Read The Coyote's Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7,000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire by Kimball Taylor Online


It wasn’t surprising when the first abandoned bicycles were found along the dirt roads and farmland just across the border from Tijuana, but before long they were arriving in droves. The bikes went from curiosity, to nuisance, to phenomenon. But until they caught the eye of journalist Kimball Taylor, only a small cadre of human smugglers—coyotes—and migrants could say howIt wasn’t surprising when the first abandoned bicycles were found along the dirt roads and farmland just across the border from Tijuana, but before long they were arriving in droves. The bikes went from curiosity, to nuisance, to phenomenon. But until they caught the eye of journalist Kimball Taylor, only a small cadre of human smugglers—coyotes—and migrants could say how or why they’d gotten there. And only through Taylor’s obsession did another curious migratory pattern emerge: the bicycles’ movement through the black market, Hollywood, the prison system, and the military-industrial complex. This is the story of 7,000 bikes that made an incredible journey and one young man from Oaxaca who arrived at the border with nothing, built a small empire, and then vanished. Taylor follows the trail of the border bikes through some of society’s most powerful institutions, and, with the help of an unlikely source, he reconstructs the rise of one of Tijuana’s most innovative coyotes. Touching on immigration and globalization, as well as the history of the US/Mexico border,The Coyote’s Bicycle is at once an immersive investigation of an outrageous occurrence and a true-crime, rags-to-riches story....

Title : The Coyote's Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7,000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781941040201
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 380 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Coyote's Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7,000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire Reviews

  • Christine Zibas
    2019-05-21 12:04

    If you really want to gain some perspective on illegal immigration and border crossings, you could do no better than this stunning nonfiction tale, which reads more like a novel. Funny enough, it all begins with bicycles. Author Kimball Taylor, who went to report on flooding along with US-Mexican border, and the discovery of a slew of bicycles. Just what were they all doing there?That childhood draw (bicycles), accompanied by a rampant curiosity and an ability to draw a beautiful visual picture with his words has resulted in an immigration story that I am not sure any of Taylor's readers could have imagined. I am not sure if it's his long-standing reporting on surfing -- how many ways can you describe a wave? -- or his reportorial drive that contributes most to the success of this book, but it's one of a kind and will draw you in.If you doubt me about the surfing analogy, just read William Finnegan's latest book, "Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life." These water babies know how to write! As for Taylor and this book, it's as much about landscape and the people who inhabit the land as it is about the bicycles. But it's tracking those bikes that leads to an infinite number of interesting detours (literally and figuratively).The book centers around one coyote (a man responsible for taking illegals over the Mexican border to seek work in the US) and the idea he has (using bikes to cross the border quickly and safely) that takes him from his Mexican backwater village to a wildly successful entrepreneur. Still the book is about so much more than that. However, using this single man as the focus around which to tell his tale makes Author Kimball Taylor's work that much more compelling.There's so much more that the book covers, but I will let you discover that joy for yourself. One thing that Taylor has done so well is illuminate just how fascinating real life (ie, nonfiction) can be.

  • Kirsten
    2019-05-29 11:08

    There are distances in The Coyote’s Bicycle traveled by decidedly differing means. There is the distance between reporting and storytelling, narrative strands traveling from opposite ends that take pause; evolve. There’s the distance between expectation and fact, and then there is that place where distances cease to hold meaning; a necessary place to go when we’re called upon to suspend our disbelief in that unique way we always must when it comes time to believe something true.And then there is the literal distance of a bicycle pedaled from one country to the next. The range can be somewhat dizzying, if you don’t take the time to steady yourself. First, there is a pile of abandoned bicycles; then, there is a man who begins as Pablito, and then becomes El Indio, the mythologized border coyote who discovers an incredible way of smuggling massive numbers of people across the border on bicycles. Then, there is a male reporter following a thread of story the originates in Mexico, and ends in the United States. It is hard, at times, not to be put off by the tremendous distance between subject and beholder - one man is chasing budding curiosity turned story, while the other is chasing a mode of survival. But this distance implicates the American reader, too - especially if you’ve failed to apprehend the human consequences of US immigration policies. Mathangi Arulpragasam (better known as M.I.A.) said in her interview with David Greene of NPR on the Syrian refugee crisis “If the West is so deliberate in promoting its brands and is using its art and culture to inspire people’s dreams, how can the West turn people away?” A question this book will not, perhaps, answer, but will serve to boldly underline.Note: Tin House sent me a galley of this book; I read it, thought about it for a few weeks, and then wrote this. Thanks, Tin House!

  • Paul
    2019-06-12 07:59

    This is the type of book I wish there was a special bookshelf for in bookstores. It would magically be filled with unique one of a kind books that I would love to read and would find really interesting. It might be titled "books you will love be sure to. Buy more than one!" Sadly this type of magic doesn't exist, not yet anyway.The Coyotes Bicycle, let's face it, the title alone was enough to make me pick it up, is unlike any other book I have ever read. It is about:1. Life along the U.S. Mexico border2. A human smuggling operation3. A Coyote ( human smuggler) with a 7th grade education, who was honest, trustworthy, kind, and one of the largest smugglers of people, in the busiest border area!4. A cast of characters on both sides of the border, crazies, and misfits, and drunks, and men and woman trying to get by, trying to get ahead, trying for a better life.5. A human smuggling operation, that used bicycles to get the people across/into the United States.6. Bicycles that after they had been used by the coyote wound up on military bases around the world.7. The attempt to track the bicycles.This is an amazing, outstanding, fantastic book.

  • Bob H
    2019-06-16 13:53

    A fascinating, tautly-worded story of bicycles and bicycle theft that form an important part of the trans-border migration across the U.S. southern border. It's also a story of destitute migrants, or pollos -- chickens -- and the polleros who herd them. It's also the story of one pollo who rose to be a leading figure in the business: El Indio, whose rise and disappearance is the main thread in this story. It all reads like a novel, but the author seems to have done considerable research at first hand, and follows the story through some intriguing and unexpected turns, including into the U.S. military. He tells it with sympathy for the very human actors in an epic migration. Rather than spoil any of the many surprises in this book, I recommend that the reader follow this fascinating and well-told story.

  • Susan
    2019-06-11 10:47

    This was such an interesting book - nonfiction yet read like fiction. This is a book about migrants crossing the border illegally via bicycles, yet it is much more than that. Especially in this "build a wall" political climate, it is fascinating to read about the history of illegal immigration and why building a wall may not be a deterrent. The author followed these bicycles to find out where they came from and where they ended up and highlighted the symbolism and irony of the cyclical order of things. The book also showed the human side of migration with bizarre characters that were too colorful to not be real. A great read!

  • Karen
    2019-06-19 09:47

    Quite an unusual discovery to find a sea of 7,000 abandoned bikes in a valley at the southwestern corner of the United States. This topic piqued my interest and the true story did not disappoint. Through impressive research and good writing, this was a compelling story and perspective on illegal immigration. After a guest worker program between the US and Mexico ended in 1964, the bicycle coyote industry grew from a small time hustle to a huge organization. This is an especially topical subject as we struggle with immigration issues. Confronted with fences, cameras and thousands of Border Patrol agents, it is hard to fathom the path taken by so many migrants.

  • Melinda M
    2019-06-20 07:03

    Kimball Taylor does a good job of keeping the story interesting. At times, you forgot that this is a true story because it reads like an adventure and mystery story. the Borderland empire is a good reminder that some areas near the borders are not control by the officials. Seven thousand bikes a= is a number that is hard to imagine but Mr. Taylor does a good job of taking you thru the crazy madness which includes human smuggling as well as the good things from the bikes rolling thru.It is a reminder as well that the bikes changes to the purpose depending on its owner.

  • Cameron
    2019-06-09 11:42

    This story is incredible. Really, all the stories in this book are incredible, and intertwined into an amazing narrative that is somehow both larger than all of us and intimately human all at once. The comparative metaphor of the bicycles and their far flung adventures juxtaposed with the journey of migrants seeking a new life is enlightening. This book could be a few separate books, but the real value is in the relationships and connections of the stories. I loved it.

  • Angie
    2019-06-12 12:03

    A must read!This book was so interesting that it was difficult to put down. I guess it illustrates the old adage that “fact is stranger than fiction”. The author takes you on a bicycle journey through the Tijuana river valley (in the USA) and demonstrates how “invisible” something as common and prevalent as a bicycle can really be. I honestly can’t believe how creative the Mexican smugglers really were, and I was truly captivated with the El Indio’s chapters.

  • Maureen
    2019-05-23 12:48

    I had a really hard time getting through this book. It started off well, but then it just seemed to jump all around and made it very difficult for me to follow. I was looking forward to learning about the empire, but could not follow all the different pieces. It seemed like the author got sidetracked quite a bit rather. I also wish there had been some maps or pictures included in the book. I was trying to visualize the area but some detailed maps of the border area would have been very useful - I used google maps at times to try to gain an understanding of the area, but an included map of the mentioned areas would have been much more helpful. I ended up skimming quite a bit of the second half of the book b/c I had lost interest. Perhaps if the book had been better organized and cut down by about 100 pages, I would have enjoyed it more.

  • Kirk Astroth
    2019-05-22 13:57

    An interesting book about how 7,000 bicycles were used to get people across the border and how no amount of fences or walls will change that. In fact, by doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and dropping rigorous background checks, we will only see more crossings. Statistics show that there are typically 10% of officers who are corrupt. With the 20,000 BP agents under President Bush, coyotes could count on some 2,000 officers to assist them. With Trump doubling that to 40,000 that means there will be 4,000 corrupt officials to bribe to assist them. Sad.

  • Kathy
    2019-06-06 07:09

    Quotable:Bikes belong to that class of essentially elegant innovations of travel – as airship, an airplane’s wing, a sailboat’s hull, a keel, a kite, the fin of a surfboard, a bicycle in motion. Bicycles execute the willpowers of the people who buy, find, steal, trade and use them; they mark the memories of the people who love them.[O]ur southern border is nearly two thousand dusky, desert miles long – two-thirds the length of the United States, half the span of the Great Wall of China, almost a third of the circumference of the moon.Since the 1970s the old White Gate’s competitor, the official crossing at San Ysidro five miles to the east, has grown. At fifty million crossings per year, the sheer number of cars idling in line, waiting to enter the United States, made the customs complex one of the strongest emitters of greenhouse gases in Southern California.Roberto believed that his power, in business as well as in the home, derived from his big-tent mentality. There was more to be gained by including others in one’s own successes and supporting them in their individual endeavors than in jealously guarding one’s little tract of plenty.

  • Madalene
    2019-05-24 11:06

    The story is interesting: how prolific is the crossing of the U.S./Mexico border by migrants on bicycles going through the fence? And where do those bikes go? Do they end up in odd places that benefit the U.S. interests as well? For that, it's worth a read - but know that it reads like a piece in Vice magazine, you're never quite sure how valid the stories from sources are. It'd be great if there were some pictures, but that seems unlikely given his reluctant sources.

  • David Byrd
    2019-06-10 11:54

    What a great story, and well written. Highly recommend to others.

  • Bookthreat
    2019-05-27 07:04

    Read our review at

  • Beth
    2019-06-20 13:02

    Lots of interesting facts, but I was left dubious about the narrative threading things together. Does not rise above the sum of its parts, but many of the parts are fascinating.

  • Michael
    2019-06-07 10:44

    SPOILERS! I felt close to the characters, especially Indio, Marta, Roberto, Negro, and Kimball. Solo, Juan, Javy, and the other polleros/coyotes were secondary characters but still compelling. The closer Kimball got to these people, literally, the more dangerous it became for him and especially about three-quarters of the way through the book I sensed how the stakes were increasing for him. I enjoyed the ambiguity in the end, when he isn’t sure how honest Negro was being. Then when Dan blows his cover and relays Kimball’s doubts to Negro, so much feels jeopardized. The desire to see the outcome kept me glued. I was fascinated by Kimball’s detective work, tracking the bikes even to the mock Abbottabad compound outside North Carolina. The vicarious experience of Kimball’s legwork was pleasurable.The chapters that presented less of the characters and more of the socio-political and historical contexts were also interesting, though the pulse was obviously not throbbing quite like it did when the pollos and polleros were rolling past la migra on their bicycles. Or when the pregnant Marta was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and the irony of her not knowing carried the story for quite a while. However, I don’t want to downplay the effects that the expositional chapters had on me. Not everything has to be fast-paced, of course. It was fascinating to learn about the wall itself, what Acts continued its construction, which segments were built under which presidents, etc.I would recommend this book to anyone who wants reading material on the border. I already recommended the book to a professor at Fairfield University who teaches Latino poetry and cultural studies. He was surprised to hear about the amount of bicycle crossings. His eyes grew wide when I said that one coyote ran an operation that earned him over thirty million dollars.If I was teaching a college class on the nonfiction movement known as the new journalism I might use this book as an exemplary work. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to especially teach how a master writer fills in the gaps in a narrative. One thing that characterizes the new journalism—or what some like Robert Boynton are now even calling the new new journalism—is a certain creative license, an actually somewhat controversial move to imagine, as I said, the gaps in a narrative. I, as a reader, cannot be sure where this occurs in this particular book, and that’s beside the point because I don’t need to know. I need to believe in the story and the writer needs to embellish in order to keep me invested. Often the sorts of embellishments that writers limit themselves to are innocuous, like sensory embellishments that flesh out a scene, details that might not have come out in a writer’s interview with his subject. Anyway, I’m probably telling you something you already know, but I think that if The Coyote’s Bicycle does this then it does it beautifully. Also, another defining element of the new journalism is the writer’s commitment to living like his subjects. Here, Kimball spends so much time on the other side of the border, staying there with Dan for such a long time. Those are just two big ways which this book excels in a particular genre and could easily fit into such a syllabus.

  • Susan (aka Just My Op)
    2019-05-30 08:47

    The author is intrigued to find how discarded tires from the US make it to Mexico and then back to the US again, and then he discovers something that intrigues him even more – thousands of abandoned bicycles in the US, just across the border from Mexico.This is an interesting book about the ingenuity and the industry of illegal immigration into the US. Living in a border state where the issue is contentious and divisive, I had to read this book.The author follows the stories of coyotes, but also learns and explains the different jobs and specialties involved in the industry. And do not be fooled, it is definitely an industry. And, of course, information about the illegal drug industry has to enter the picture, but that is not the focus of this book.There is a good deal of information about the “fence,” how it has been increased, how it has been thwarted. About deportation and multiple crossings.And the journeys of the bicycles themselves was quite interesting, many of them ending up on US military war games, surprisingly enough.“Border Patrol had recently dumped Ramon on the streets of Tijuana at two in the morning, and like most deportees, he didn't know where the hell he was. Southern Mexicans plucked from a dishwashing job in, say, Newark, New Jersey, and expelled upon the seediest part of a border town with neither connections nor a plan were sitting ducks and everybody knew it.”I felt the author occasionally overwrote the story with flights of fancy:“Plans; his clients carried them in their minds like the contents of a briefcase they'd pop open on the other side. And he recognized the look even as he hefted charcoal into the grill and tussled with an order of carnitas that he'd carried into the house like a fat child.”The author tended to be a bit wordy, and went off on tangents, making this book longer than I felt it needed to be to tell the story well. And I do wish the author would learn that the phrase is “tract homes,” not “track homes.”Because this book concentrates on some individuals, there are not too many of the heartbreaking stories of failed crossings, of people dying trying to cross by themselves or after being abandoned by coyotes.Despite some flaws, this book is a fascinating look at illegal immigration using a method I didn't know about and from a unique perspective.I received an advanced e-book copy of this book for review.

  • Scott
    2019-05-20 10:07

    "The Coyote's Bicycle" provides yet another reminder that for all the wonderful imaginations that authors bring to bear, sometimes the real world offers the most startling and original stories.Kimball Taylor, a surfer and writer ("Return by Water," "Drive Fast and Take Changes," Surfer Magazine, etc.), literally stumbles across a story while researching a tale of environmental damage along the U.S.-Mexico Border near San Diego and Tijuana. He finds a literal graveyard of over 7,000 bicycles, bikes of all types, sizes, and purposes, and it leads him into the bizarre parallel universe that is the human trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. That such a bizarre, inhumane and yet all-too-human story can be found within a short drive of San Diego causes the mind to reel (and, if you are so lucky, for the reader to thank Fate for allowing him to be born in El Norte).Taylor's story revolves around a remarkable young man who walked from his village to Tijuana and who made it to the United States. More than bummed (or horrified) by the prospect of washing dishes in a greasy spoon for the rest of his life, the young man returns to Mexico to become a coyote, a modern-day blockade runner who trades in the desperate and the dispossessed. Kimball follows the story as an empire is slowly built, run, and then abandoned seemingly without a second thought.Taylor is a fine writer (there are some over-written passages for my taste - your mileage may vary) who usually lets his story tell itself. "The Coyote's Bicycle" is a perfect tonic if you feel caught in a rut or feel like you've been reading the same old story over and over again. Not only will Kimball's bizarre tale of humanity (and inhumanity) show a side of humanity most of us have never seen, it forces us to appreciate what we have - there but for the Grace of God go we.

  • John
    2019-06-02 13:46

    The Tijuana River valley provides the setting for this unusual story of cross border migration, politics and culture. It is a landscape close to my heart and history as well. My friends and I grew up surfing the great surf of Imperial Beach and owning a home there for some length of time. My wife had a home right on the US side of the valley, where you could see the green expanse of grass toward Mexico and rent horses a few blocks away to wander in the country setting there amid the pollution from what was washed from Mexico. We witnessed first hand the danger of border crossings at the mouth of the Sloughs, when on a walk we found a human skeleton sticking out of the sand there.Kimball Taylor's book is well researched and is rather unique in the way various subjects are artfully weaved together. The history of bicycles, border politics, smuggling, and a great love story are all there. His alternating views keep the reader entertained with the techniques of discerning truth in interviews on both sides of the border. Oh yeah, and the audacity of using bicycles (which don't trip border patrol seismic sensors in the valley) to quickly get close to "la linea". Great story of the building of an empire using this ubiquitous method of conveyance and how the bicycles took on a history of their own when left in the fields of the valley.

  • Kelley
    2019-05-29 13:41

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher & Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 3.5 stars.This was a fascinating read, telling the untold story of how thousands of abandoned bikes arrived to the United States near the Mexican border, and the people behind orchestrating their arrival. Having lived in Mexico for 6.5 years, this was especially interesting to me, as it is a story I was totally unaware of (including details of Tijuana's history and culture). While I really enjoyed the book overall, it took me a while to get through, and I think it had to do with the author's very descriptive style, such that at moments I was unsure where the descriptions were leading or what the real point of them were. I was far more interested in the story of Indio and his plight than the author's visits to cemeteries or studios. Often when he went into detail about his exploring to find information about the bikes is when I lost interest. The book would have been better, in my opinion, cutting out some of his personal experiences in the search. The lives of Indio, Roberto, Marta, el Negro, and Julia were most engaging to me, and I appreciate the unique perspective this book gives of unusual events along our border..

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-29 11:58

    I picked up this book because it was a book club choice. It didn't seem my type, but I thought I would try it. Here is why you might not pick up this book.. It's long. It has a lot of history and facts. This is not a quick-skim or a beach read.Yet, readers will find a journalist (author Kimball Taylor) who is obsessed with where bikes are going, and as you read you will read on just to know where they end up- stolen from a backyard, sold to a police auction, rented to a movie set, recycled to Mexico, then used to cross the US-Mexico border, and the cycle goes on. Along with the history of the bicycles, you read the personal story of one of the most famous polleros (someone who crosses immigrants), El Indio. His story is fascinating and heart-breaking, and you won't want to put the book down. This book is a journey, but one that I would encourage many to take. As a middle school teacher, I find myself quickly finishing YA books. With The Coyote's Bicycle, I found myself embarking on a journey where I didn't want to miss a single word. My book is full of post-its labeling points that I loved and want to discuss (actually I even left the purple and pink stickies in my library copy for future readers).

  • Ron Jensen
    2019-05-27 06:57

    Barry's selection for book club. A good 100 page book written in 400 pages, as Mark said. I was somewhat interested in the story of illegal immigrants using bicycles to get across the border, and I was intrigued by most of the characters. but could not understand the author's obsession with the flow of bicycles from the US to Mexico and back, or any of the subplots that seemed to have nothing to do with main story. He seemed more focused on his investigation than the results of the investigation, and I just didn't care about the investigation. Also, it was a poorly written book - poor descriptions, lots of undefined Spanish phrases and slang. Written in a journalist style, but confusing, maybe intentionally so. I wish the author would just explain what is going on, without getting so cute or vague about it. I ended up skimming the last half of the book to get through it.

  • Scott Underwood
    2019-06-05 13:56

    DNF....stopped at page 70. This was doomed for me from the beginning. A story about bicycles had better have some pretty big intrigue up front to keep me interested. This one did not. It would have been interesting I suppose, but it started to feel like a slog after just a relatively few pages. I couldn't justify anymore time on this lengthy story when my interest was already low to begin with. Does it pick up? Hmmmm I'm lookin at the overall avg of four and a half stars as I write this and figure it must. Maybe I will read other reviews a little more closely, but for now all I can say is that this was a slow start to a not SO interesting topic to begin with....the Title is great, but the topic... (I mean, a bunch of bikes left stranded....ooooh!.....what are they doing there?.....where do they come from? .....ooooh!) intrigue? Not so much.

  • Matt
    2019-06-01 11:04

    If you liked 'The Tortilla Curtain,' Kimball Taylor's new book 'The Coyote's Bicycle' will appeal. The discovery of so many bicycles abandoned just over the US border drew the author's interest, and he traces them backward to the lives of those who rode them into the states. The character study of the people risking everything for a chance of a better life in El Norte is insightful, compelling and capable of drawing compassion in even the hardest conservative heart. Similarly, the story of the rancher who 'herds' the bicycles and sells them off at $20 apiece is just as insightful; here is a natural born US citizen capitalizing on a situation he's powerless to stop, the wave of immigration that will just keep coming. In a sentence, 'Coyote's Bicycle' lends insight to all sides of a struggle with no clear resolution, no matter what politicians promise.

  • Jan Soller
    2019-05-30 06:56

    Non-fiction, US-Mexico border at San Diego. Read for Bookclub. Interesting story .... couldn't tell if protagonists were real or fictionalized versions.

  • Alissa
    2019-06-16 05:51

    The Coyote's Bicycle is actually two stories in one book. The author stumbles upon piles of abandoned bicycles on the U.S. side of the border between Tijuana and San Diego. When he asks locals where the bikes came from, they all pointed at Mexico. This is where things become complicated, because the author wants to know where the bikes came from in the first place and where they are headed and the bikes are headed for strange places. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

  • Dewayne Stark
    2019-05-21 09:44

    TJ is not in my backyard maybe a 100 miles away but the bicycle riders that the coyote used are all around me. When I was racing motorcycles my friend had a shop in Chula Vista and we would eat at the cafe at Brown Field. I once remarked that there must be lots of dirt riders on the mesa around here because of all the trails. He said those trails are not from dirt bikes, they are from the Mexicans walking (or riding) across.

  • CT
    2019-06-15 07:51

    The Coyotes Bicicyle is quite a story. It's a life is so interesting story. There are several stories intertwined with the travels and lives of 7,000 bicycles found near the Mexican American border. It's a story about immigration and the clever way a young man from Oaxaca becomes a Coyote with bikes as the means of transportation across the border. The author describes the characters and scenery so well you are right there in the story. A great interesting read. I rate this 5 stars.

  • Raquel Johnson
    2019-05-25 12:08

    The first half was hard to get into, yet I was intrigued. I lived in San Diego, around this era, where bike theft was rampant. Now, I wonder....I actually cried at one point of this tale. This is the life. It's real. The rest of the book went quickly, yet don't so much a downhill ride for most.