'life is like a ten-speed bicycle; most of us have gears we never use.' charles schultz.
it may well be that it is the most incorrectly overused item of punctuation in the english language, depending, of course on how you view the correct usage in the first place. i am talking about the ellipsis, those three little dots or full stops that occasionally finish (or rather, don't finish) a sentence. strictly speaking, those dots indicate either a missing word (when used mid-sentence), or as in the case above described, it may mean a pause in speech, an unfinished thought or a trailing off into silence. i have come across many occasions where none of the foregoing are the case. i believe it may be in order to end a sentence with an ellipsis when trying to infer that there is more to come, either on another page, further down the same page, or simply left to the imagination.
unfortunately, many has been the instance where the ellipsis appears to have been added as a sort of afterthought, either because the author isn't sure quite how to finish what they started, or placed entirely erroneously, having no relevance to the foregoing. it seems that, according to the bluebook, a style guide for the american legal system, the ellipsis should feature a space prior to the first dot, and then between the two subsequent dots. if, rather than type the dots individually, you use the macintosh shortcut of alt/option + semi-colon, the dots appearing on the screen do not adhere to this discipline. i think you might agree that my finishing thus . . . is a trifle unnecessary, and quite frankly, most of us could care less.
the discussion of such an arcane item of punctuation within this article is germain to the book under review, for it could surely just as easily have modified the title of lance armstrong's first foray into print. thus; it's not about the bike..., using the ellipsis to infer that, contrary to the inference provided, the word 'but' may be the very one represented by those dots.
for any cyclist, the bicycle is the very core of their being; without a bicycle of some sort or other, surely we are simply pedestrians? such does not indicate that the mythical cyclist under consideration need be one that concerns themselves with all aspects of cycling, for the width of the cycling universe is surely great enough that there is something for everyone. and it is often that something for everyone that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. we delight in the paraphernalia that surrounds the bicycle, whether it be the introduction of a local cycle hire scheme, the government's cycle to work scheme, or simply some uplifting cycle related literature that can be used for surreptitious proselytising, or for the oft times much needed self affirmation that one has made the correct transportational choice.
even something to encourage a light degree of smugness.
such is the case with chris naylor's the cyclist's friend, here subtitled as a miscellany of wit and wisdom. prior to delving into its copious yet fulfilling contents, can i just say that if i never see the h.g.wells quote 'when i see an adult on a bicycle, i do not despair for the future of the human race' ever again, it will be too soon. the remark has been flogged to death, and i feel that anyone intent on regaling us with more contemporary wit and wisdom of a cyclical nature ought to pass over and move on.
that, however, does not preclude the substantial number of worthy epithets, whimsies and good old down-home baking from constituting the bulk of this small volume's 200 plus pages. marriage is a wonderful invention; but then again, so is a puncture repair kit attributed to scots comedian, billy connolly is a fine example. there are many smart-ass one liners included within, many of which are worth remembering, and not always for repeating or using defensively towards non-believers. there are brief descriptions of cycling styles, such as cyclocross, a fine testimony towards the all but unparalleled mechanical efficiency of the chain-driven bicycle. introductions to bicycle gurus such as gary fisher and mike burrows; a short dissertation on choosing the right saddle, and a brief discourse on the introduction of mountain stages to the tour de france.
there's even a short chapter about tommy simpson.
it's quite possible that many of you will have come across the one-liners in other publications, or inhabiting a coloured sidebar in one of the monthlies. but here are many all in the one book, and easily to hand when you need to recall who it was that actually propounded the statement in the first place. the cyclist's friend fulfils the position of feelgood literature, something i figure every cyclist needs at sometime in their career. add to that the convenience of access, and it's hard to fault mr naylor's choice of content. true, page 83's customising your bicycle delivers considerably less by way of specifics than the more recently reviewed volume from rouleur editor, guy andrews where considerably more detail was on offer, but if a few hundred words are employed to encourage some riders to think past the catalogue style of most purchases, then surely it has done no harm?
for a penny under ten pounds, no matter how much or how little you find within these pages, it is a small price to pay for that which does subsequently prove relevant. being able to dip in and out as the fancy or need takes, is an ideal format. this is not necessarily a book that should be read from start to finish, though i'd recommend finishing in which ever circumlocutious manner you find amenable.
maybe it is all about the bike...
posted monday 2 may 2011