Reading: Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

After finally finishing 100 Years of Solitude, requiring around 100 years of solitude to do so (well about 4 years with many put downs and pick ups and other books in between) I thought I’d move on to something a little lighter.

As amazing as Marquez’s book is, about the bizarre happenings through generations of a Latin American family faced with revolutions, banana companies and the curse of a name, it’s bloody dense. Not really a lazy holiday read.

David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries on the other hand is perfect. Taken from his blog writing over the years, the Talking Heads singer, artist and writer is also a keen cyclist who’s been using the bike as his main form of transportation around New York for years, Byrne takes his fold up bike with him whenever he goes traveling, regardless of whether it’s bike friendly (San Francisco) or not (Istanbul).

While he does talk about cycling in each city (a city each chapter) the bike is a topical vehicle, meandering across such conversational points such as the automobile vs the bike in the class system, Philipino propaganda art, his favourite music to dance to, 70s hippies influence on silicon valley, Australia’s pre-historic megafauna, and British chavs.

His insights are clever, funny and fresh while his writing style is light and conversational, regardless of the density of some topics, you’ll find yourself riding down your own mental paths mid-sentence, from the obvious – ‘I wish I could hear Talking Heads’ brilliant “Flowers” right now’ – to ‘If I could plan a city, where would I start?’

After living and cycling in Sydney (which Byrne covers), and of course as one must do, in Amsterdam (which may have been too easy to write about), it was a pre-requisite for us to have bike racks on Bumblebee. The Bee doesn’t turn on a dime – not even on an Australian 50 cent piece, so for getting around cities like Berlin and Budapest our bikes have been great – no pesky public transport, and faster than walking, plus you really feel like you’re interacting with the buzz of the city. You’ll get lost and find bars, museums and sights you wouldn’t have on foot. We didn’t bother with Istanbul (though unfortunately we did drive it) so kudos to Mr Byrne for that one…

We’ll be pulling them off again for Rome, Monaco and the rest of France and Spain.

Matt and Jenny, who have their own bicycle diaries, handed this on to us. If you’re a fan of Byrne’s or not, or a cyclist or not, it’s well worth a read for all the nuggets of bizarre knowledge and facts Byrne peddles.


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