Three book suggestions that would make great gifts for your cycling enthusiast

Three book suggestions that would make great gifts for your cycling enthusiast

  • Newly emerged monarchs in Jennifer Kahn's AP Environmental Science class at Libertyville High School.

    Newly emerged monarchs in Jennifer Kahn's AP Environmental Science class at Libertyville High School. Courtesy of Jennifer Kahn

  • Cycling Santa relaxes with his favorites on his time off.

    Cycling Santa relaxes with his favorites on his time off. Courtesy of Kevin Mikolajewski

 
By Ralph Banasiak
Along for the Ride
Posted11/24/2021 6:00 AM

"Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow." For Thoreau, walking in the woods fired his neurons. For me, it's biking.

But when Mother Nature incarcerates me indoors, bicycling books stimulate. These three potential holiday gifts may juice your cortex, too. Each highlights biking's diverse impact worldwide, and each offers another reviewer to keep me honest.

 

'Bicycling With Butterflies'

Having braved multiday rides myself, educator/naturalist Sara Dykman's 260-day, 10,200-mile pilgrimage seems staggering, tracing monarchs migrating from Mexico across America through Ontario, and back!

Along her journey, Dykman underscores North America's declining monarch population, preaching the gospel at more than 40 schools and over 30 nature organizations.

Jennifer Kahn, AP Environmental Science teacher at Libertyville High School, and monarch steward, shared my delight reading Dykman's 2021 chronicle.

"I've been raising monarchs in my classroom for five years, mostly eggs found on backyard milkweed," Kahn said. Dykman "helped me understand how classroom efforts to educate and conserve fit into a broader network of systems, pressures, and people involved in their survival. I feel even more committed."

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"She's a great storyteller," Kahn added, "her narrative compelling and approachable, even for those with little to no prior knowledge. A must-read for everyone lucky to live along the monarch's migration route."

Speaking of "little-to-no," Dykman taught me basics. Monarchs overwintering in Mexico are great grandchildren of northbound spring migrants. They lay one egg per milkweed plant, caterpillars' exclusive menu preference.

Stewards, including Kahn and her students, tag monarchs with lightweight stickers for data collection before release.

Besides expanding my "monarch-ology," Dykman's colorfully expressive travel tale resonated -- scouting campsites, encountering odd personalities, persevering despite weather challenges, traffic hazards and mechanicals.

Her travel prudence evoked memories of accepting unexpected offers on my youthful solo around Lake Erie.

"Saying yes is as important on a bike tour as drinking water," Dykman said. "Part trusting strangers, part trusting yourself, part taking things as they come."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

More risk-averse now, I vicariously enjoyed her adventures.

'Revolutions'

An early October paceline of women riders from the Trek Bicycle Store of Highland Park racking up the countryside miles near Hinckley.
An early October paceline of women riders from the Trek Bicycle Store of Highland Park racking up the countryside miles near Hinckley. - Courtesy of Sheri Rosenbaum

Weavers of social mores and history into stories are authors well worth reading. Cyclist Hannah Ross's engaging 2020 book "Revolutions: How Women Changed the World on Two Wheels" doesn't disappoint. Opening my eyes to female cycling history, Ross contextualizes biking's cultural transformation of society overall.

"The bike has proved a powerful tool for change," Ross said. "Getting people where they need to go cheaply and easily" enables easier access to education and employment, fostering physical and psychological health, especially true for women.

From boneshakers and Rover Safety bikes in 1885, Ross details how bikes revolutionized mobility. She underscores suffragette Susan B. Anthony's claim that this "freedom machine" helped liberate women from the "weaker sex" stereotype.

To that, Sheri Rosenbaum declares, "Amen, sister!" A lifelong cyclist and brand ambassador for top cycling industry companies, Rosenbaum's mission is getting more women on bikes.

Through the Trek Bicycle Store of Highland Park Women's Group, she teaches clinics, hosts rides/events, and generally encourages female riders.

"I love to push these women out of their comfort zones. They are capable of much more than they think. The sense of freedom and adventure that two wheels bring me today is similar to what women have experienced for years," Rosenbaum said.

As Ross documents, since the late 1800s, bicycling closely intertwined with the feminist movement.

Rosenbaum, like me, respects the "impressive research that went into this book. Throughout, Ross celebrates women's worldwide cycling achievements, current and past. I found 'Revolutions' an engaging, informative, and encouraging read."

Wholeheartedly, I agree. "Amen, sister!"

'Bicycle/Race'

Until recently, a middle-aged dishwasher pedaled his well-worn bike down my street, like clockwork, en route to/from the restaurant. We "hola!"-ed him occasionally, with neighbor Dave noticing he needed a neon safety vest, I, a flashing taillight. We both helped out.

This gentleman exemplifies "captive" bikers with limited mobility options described by cyclist, activist and cultural anthropologist Adonia Lugo in "Bicycle/Race" (2018). Bicycling, transportation overall, she argues, is impeded by issues attributable to structural racism: Economic disinvestment, urban development, environmental hazards.

Lugo rattled my thinking. Unlike "captive" bikers, cycling isn't my only transportation. Moreover, I've advocated the traditional "build it and they will come" -- more physical infrastructure yields more riders, leading to more safe driving by motorists. Problem solved.

Bike lanes and street sharrows alone won't solve it, per Lugo.

For Victoria Barrett, transportation planner at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), this argument rings true. Safe mobility is a human infrastructure problem.

Barrett backs up her reasoning. "Black residents are overrepresented in Northeastern Illinois traffic fatalities. Data have shown fatalities and serious injuries among pedestrians and bicyclists on the rise, likely due to a combination of unsafe infrastructure and speeding vehicles.

"Also, recent research shows Chicago bicyclists are more likely to receive citations in majority Black and Latino census tracts, where safe bicycling infrastructure often is missing," Barrett said.

"As regional planners, CMAP wants to ensure our region invests in people and places equitably, embracing diversity," Barrett added. "Lugo's thoughtful, deeply personal book addresses the important intersection of mobility and social justice, focusing on my favorite transportation form -- the bicycle."

"Bicycling has represented independence, power and personal freedom since I first pedaled from my mother down my neighborhood sidewalk as a young girl. But as a white woman, I've come to recognize this sense of freedom and mobility is a privilege. Lugo's book confirms this: Safe mobility is a racial equity issue."

Plenty food for thought.

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at alongfortheridemail@gmail.com.

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