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Build an Ark – Or Read Some More


Some of of my cycling books are about epic rides.  Tim Moore’s book about riding the 2000 Tour de France route for example (see Still Too Wet to Ride?)

Closer to home, Sandra Loh circumnavigated Peninsular Malaysia, together with Mak Shiau Meng, in 2009.  I have a signed copy of Loh’s “Pedalling Around the Peninsula:  A Malaysian Girl’s  Two-Wheeled Adventures.”  Perhaps the most amazing statistic is that she cycled 2,664 km / 1,655mi without a single flat tire.

Pedalling Around

Mark Beaumont took a somewhat longer ride.  And he did it alone.  He cycled 29,446km / 18,297mi to circumnavigate the globe in 194 days in 2008.  That was a  world record at the time.  Achieving it required cycling an average of 160km / 100mi per day, no matter the weather, the terrain or his physical condition.  He did have a few flats along the way, as recounted in “The Man Who Cycled the World.”

The Man Who Cycled

The most tragic ride story is told by David Herlihy in “The Lost Cyclist:  The Epic Tale Of An American Adventurer And His Mysterious Disappearance“.  This is also a story of a man attempting to circumnavigate the globe by bicycle, but in a very different age to Beaumont’s.  Frank Lenz started his ride in 1892, on the then innovative safety bicycle, complete with new-fangled pneumatic tires.  Lenz makes it most of the way around the world before disappearing in eastern Turkey.

The Lost Cyclist

Now onto the books that don’t fall neatly in one classification or another.  Like “Bicycle Love: Stories of Passion, Joy, and Sweat” edited by Garth Battista.  A compilation of 60 or so essays on the many varieties of bicycle love.

Bicycle Love

Another compilation of improbable, silly, crazy and absurd, but all true stories is in “Cycling’s 50 Craziest Stories.”  It is written by Les Woodland, a doyen of British cycling authors with eighteen books on the subject to his name.

Cycling's 50 Craziest

The tell-all book that shook the sport in 2012 was “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs” by Tyler Hamilton and his co-author Daniel Coyle.  This book came out as the Lance Armstrong story was coming to a head.  It talks about all the significant doping scandals of the past 15 years with a level of detail not seen before.  The sport of professional cycling will never be the same.

The Secret Race

A book that doesn’t talk about doping but is otherwise an all-one handbook of cycling is “The Complete Bike Book” by Chris Sidwells.  He writes about the history of the bicycle, the essentials of riding, choosing the right equipment and clothing, riding technique, and bike maintenance.  There is something here for beginner and experienced cyclist alike.

The Complete Bike Book

At the other end of the spectrum is a book that does just one thing, and does it very well.  The “Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair” by Park Tool.  Park Tool makes bike tools, so the company knows a thing or two about bicycle maintenance and repair.  This was the recommended text at the bicycle maintenance course I took.  Enough said.

Park Big Blue

This next item is on the left side of the shelf and sticks up above all the other books.  It is not a book in the traditional sense.  I had to look up what a leporello book is.  “Bicycle,” created for the London 2012 Olympics, is Ugo Gattoni‘s vision of a madcap bicycle race through the streets of London.


The last book in my collection is also a picture book.  Graham Watson is a renowned cycling photographer.  Organized by season, this book takes readers around the globe, from the Australian championships to the Tour de France, always showing the peloton against a backdrop of exquisite, compelling scenery.


Just the thing for a rainy day.

Still Too Wet to Ride?


Yesterday I listed the biographies and autobiographies in my collection of cycling books (see Too Wet to Ride?).

Today I will start with a memoir and a more general review of the cycling stars from the golden age of the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  Tim Hilton wrote “One More Kilometre and We’re in the Showers.”  Hilton’s breadth of knowledge and interest is evident in this scrapbook of cycling lore.

One More Kilometre

Tony Hewson of “In Pursuit of Stardom” fame wrote another book about the era of UK cycling in the aftermath of World War II.  “A Racing Cyclist’s Worst Nightmare:  And Other Stories of the Golden Age” is a collection of short stories written in a variety of genres:  autobiography, biography, discourse and fiction.

A Racing Cyclists

Now onto books about major races.  They don’t come any bigger than the Tour de France.  There are countless books about the Tour.  I have “Blazing Saddles:  The Cruel and Unusual History of the Tour de France.”  Matt Rendell complements his vivid storytelling, sometimes of the unsporting and unsavoury underbelly of the Tour, with more than 100 classic black-and-white photographs.

Blazing Saddles

Ned Boulting spent eight years covering the Tour for ITV.  “How I Won the Yellow Jumper” chronicles his journey from being dropped into the roving reporter role, despite having no knowledge of cycle racing, through to becoming the Tour commentating equal of the likes of Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen.

How I Won

Bill Strickland co-wrote “We Might As Well Win” with Johan Bruyneel in 2008.  Bruyneel built an enviable reputation as a Director Sportif, winning thirteen Grand Tour championships in eleven years.  This book is about how Bruyneel, his teams, and his star riders Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, dominated the Tour from 1999 to 2010.  My biker chick was a fan of Bruyneel’s, at least until he fell from grace after the USADA formally charged him with administering a long-running doping program.  To this day she says that he broke her heart.

We Might As Well Win

My favorite history of La Grande Boucle is “The Official Treasures of Le Tour de France” by Serge Laget and Luke Edwards-Evans.  This is a compendium of historical tidbits, 275 archive photographs and 40 removable facsimiles of posters, postcards and other Tour memorabilia.  You will love this book if you are the type who pushes all the buttons on science museum displays.

The Official Treasures

There are books about particular editions of the Tour.  Like “Tour De Lance.”  Bill Strickland had unprecedented access to Lance Armstrong as he attempted an audacious comeback to win the 2009 Tour.  With his main rival Alberto Contador for a team mate no less.  This is another book that I need to reread now that Armstrong is no longer a winner of seven Tours de France.

Tour de Lance

Tim Moore is a British travel writer who rode the entire route of the 2000 Tour.  “French Revolutions:  Cycling the Tour de France” is his irreverent diary of that trip, as well as an homage to bike racing.

French Revolutions

I have only one book about the Giro d’Italia.  Herbie Sykes‘ second cycling history book, “Maglia Rosa:  Triumph and Tragedy at the Giro d’Italia.”  This does not read like a history book though.  Sykes presents a collection of stories together with 150 images to create his tale of the Giro.

Maglia Rosa

The Giro is central to Italian cycling.  It gets a big mention in this book about the history and impact of cycling in Italy.  “Pedalare! Pedalare!  A History of Italian Cycling” by John Foot.  Foot is a Professor of Modern Italian History at University College London.  He has written extensively about Italian history, including three books on Italian soccer.  He brings with him a historian’s eye rather than a sportswriter’s take on cycling in Italy.


I need to add a book about the third of the Grand Tours, the Vuelta a España, to my collection.  Actually there are many books that I want to add to my collection.  Where is that Kindle?

I have books about riders. I have books about races  Naturally I have books about bicycles.  Or more properly in this case, a book about a show about bicycles.

Bespoke:  The Handbuilt Bicycle” is the catalog produced by Lars Müller Publishers for the NYC Museum of Art and Design exhibition of the same name.  An exhibition of the work of six internationally renowned bicycle builders.


Robert Penn takes a slightly different approach to building a bicycle.  “It’s All About the Bike:  The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels”  is about his quest to put together the perfect bike.  He takes his readers on a journey around the world visiting the factories and workshops where the parts for his custom bike are made.

It's all about the bike

That man William Fotheringham pops up again.  This time as the author of “Cyclopedia:  It’s All About the Bike.”  An encylopedia-like collection of everything Fotheringham has learned whilst reporting on professional cycling for the past 30 years.  Something you can read from A to Z, or just dip into at random.


A true history of the bicycle is what David Herlihy produced.  “Bicycle:  The History” may sound like an overly-confident title, but this book lives up to it.  It is the definitive history of the bicycle.


The last book on my shelf about bicycles themselves is by Guy Andrews.  Andrews is the founder and co-owner of Rouleur, a bi-monthly British cycling magazine.  Rouleur is noted for its design and its photography.  So no surprise then that Guy Andrews’ book “The Custom Road Bike” is also beautifully designed and is full of lovely photographs.  Photographs of the very best bicycle components.  You will drool over this book so much that you might as well have gone out in the rain.

The Custom Road Bike

More books in my next post.

Too Wet to Ride?

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I bought my first book about cycling not long after I got my first road bike.  As with bikes I didn’t stop at one book.  I don’t have room in the apartment for another bike.  There is not much I can do about that.  I don’t have room on the shelf for another book about cycling.  Hello Kindle!

That first book was “The Rider” by Tim Krabbé.  Krabbé puts the reader inside the head of a competitor in a French cycling race, the Tour du Mont Aigoual.  Krabbé captures in tremendous detail the nuances of road-racing strategy, mixed in with snippets of cycling history.  I was hooked on cycling books.


I have since filled a 90cm / 35.5in shelf with cycling books.  Some are easy to classify.  Books about individual cyclists for example.  Toward the right side of the shelf sits “Put Me Back on my Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson” by William Fotheringham.  The ultimately tragic story of a man best remembered for dying on the slopes of Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France.


William Fotheringham also wrote the next rider biography on my bookshelf, “Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi.”  The life story of perhaps the greatest of Italian cyclists.

Fallen Angel

Then comes “Major” by Todd Balf.  About Marshall Walter Taylor, at one time the world’s fastest man on two wheels and America’s first African American sports celebrity.


William Fotheringham appears again on my bookshelf, this time as the author of “Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike.”  Eddy Merckx is widely considered to be the greatest professional cyclist ever.  He won 525 races during his career, including five Tours de France, four Giros d’Italia and three world championships.


Frederico Bahamontes was known as “The Eagle of Toledo” for his exceptional climbing ability.  He won numerous King of the Mountains classifications in all three major tours.  He also won the Tour de France in 1959.  His story is told by Alasdair Fotheringham, brother of William.

The Eagle

The last biography I have is about Jacques Anquetil.  Anquetil is another giant of the sport.  The first man to win five Tours de France.  His personal life however overshadowed his achievements on a bicycle.  Paul Howard recounts all in “Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape.”

Sex, Lies

There are autobiographies as well.  The first of these in my collection, starting from the right side of the shelf again, is “Tomorrow We Ride” by Jean Bobet.  Jean is the younger brother of Louison Bobet, the first man to win 3 Tours de France in a row.

Tomorrow We Ride

Vin Denson‘s memories of his professional cycling career during the 1960s, including being the first British cyclist to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia, are in “The Full Cycle.”


Tony Hewson, in “In Pursuit of Stardom: Les Nomades du Velo Anglais,” tells an extraordinary tale of three British cyclists who venture into France in the 1950s to try their hands in the European road racing scene.

In Pursuit

Laurent Fignon is perhaps best known as the man who lost the 1989 Tour de France to Greg LeMond by a mere 8 seconds.  He should be better remembered as a man who won the Tour twice and the Giro d’Italia once.  These and other victories are described in “We Were Young and Carefree.”

We Were Young

Bob Roll is next.  He is a former Tour de France racer and member of the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame.  He offers his unique perspective on the professional racing circuit in “Bobke II: The Continuing Misadventures of Bob Roll”.  There is a “Bobke:  A Ride on the Wild Side of Cycling” that I haven’t yet read.


Then comes another American racer who crossed the pond in the 1980s to try and break into the European professional peloton.  Joe Parkin wrote about his experiences as a pro racer in Belgium in “A Dog in a Hat.”

A Dog

Parkin followed up with “Come and Gone,” his memoirs of a difficult return to road bike racing in the United States, and his subsequent rebirth as a mountain biker.

Come and Gone

I read Michael Barry‘s “Inside the Postal Bus,” his recollection of his time as a domestique on the US Postal cycling team, some years ago.  Since then it has come to light that he had a spot of amnesia when it came to the use of performance enhancing drugs by the team.  I’ll have to read this book again now that we know what really went on in that bus.

Inside the Postal Bus

I’ll cover the rest of my rainy days collection in my next post.