Books for reading

microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
914
294
83
Tokyo
#1
Word of the death of the author of Richard's Bicycle Book got me thinking about other bike-related books. Decades ago, when I looked for a copy of Richard's Bicycle Book, I couldn't find one; and instead got a copy of Eugene A. Sloane's Bicycle Maintenance Manual. A deadly dull title, and of course not an exciting book, but a very informative one (and therefore very browsable, just for idle curiosity). Now that I come to google Sloane, I find an obituary, and also a sample of some perversely bad riding advice by him. Now I suppose I'd go first to Sheldon Brown for maintenance tips, but I'd also read Sloane.

I think I've only once started to read a book about cycling that was primarily intended for the readers' enjoyment rather than edification: Dervla Murphy, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle. I've now quite forgotten why, but it bored me and I quickly gave up. Though I'm far too lazy to want to read books in any language other than English, I can and do read books in English all the way through (and without moving my lips). Any recommendations for enjoyable, bike-related reading/browsing?
 

Quicksilver

Maximum Pace
Jan 9, 2011
117
32
48
Tokyo
#4
Richard's Bicycle Book was what first got me into cycling as kid. I still like reading repair, training and other books about cycling and there is lots that is just for entertainment. Of the many autobiographies, I found Obree's Flying Scotsman most gripping (his training book is also one of the most readable). The biographies by William Fothering of Coppi, Simpson and Merckx are well researched and fascinating, and if you are British you might enjoy his revised Roule Britannia. If you like novels, then Chris Cleave's Gold about a rivalry between two fictional female track riders will while away a few hours. For pure entertainment, Mike Magnuson's Heft on Two Wheels is amusing as well as an inspiring story about losing weight by getting into cycling. Then there is Bike Snob and a couple of follow-ups if you like trying-to-be-witty stuff. Jamie Smith's Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer is also quote amusing and Bella Bathurst's 'The Bicycle Book' is an enjoyable read about bicycle culture that is not Roadie. The best history book which is also very readable is Herlihy's book: Bicycle. Books aside, If you want to read some high quality journalism that has a cycling theme, then you should check out the Rouleur magazine. There is lots more good stuff. I usually pick up cycling books in a bookshop (when I'm outside Japan) so I can read a bit to decide whether I like it or not but everything is available online.
 

GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
242
103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#5
Around the World on a Bicycle - Thomas Stevens. Volume One is great. Volume Two is a 'Hurry up and lets get this over, I'm tired'

The Bicycle Wheel (Jobst Brandt) AND The Art of the Bicycle Wheel (Gerd Schraner). Counterpoint reading to solving the mysteries of the orbs we actually sit upon.

The Rider - Tim Krabbe

Agnostic Guide to Cycling - Italian Cycling Federation (I have the only copy in Japan, 1st edition, in English - you're welcome to come and read it)

A Bicycle of Cathay - Great read set in Victorian England. ( I think) Anyway, I really liked this book . Classic story of cycling and wooing.
 
Likes: microcord

theDude

Maximum Pace
Oct 7, 2011
773
111
63
Tokyo
app.strava.com
#6
I've done a decent amount of recent cycling reading, mostly racer based. Some old, some new

Some of the ones I've enjoyed recently include:

Death of Marco Pantani. Fairly detailed for the science/investigation side bit interesting.

Fallen Angel- Fausto Coppi bio. Pretty interesting

Racing through the Dark, David Millar. Modern take on the peloton.

Seven Deadly Sins by Walsh. Intriguing review of Armstrong from a long time critic.

Merycx one was all right.

Lemond / Badger one not bad.

Have been a few others sprinkled in over the last year, but these are the ones that come to mind.
 
Likes: microcord

FarEast

Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009
5,528
538
193
Yokohama
#7
You want to get a better picture of Wiggin's as viewed by tteam mates I would suggest the following:

  • Boy Racer - Mark Cavendish (Brilliant book and gives a very good insight into who he is)
  • Racing through the Dark - David Millar - not just about the modern peloton but also the seriousness of getting caught doping in France and the effect it had on his life. (very, very good book)
 

Quicksilver

Maximum Pace
Jan 9, 2011
117
32
48
Tokyo
#9
You want to get a better picture of Wiggin's as viewed by tteam mates I would suggest the following:

  • Boy Racer - Mark Cavendish (Brilliant book and gives a very good insight into who he is)
  • Racing through the Dark - David Millar - not just about the modern peloton but also the seriousness of getting caught doping in France and the effect it had on his life. (very, very good book)
Yes, I agree. Not such a nice picture of Wiggins, especially from Cavendish. Also, both Millar and Cavendish are really engaging writers!

Millar's description of doping is quite different from Hamilton/Coyle's infamous Secret Race.

Death of MP mentioned by the Dude seems really thoroughly researched and is informative as well as readable.

I have been wanting to read the wheel books mentioned by GS Astuto but difficult/expensive to get hold of now... And as for the Agnostic Cycling Guide, well nice offer! The Rider is one of very few novels (if not the only one?) about the pro peloton but he writes such a classic story that nobody else has tried to repeat it.

Final suggestion to get a feel for the world when bicycles were relatively new inventions: H.G. Wells Wheels of Chance. It is a quaint romantic adventure but entertaining all the same.
 

microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
914
294
83
Tokyo
#10
Thank you all for your suggestions. I'll start acting on them soon. In the meantime:

[...] The Bicycle Wheel (Jobst Brandt) AND The Art of the Bicycle Wheel (Gerd Schraner). Counterpoint reading to solving the mysteries of the orbs we actually sit upon. [...]
[...] I have been wanting to read the wheel books mentioned by GS Astuto but difficult/expensive to get hold of now...
No, cheap copies of Brandt's book are plentiful and easy to get hold of. When I looked online for Schraner's book, which I hadn't heard of, I drew a blank; but I've a hunch that this is a typo for The Art of Wheelbuilding, which again is easy to get hold of.

I'm in no hurry to get either myself -- I trust a certain Okubo-based wheelbuilder to do the job a lot more than I trust myself, reading/misreading Brandt (which I've already done!) or Schraner -- but the ways I'd get either are the ways I'd get other among the books listed above that interest me more. That is, by comparing amazon.co.jp's listing for used books (fixed, low price for shipping) or abebooks.com's listing (shipping prices all over the place).

Abebooks typically has at least one "offer" of any book at a ludicrously high price, I suppose for the "challenged" or plutocratic reader, or the library whose financial year is ending soon and which has budget to burn. You laugh at these and ignore them, and look at the others. If, as often happens, there's no copy of a book that you want or every copy seems overpriced, then you register a "want" for it and wait for email telling you that there's a copy for such and such a number of dollars. (Or if abebooks.co.uk then in quid, or other flavours in other languages.) Abebooks is just another branch of Amazon, whose tax-evasion and monopoly practices I find dispiriting, but there are also non-Amazon alternatives that I haven't yet summoned the energy to investigate. Anyway, I've bought a lot of books over the years in response to email triggered by my list of registered Abebooks "wants". (Actually it's a bit too easy to buy books, with the result that the floor here is covered with piles of the damn things.)
 

microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
914
294
83
Tokyo
#13
I've just finished Mike Carter's One Man and His Bike, a fat little paperback recounting the author's anticlockwise trip around Britain from London to London. I believe that Carter was and is still a copyeditor for the Guardian; anyway, he provided installments for the Guardian or Observer while en route.

It's readable, it's humorous, but like so many similar books it would have benefited from firmer copyediting. Example: Most British readers will think that "bonking" means intercoursing (I'm trying to evade this website's nannyware), and the meaning in cycling of the same word certainly merits a witty sentence or two; but on p.32 it gets not a couple of witty sentences but eight humorous sentences, which is all very jocose but no longer witty, and certainly a downer after his description of St Peter's at Bradwell (which I can confirm from first-hand experience).

He also spends a little too much space for my taste on profundities (or perhaps not) acquired from people on the way. He's best when describing places and roads and sensations.I was most interested in his descriptions of parts of the coast (or near-coast) that were complete blanks to me.

Although the book runs to well over three hundred pages, it doesn't drag on. If at the end he'd continued north to Harwich and taken a ferry to le continong, then I'd buy a copy of One Man and His Bike Two.

There aren't any photos. There's little about the bike, other than that it's from one of the big names ("Specialized", maybe? I've already forgotten) and weighs a lot, and that its unspecified rear wheel suffers a series of spoke breakages. The reader will learn little in terms of "howto" or (other than overpacking) "hownotto". None of this surprised me, let alone disappointed me, but the interwebs show that some book-buyers do want this stuff. Far more rewardingly, the reader may learn "whybother".

Three stars out of five.
 
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microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
914
294
83
Tokyo
#14
Here's another: It's all about the bike, by Robert Penn. As his mid-life indulgence Penn decides to have assembled the very best bicycle. Its price will necessarily reflect its quality. And he'll travel around the world observing the parts being made. This doesn't quite square with my picture of the income of a writer (J K Rowling excepted), but perhaps he has a good line in copywriting on the side. What's certain is that the man can write, and that he can and does ride too.

The quest for a truly excellent (diamond) frame made of steel brings up potted early histories of steel tubing and diamond frames; that for an excellent headset brings a potted history of ball bearings (or, hmm, maybe this was in the context of hubs, I'm not entirely sure now). And so on. It's all very expertly threaded together.

I'm no expert in the historical stuff, and if you are then you may find what's here superficial or anyway superfluous. But you'll probably find some things you don't know.

There's the occasional disappointment. Penn caves in to the framebuilder's request for a single groupset, and so of course plumps for Campagnolo, a company that doesn't let him see anything being machined or assembled. And there are oddities: a good reason not to use such-and-such a material for a frame is seemingly forgotten when it comes to use of the same material for stem and handlebar. The finished bike appears to lack a seatpost (unless this is part of the groupset; I wouldn't know), cables, and handlebar covering. And there are surprises: though a traditionalist for saddle and elsewhere, he chooses a frame that -- well, I won't give it away, but it doesn't use lugs.

Oddest of all, perhaps: he's going to be based in Britain, but he has a bike that's cost him four thousand quid (I see on the interwebs) or 5500 ameros (according to the US edition that I read). How long till it's nicked?

A very long time, I hope. I wish him many thousands of happy kilometres on it.

Four stars out of five.
 
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jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,519
650
133
Kanazawa
#15
It's all about the bike, by Robert Penn, <<I know that from TV, and various clips of it are also on youtube.
 

microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
914
294
83
Tokyo
#16
It turns out that there's a website devoted to books about cycling: cycling-books.com. This of course has only a minority of the books that are available, but it's a decent sized minority. And the reviews look informative and fair.
 

Sibreen

Maximum Pace
Jul 23, 2010
564
242
63
Hanno, Saitama
#17
Kiwisimon kindly gave me his copy of Heft on Wheels to read.
Now that I've finished it, I would like to offer it, in turn, to anybody interested.

The price is fixed at 0 yen; but if anybody wants to swap a different cycling book they have, that would be most welcome as well!