost in the experience. In sharing this collection of thoughts and images, it’s my hope you might that discover – or rediscover – the essence of what the bike is all about.
It generally being better to show than tell, let's dip our toes into Carabetta's selection of words and images.
A good part of Carabetta's selection is more than familiar at this stage, with there already being several books filled with inspirational cycling quotes and the internet overflowing with webpages copying and pasting quotes from one and other. That said, the author does draw in some words and images that have a whiff of freshness about them.
For the most part, Words to Ride By's images and quotes speak for themselves and there's not much I can really say about it. But, at the risk of getting too serious about something that's really just a pretty gift for the cyclist in your life, I think this book – and others like it, along with the webpages full of cycling quotations – raises an interesting question: do we really turn to these things for inspiration? Consider, if you will, this familiar quote:
Allegedly from the pen of HG Wells – Carabetta claims the source is that god awful 'must read' cycling novel The Wheels of Chance – the reality is that no one knows where these words come from (they most certainly do not, though, come from The Wheels of Chance). Does it matter that Wells is most likely not the author of those words? Would Words to Ride By work just as well were Carabetta to have removed the originators’ names from each of the quotes, only referenced them in his back-of-book 'sources' section?
Is it the words that we are hearing ('When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.') or is it the name of the author (HG Wells)?
Are we really so insecure that we need the affirmation of the famous in order to feel confident in our identity as cyclists, in order to be able to feel the inspiration?