Having catapulted over my handlebars on too many occasions to count (with two broken collarbones to mark my mishaps) and having met my share of dogs, coyotes, peacocks, cougars, bears and bulls on the back roads of Northern California, I feel a deep kinship with the 27 cyclist-sufferers who offer up their bruised but mostly undaunted spirits in Cycling's Greatest Misadventures.
True, I have not had a live rat caught in my front spokes ("Riding Tandem with Rodent"). Nor have I sought to repair a flat with dental floss ("Genius, Not Genius"). Or taken a seriously wrong path while mountain biking in Bolivia ("The Jungle is Hungry"). Or, for that matter, used a bike ride as a sort of grand treasure hunt among rural junk piles ("Lost and Found in Boise, Idaho"). But I really, truly catch these writers' drifts.
Most of these mostly short (two- to seven-page) vignettes have a wry joke-is-on-me tone with that blend of steely bravado and self-deprecating humor you find at the third rest stop of a century on a drizzly day. Some pieces are historical: "Iron Riders," for example, tells the history of a seemingly crazy 19th-century attempt to turn Buffalo Soldiers into bicycle cavalry. Some strike a more somber note: "The Shock and Numbness Are Starting to Set In" tells of a bike tour leader who sees sweet, elderly cyclists in her charge killed by criminally inattentive drivers. The volume also contains some wince-inducing photos in its "Bike Crash Photo Gallery."
All in all, Cycling's Greatest Misadventures proves an interesting read for cyclists and armchair cyclists alike. These riders' pain is our gain.