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Das Fahrrad: A Book That Will Make Cycling Holidays Easier

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Das Fahrrad: A Book That Will Make Cycling Holidays Easier

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Das Fahrrad

April 8th, 2016

When you’re on a cycling holiday abroad, there’s always the lingering fear that some part of your bike will break and you won’t be able to explain to the people at the bike shop what’s gone wrong.

But thanks to a fantastic book that translates over 200 bike-related words into 5 languages, this won’t be a problem any longer.

Das Fahrrad cover

We spoke to Adam Bell, the author and illustrator of the book, about the story that led him to write it.


Adam’s frustration at having to find and translate niche terms from English to his native German when restoring his beautiful 1974 Gitane bike provided the original prompt for the project.

The idea of a dictionary that would prevent other cyclists from having the same problems, whether they were restoring bikes or riding abroad, gradually changed from a pipedream to something he could actually do – especially with his experience as an illustrator.

Of the writing process, Adam says “collecting the basic terms – everything that’s obvious, like frame and tires – was was done quickly, but the list grew when going in detail and ‘taking things apart'”. Some more niche terms took longer to establish and all in all the process took around 9 months.

Translating, illustrating, publishing

Finding translators was the next step – Adam explains that he didn’t want to just use native speakers he knew, but rather native speaking bike mechanics (“I don’t think that the average person knows a ‘freeride’ or ‘adjustable bearing cup’ for example”).

He still keeps in touch with the translators, too:

I see Federica who did the Italian translation regularly because she is living in my neighbourhood, I am exchanging short e-mails with Jean-Michel from Montreal every now an then, I meet Take-San and Nakagawa-San whenever I go to the Japanese bar or the Japanese supermarket (I do so more often now) and there are plans to make a bike tour around Lake Chiemsee together this spring. Sometimes I also see Ayako and Genya, who were helping with the Japanese, for a little barbecue or lunch.

Self publishing provided the next challenge. Adam debated whether or not to get an ISBN number for his book – you have to pay for the number (and, potentially, the barcode as well). Having one allows you to sell the book in more places though, so he opted to get one (he also says that “having an ISBN number for a self-published book is not compulsory, but it’s really a cool thing and makes you feel like a real author!”).

The story so far

The book is now sold in numerous bike shops around the world (you can see the full list of vendors here), and has been received well. When asked about any stories Adam has received from buyers, he told us the following:

One of my first customers, a nice old lady from Munich, bought the book to give it to her grandson who had just finished an apprenticeship as a bicycle mechanic in Switzerland and planned on doing a world-tour by bike – the perfect gift!

A guy from Munich, who loves to wrench on bikes, moved to Bordeaux in France where he found a perfect place to practice his hobby: “Le Garage Moderne“, a self-help workshop for all sorts of vehicles, located in a former WW2 hangar. He said that the book would be a great help in communicating with all the local wrenching-gurus.

Another German lady told me that she often travels the canals and rivers of France on a small boat. She always has a folding bike on board to ride to the next village for buying supplies. Since she had more than one technical problem in the past, she is now happy to be able to explain her problems in French or just point at the broken part.

Sounds like its performing exactly as intended – helping cyclists from all backgrounds to have a smoother, less frustrating experience. Great job!

Incidentally, the restoration was a success and the bike is a beauty:

1974 Gitane restoration

A stylised image of this bike is on the cover of the book: Adam says it deserves a place of honour for inspiring the whole project in the first place!

You can see Adam’s site here, and we recommend grabbing a copy of the book – it’s small so it slots perfectly into your cycling kit!

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