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Publisher's Summary

A panoramic revisionist portrait of the nineteenth-century invention that is transforming the twenty-first-century world

“The real feat of this book is that it takes us on a ride—across the centuries and around the globe, through startling history and vivid first-person reporting.”—Patrick Radden Keefe, New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Pain

The bicycle is a vestige of the Victorian era, seemingly at odds with our age of smartphones and ride-sharing apps and driverless cars. Yet we live on a bicycle planet. Across the world, more people travel by bicycle than any other form of transportation. Almost anyone can learn to ride a bike—and nearly everyone does.

In Two Wheels Good, journalist and critic Jody Rosen reshapes our understanding of this ubiquitous machine, an ever-present force in humanity’s life and dream life—and a flash point in culture wars—for more than two hundred years. Combining history, reportage, travelogue, and memoir, Rosen’s book sweeps across centuries and around the globe, unfolding the bicycle’s saga from its invention in 1817 to its present-day renaissance as a “green machine,” an emblem of sustainability in a world afflicted by pandemic and climate change. Listeners meet unforgettable characters: feminist rebels who steered bikes to the barricades in the 1890s, a prospector who pedaled across the frozen Yukon to join the Klondike gold rush, a Bhutanese king who races mountain bikes in the Himalayas, a cycle-rickshaw driver who navigates the seething streets of the world’s fastest-growing megacity, astronauts who ride a floating bicycle in zero gravity aboard the International Space Station.

Two Wheels Good examines the bicycle’s past and peers into its future, challenging myths and clichés while uncovering cycling’s connection to colonial conquest and the gentrification of cities. But the book is also a love letter: a reflection on the sensual and spiritual pleasures of bike riding and an ode to an engineering marvel—a wondrous vehicle whose passenger is also its engine.

©2022 Jody Rosen (P)2022 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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    3 out of 5 stars

As I cyclist I enjoyed this but it lacks focus

As an avid bicyclist, I really enjoyed listening to this. It was usually fun and sometimes funny, while also being very informative. You learn a lot about aspects of bicycling that are often overlooked.

You'll learn about the velocipede craze of the 1800s (though whether velocipedes even qualify as bicycles is a good question). You'll learn about the bicycle culture of the mountain kingdom of Bhutan, as well as about the contradictory politics of that country. You'll learn about the rickshaws that proliferate in Bangladesh and the role of bicycles in the Tiananmen uprising. You'll also learn about the Bikecentennial bike ride across America, and about the author's own long love affair with the bicycle.

There is even a chapter about people who get their sexual kicks with bicycles. This seemed to be one of the shorter chapters, which may be good or bad, depending on your point of view. The chapter involves a fair amount of cursing, which I found surprising in the middle of an otherwise fairly vanilla book.

I was also surprised by the sudden intrusion of unexpected voices as a couple who met during the Bikecentennial ride recounts the ride, and their subsequent lives. Though the new voices came as a surprise, they did help to enliven the book and better illustrate these characters.

If the book lacks anything, it is focus. It is all over the map, and sometimes maybe even off the map. It is a diverse informational smorgasbord on a seemingly random assortment of bike-related topics. It is a ride with lots of strange detours, but it is almost always entertaining and frequently quite a bit of fun.

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This book needed more editing.

I wanted to like this book. Too preachy. Lacked cohesion. Enjoyed stories of featured cyclists.

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Fun bike history, could use some editing

Fun bike history, could use some editing. Nice section on China, sad to hear about dismantling of Chinese bike system, changing to car disaster. Now some effort to revive bicycle use there.