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The Power of Two Wheels

David Schoonmaker

Click to Enlarge ImageMax Glaskin’s Cycling Science: How Rider and Machine Work Together (University of Chicago Press, $30) straddles the space between popular accounts typically found in cycling enthusiast magazines and the more academic treatments of David Gordon Wilson or Edmund Burke. It’s a fairly large gap, but Glaskin spans it ably.

Approaching its subject from the standpoints of both rider and machine (as the subtitle promises), the book covers all the basics of human performance and how a two-wheeled conveyance converts that into the world’s most efficient transportation system. Illustrations are perhaps the book’s greatest strength: Prior to the back matter of notes, glossary and index, not a spread goes by without at least one.

The book is also an unusual mixture of the timeless and the transitory. The basic theories—aerodynamics is one of the book’s strongest—have been established over more than a century and will persist; treatments of particular technologies—for example, comparisons of different brands of cranks and power meters—are undoubtedly already marching inexorably toward obsolescence.

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