Many fields have a definitive text. In medicine, it's "Gray's Anatomy"; in writing, Strunk and White's "Elements of Style." And for cycling enthusiasts -- and their mechanics -- there's "Bicycling Science" (MIT Press, $22.95), released in its third edition just in time for this year's cycling season.


MIT mechanical engineering professor emeritus David Gordon Wilson, 76, has spent his career on and off the bike -- he typically pedals 7,000 miles or more a year -- looking for ways to make the sport safer and more enjoyable.


If you like mulling over which uses more energy: walking or riding your bike up hills, or why braking on a wet road is more apt to lead to a blowout than a stop on a dry one, this book's for you. Don't like to read? The book has lots of illustrations documenting how inventors have tried to build a better bicycle -- often with bizarre results.


Wilson's academic roots are evident on every page, making the book an exhausting read, even if it is exhaustive in scope. If in college you opted for modern lit over quantum mechanics -- or you get flustered trying to program your VCR -- you will have a heck of a time understanding what most of this book is about.


Which isn't to say you shouldn't give it a shot, especially if you're interested in becoming a better, safer rider. Most cyclists challenge themselves physically with every ride. What harm can it do to challenge yourself to learn more about the sport?