Books for National Bike to Work Day (and Our Biggest Giveaway Yet!)

Alibris employees with their bicycles on Bike to Work Day
Alibris 2015 participants in National Bike to Work Day. So nice to work in an office where you can take your bicycle inside.

Today in the United States and Canada it’s National Bike to Work Day. As bike commuter myself, naturally I’m going to use that as excuse to celebrate books about that most marvelous invention, the bicycle.

The “I Love Books and Bicycles” Grab Bag Giveaway

But that’s not all. Today we’re launching our biggest giveaway ever. We know many of you come to Alibris not just for the latest bestsellers, but for the fun used books you can’t find anywhere else. So today we’re announcing a new kind of giveaway. We are combing the shelves for a mega giveaway contest featuring only used books. Three winners will win a grab bag of used books, all on the theme of bicycles. Not one or two books, but five books each. To enter, just leave a comment about bike to work day. Do you ever bike to work? Tell us about the experience. Planning to bike to work? Tell us about that too. You can also enter by tweeting this blog post to your followers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We’re keeping the contest running though the end of Bike Month (i.e. May), so you have plenty of chances to enter.

Tips for Your First Time Biking to Work

Some of the DIY bike crafts from the Happy Bicycle
Learn to make the lunch bag basket, clutch and spiffy helmet cover shown here by reading the final book recommended in this post, The Happy Bicycle

If you’ve never biked to work, a few tips before I get to the book recommendations.

  • Put air in your tires. Not only is it safer, it makes the ride a lot easier.  Novice cyclists never believe me, but when they try it they’re blown away by how much smoother the ride is with full tires. Fill it all the way to the maximum psi, a number you can find on the side of the tire. If you don’t know if you need to put air in your tires, then you need to put air in your tires.
  • Invest in a big bike pump. Dudes in bike shops always try to sell a portable bike pump to fill your tire in case of an accident, but in my experience few bike commuters are going to change a tire if they’re late for work. Moreover, those bike pumps aren’t easy to use. A portable bike pump has led me to tears of frustration while a big tall pump that looks like something Wiley E. Coyote would use to set off a bunch of dynamite will fill my tires in under two minutes.
  • Take the side streets. If there is a road with less traffic that runs parallel to your usual route, or even if you have to go out of the way a few blocks, take the road that is (literally) less traveled by. Better to have a fun and pleasant 25 minute bike ride than a congested and frightening 20 minute bike ride.
  • Beware parallel parking. While many bike commuters fear intersections and passing traffic (seeing the way people bike in my neighborhood, probably not as much as they should) the real danger to cyclists is parallel parking. People getting out of cars aren’t thinking about cyclists, and getting “doored” is one of the most common causes for cyclist injury. A friend of mine who got doored described car doors as “trap doors that open from the side.” Of course be conscious of the people driving on your left, but be wary and give extra space to any parked car with someone in the driver’s seat.


Want more advice? Check out these books below.

The Best Books for Bike Commuters

I just want to clarify that the books we’re endorsing below aren’t the same books as in our grab bag giveaway. “What?” I hear you saying, “Why aren’t you giving me these stellar books below?” It’s because the grab bag giveaway is about celebrating the diversity of the Alibris offerings. So many beautiful books! On Alibris you can find cycling books about touring, mountain biking, the history of bicycles and more, so that’s what our grab bag will reflect, but I want to focus today’s post specifically on books for bike commuters.

Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance book coverZinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance: The World’s Best-Selling Bicycle Repair and Maintenance Guide

by Lennard Zinn

I begin with Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance by Lennard Zinn. The Zinn guides are the go-to books for bike maintenance. These are big books, not the type you would take on the road with you, but the type you’d keep in your garage as the guide to everything you need to know to keep your bike in shape. I like that they are separated by type, because I find that the needs and interests of street commuters are different than those of mountain bikers and bike racers. Granted, this is not the first book a new bike commuter needs—most novice cyclists would be timid about bike repair. I begin with it because to my mind it’s the gold standard. This book has everything you need to know to diagnose what ails your bicycle, and how to fix it.

The Urban Biking Handbook coverThe Urban Biking Handbook: Build, Rebuild, Tinker, Retool, Recycle, and Repair Your Bicycle for City Living

by Charles Haine

The Urban Biking Handbook is a bike written specifically for bike commuters. It begins with how to choose and shop for a commuter bike, whether you’re buying an old clunker or building a speed machine from scratch. You’ll get advice on bike locks, footwear and accessories, safety, and how to make typical modifications like switching your curvy drop bars to flat ones. This is the book that will teach you how to jump a curb on your bicycle, or how to make your bicycle glow in the dark, and it does it all with full-color photos.

Bicycling: A Reintroduction: A Visual Guide to Choosing, Repairing, Maintaining & Operating a Bicycle

Bicycling: A Reintroduction book coverby Karen Ruth

The territory covered by Bicycling: A Reintroduction is much the same as The Urban Biking Handbook; it’s the intended audience that’s a little different. Both books will cover the basics of safety, purchase and repair; both feature many full-color photos. Bicycling: A Reintroduction assumes the reader hasn’t been on a bicycle since childhood, while The Urban Biking Handbook is for sophomore cyclists who want to really dive into commuting. For example, in Bicycling: A Reintroduction you’ll get tips on riding bikes with children, or how to use gear shifters, whereas The Urban Biking Handbook will tell you how to set up or join a bike co-op. If you think hacking your bicycle to attach a shopping cart sounds like fascinating fun, go with the The Urban Biking Handbook, wheres if such a notion sounds ridiculous, the Reintroduction book may be a better bicycling primer for you.

Bike Snob book coverBike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling

by Bikesnobnyc

I first came across this book at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association’s annual conference, and as far as I was concerned Bike Snob was the belle of the ball. I kept walking by the table where it sat in a stack, trying to think of an excuse to ask for a review copy. It may not be full-color like the other books on this list, but the design work is so gorgeous nobody will be complaining. Bike Snob is adapted from the funny and irreverent Bike Snob blog. Though the book is educational, it’s less a how-to manual and more of a witty introduction to bike culture. Chapter headings include “WHY IS EVERYBODY TRYING TO KILL ME: Fear, and How to Survive on a Bike” and “LOOK AT ME, I’M ORIGINAL TOO: The Myth of a ‘Bike Culture'” (Oh, oops.) If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the urban cyclist with a sense of humor, Bike Snob is the one to get.

The Happy Bicycle book coverThe Happy Bicycle: Make 15 Stylish Bike Accessories with Hemma Design

by Kathy McGee

Finally, I couldn’t resist The happy Bicycle, which brings together three of my favorite things: bikes, books and being crafty. If you’re a cyclist who is handy with a sewing machine, you’ll love the patterns in The Happy Bicycle. It’s so expensive to buy panniers and saddle bags. Moreover, there are safety considerations to making them yourself that you wouldn’t need to consider in most sewing projects.  How do you make sure that your DIY bike project stays affixed? But The Happy Bicycle doesn’t only have projects for making saddle bags. There are fifteen projects in total, and some great sewing tips at the beginning so you can make sure your project comes out perfect. Other projects include handle cozies, rainy-day helmet covers and ladybug bicycle bells.


If you don’t get a chance to bike to work today, bike to work tomorrow. After all, May is bike month and Spring is a great time to ride.