Reading list

6 books to get you on your bike

Whether you prefer watching the Tour de France, a gentle jaunt in the country or the ride of your life, these cycling books are packed with inspiration, drama, and plenty of scandal…

Butcher, Blacksmith, Acrobat, Sweep

Peter Cossins

The inaugural Tour de France in 1903 was a ramshackle affair, staged at a time when paved roads certainly weren’t to be taken for granted. Cossins takes us through the whole event, from controversies and opposition – how could these men cycle so far? What about the cobbles? – to bizarre anecdotes and downright audacious cheating, and explains how, bythe time they reached the finish line in Paris, the cyclists had won over the crowds and ensured the race's future as a permanent fixture in the cycling calendar.

 

The Man and his Bike

Wilfried de Jong

Dutch sports journalist Wilfried de Jong writes about the punishing sport of cycling like no one else, and his unique voice comes into its own in this literary collection of tales exploring our love affair with bikes. These stories will take you on a funny and poignant journey to explore the true soul of cycling - from waiting for the Tour to pass in a forgotten café, to being ejected from Paris-Roubaix, to finding yourself standing stark naked on Belgian cobbles with a tyre in your hand...

 

The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold

Tim Moore

This book is an altogether sillier prospect. Tim Moore traces the route of the old Iron Curtain, starting in Arctic Finland in the depths of winter. His two-geared, rusty old German shopping bike is his only companion as he cycles 9,000km to his destination at the Black Sea, reflecting on Communism and the historical backdrop of his journey as he regales us with the stories of his silliest and most desperate scrapes along the way. Tim Moore is, as always, laugh-out-loud funny. Mostly at his own expense.

 

Higher Calling

Max Leonard

For most of us, a good bike ride means a sunny day, some flat, open countryside and maybe a hefty picnic. But for cyclists who take things a bit more seriously, there is nothing more appealing than an intimidatingly steep mountain and the physical and psychological challenge it presents. Max Leonard looks at the enduring appealin of high-altitude rides and climbs to those who think there is no greater achievement than to conquer a mountain that is nearly, but not quite, insurmountable.

 

The Secret Race

Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle

Tyler Hamilton’s story is one of the earliest cycling confessionals - as well as one of the best. At a time when the scandals of doping, cheating and general poor sportsmanship were beginning to emerge in all their ugly detail, Hamilton told us exactly what it was like behind the scenes, among all the training, racing, drugs and drama. In the process, his testimony contributed to the high-profile case against Lance Armstrong, whilst raising bigger questions about best practice in modern cycling.

 

Indurain

Alasdair Fotheringham

At 6’2”, with a pulse of 28 beats per minute and a heart at least fifty per cent more efficient than the next best cyclist, Miguel Indurain was a medical marvel and an indisputable cycling giant. He retired at the height of his fitness - having won five consecutive Tours - and has never been implicated in doping. But a teammate described him as so quiet "that you don’t even hear his chair move when he sits down for dinner". Acclaimed journalist Alasdair Fotheringham sheds fascinating light on the man behind the legend.

 

Triumphs and Turbulence

Chris Boardman

Last, but by no means least, the father of modern British cycling. In the 1980s and 1990s cycling in the UK was lower profile and lower budget, but Chris Boardman changed all that with his world records, Olympic medals and yellow jerseys. Known for his extreme attention to detail and technical prowess, he earned the nickname ‘The Professor’, but at the age of thirty he was diagnosed with early-onset osteoporosis and was forced to retire only two years later. Triumphs and Turbulence delivers exactly what it promises - in the extreme.

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