This book can help one separate reality from marketing hype. Does cutting down the weight of spokes really help much? How does crank length affect performance? What affect does cooling have on a cyclist? How much does the difference between cheap bearings and good bearings affect performance? How fast should you really pedal? Are aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber vastly superior to steel? How heavily is someone breathing when they begin breathing through their mouths? How efficient is a person on a bike (in energy per mass per person per speed) compared to a bus, moped, swimmer, horse or hopping bunny? How many wives can you trade your bike for in Nigeria? These questions, and many more, are answered in this book.
The style is very much that of an academic journal, and the book is a survey of the literature in the field. References abound. The authors do their best to combine the results from different sources into a coherent reference. If this style is familiar to you, then you will not feel out of place with this book.
Chapters in the book include those on human power generation, cyclist cooling, wind resistance, the wheel, mechanical friction, braking, balancing and steering, materials and stress, and future developments. I particularly like the chapter on stability, an apparently controversial topic. The chapter presents a plausible theory supported by experiment, and provides a simple equation to calculate a stability factor for a bike design. The book concludes with an interesting chapter on what advances can be made to bicycles and to the infrastructure to make biking more viable as a form of transportation.
I mainly did not give Bicycling Science five stars because it is getting out of date. I'm sure that much additional research has been performed since the 1982 copyright date, and many advances have been made in the last 20 years, particularly those as a result of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA). The materials section could add data for some of the newer materials used for bikes such as Reynolds 853 steel and some new titanium alloys. Also, the authors tried to present data from different sources on common graphs, and in some cases, I am still puzzled at how to interpret some of the plots. I also felt that sometimes I had a bunch of data dumped in my lap with no conclusions being drawn. For example, after reading the chapter on human power generation, I wasn't sure if one should always attempt to pedal at 90-100 RPM, or should reduce cadence for the required endurance.
My complaints are few and minor, however, and I highly recommend this book to the cyclist, or cycling aficionado, who relishes the math and physics.
The only book that I've heard of that seems to be similar is High-Tech Cycling by Edmund Burke. However, I've not seen it, and reviews of it seem few and far between.
However, it is a bit dry and boring for others. As an engineer I found it interesting and informative.
If you're looking for a book to teach you how to ride in a pack, what to take on a bike tour, or which type of bike to purchase then this is not the book for you. If you're an avid cyclist and want to learn more about the science behind cycling then you'll enjoy this book.
Although this is a great book I can't give it 5 stars because of the date. It was written in 1984 and a lot has changed since then. Much of the basic science in the book remains the same but technology and bicycle materials have evolved. I hope the authors are working on an updated edition.