Excuse me, sir or ma'am. Are you staring into space on a bicycling break?
I'd never think of taking a ride without a book. Choose something light in weight and substance and carry it with you at all times. Forget about hardbacks or trade paperbacks: that copy of Kristin Lavransdatter is too big. The terrific thing about mass-market paperbacks is that (a) they fit easily in my bike panniers and (b) there's a wide variety that won't tax my brain. Although War and Peace is available in a mass market edition, Proust is not. Both books are too darned heavy for bicycling anyway. One summer I read P. G. Wodehouse forever. It wasn't terribly compelling but it was a slim volume, lots of fun, and I can always follow a story of Lord Emsworth and his stolen pig.
My current bicycling book is The Listeners, an astute, thoughtful, well-written novel by Monica Dickens about the Samaritans, a group that runs a hot-line for potential suicides. Monica Dickens, who is Charles Dickens' great-great granddaughter, is better known for her humorous autobiographies, One Pair of Hands, the story of Monica's experiences as a "cook-general" after she is kicked out of drama school); One Pair of Feet, her adventures as a nurse during World War II; and My Turn to Make the Tea, an account of her work on a weekly newspaper.
The Listeners focuses on three Samaritans who have their own problems, among them Paul, an ex-teacher whose alcoholic wife destroyed his career. It also vividly portrays three potential suicides. Dickens, who has a real sense of social justice, also unflinchingly looks at class differences.
Dickens, who was involved with the Samaritans in England, helped found a branch of the Samaritans in Massachusetts in 1974. The Listeners might be a tiny bit preachy, but it is an unusual "issue" novel and the characters are a bit grim but not without humor.
And it fits the criteria of a good bicycling book, meaning one can put it down, segue back to the real world, and get back on the trail.