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Expandexing the biker's mind

Need for the Bike Paul Fournel University of Nebraska Press, $15

September 30, 2003|Susan Dworski

Who hasn't wondered what's up with those spandexed bikers? A lot, it turns out. Homo bicycletus extraordinaire Paul Fournel breaks it down with dry, self-effacing French wit in this spare, muscular meditation by a man who's been smitten by bike travel since childhood.

The bicycle is the center of Fournel's world, and he makes it ours. Road maps are "dream machines," luring us to adventures in landscapes whose nuances are savored from the seat of his pants.

Quads on fire, Fournel takes us inside the packed peloton of wheel fanatics, as he scrabbles for position on twisting alpine roads. Like a patient Zen master, Fournel introduces us to a universe of pain and exhilaration; life whirling past on shimmering, silent wheels.

The book is a love letter to the bicycle and its pleasures. To the rich landscapes of France, to deep, cycling friendships and especially to the writer's fragile body and his beloved shining machine, which has "the mission of notifying me of my aging." A cool, quick read for everyone who bikes, with or without spandex.

-- Susan Dworski

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