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Home > Magazine > Accessories > Diverse Bike Tech Book: "The Cycle Zoo"

Diverse Bike Tech Book: "The Cycle Zoo"
June 09, 2010

Stephen Nurse is a bike buff and builder. He's invented a modular bike that uses a plug'n'play system to create a bunch of different bikes -- single upright, tandem, load-hauler, recumbent, and mixed 'bent/upright tandem -- it looks like you can even make triples and such with it.

He also recently self-published a bike tech book called "An Illustrated Guide to THE CYCLE ZOO." He's an Australian but he'll send you a copy for $20 mailed within Oz. He also lists it on eBay for a "Buy It Now" price and sells it at various retailers. (I don't see it on Amazon yet.)

It's 6x8 and 122 pages, all black'n'white.

He uses a nifty and clear graphics approach with a simplified sketching style to illustrate the dozens of types of bike and trike configurations that are available in the "zoo." (There are lots of animals in this zoo.)

It's written in a simple, straightforward way, with a dry scientific approach. He covers all the aspects of cycling and the most common approaches used to solve cycling challenges. By "dry" I mean it's as exciting as an engineer might write (we start with the physics of levers and tubes) but you can also sense some passion in it.

He emphasizes utility, commuting and load-carrying, along with family cycling. Racing and refinement don't get much coverage, neither do any major events or personalities. However, people do make appearances -- usually bike innovators. Several events pop up, mostly Australian. The neatest event is the Pedal Prix -- a racing series where schoolkids are given materials and rule-parameters and they design and build HPVs for the competition. It's like most other HPV races except that more safety gear is required (roll-bar, anti-foot-suck and seatbelt).

There are also a couple dozen decent black'n'white photos.

Here's a bike book that doesn't get sucked into trendiness. It covers a huge range of bike types and makes it easy to see how they work in terms of the basics.

The book is also highly inclined toward recumbents, trikes and home-building. It's full of ideas and directions the hobbyist could go in.

Given its compactness, the hundreds of bike-basics presented are brief. He's covering a LOT of ground very quickly. You get a main point, a nod to a couple interesting solutions in the market or for the homebuilder, and on to the next subject. Most aspects of cycling really aren't so cut'n'dry, but he does cover the basics plus many helpful details, even if his usually-sensible assertions aren't backed-up -- they're usually just stated and applied to a basic homebuilder situation ("not too fussy") then on we go to the next topic.

It's not all tech, though. He has some good riding tips, such as the "hook turn." It's presented for opposite-driving colonists, but once I got my brain around it, I could see how it's a handy trick that I've sometimes intuitively used. On a really busy street where you want to make a left-hand turn at a cross-road intersection, instead of cutting across lanes and waiting in the center, just stay on the right, cross the cross-street and get yourself into its right-hand lane (the simplest way in heavy traffic is to just swing in and rotate your bike around) and wait for the light, staying on the safe righthand side the whole time on both roads. Get it?

Here's a sample of the sketching method he uses throughout the book to isolate the concepts being discussed:

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