Five cracking bike-themed reads

The bicycle, and the possibilities it creates, have inspired lots of great writing. We don’t claim these to be the best ever books about cycling (we’ll leave that debate to the comments), but they are a great way to start filling a shelf of your own that’s dedicated to all things two-wheeled.

coverCyclogeography by Jon Day

Ever wondered what goes on in the head of a London cycle courier? Jon Day, now a lecturer in English Literature, spent years as a bike messenger, and this essay published by Notting Hill Editions collects his reflections on the bicycle, on the city, and on the relationship between them. His prose has the precision and relentless forward motion of a fixed gear slicing through traffic, painting a vivid portrait of the city. Also highly recommended is Emily Chappell’s What Goes Around, a female courier’s memoir and another saddle-bound love letter to London and to an industry in terminal decline.

eat sleep cycleEat, Sleep, Cycle: A Bike Ride Around the Coast of Britain by Anna Hughes

Upping the ante significantly on the well established challenge of riding from Lands End to John O’Groats, Anna Hughes rode out of London along the Thames and then followed the coast until it became the bank of the Thames again, some 4,000 miles later. Like all good travel writing, Hughes’ account provides insight into the landscape, the people who populate it, and into how the journey changes the participant. Mike Carter’s One Man and his Bike is an entertaining take on the same route.

Thethe-rider-krabbe_medium Rider by Tim Krabbé

Originally published in 1978, and appearing in translation in 2002, The Rider is generally recognised as the best work of fiction ever written about the sport. The book allows the reader to experience a one day classic, the fictional Tour du Mont Aigoual, from inside the peleton as we ride along with Krabbe, himself a former racer. He lays bare the psychology and tactics of road racing, along with digressions covering its history and folklore. But who is the mysterious rider in the Cycles Goff jersey?

41VtTDvrU+L._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

Full Tilt is the best known work of Dervla Murphy who has been touring the world by bicycle and writing about it for more than 40 years.  Her writing is warm, witty and beguilingly matter-of-fact. The subject matter itself is quite extraordinary. Having determined on her tenth birthday to ride to India, twenty years later in 1963 she did just that, across Afghanistan, on a three speed bike, loaded down with a large stash of cigarettes and unable even to mend a puncture.

51tOaP4QqUL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_Bicycle: Love Your Bike: The Complete Guide To Everyday Cycling

The majority of books on the cycling shelves of an average bookstore will tend towards the elite end of the sport. For most cyclists though their bicycle is not a high performance machine, but a trusty friend and chosen mode of day to day transport. Such utility cyclists are well served by Guardian journalist Helen Pidd’s invaluable guide to getting the most from your bike. Written for ordinary, non Lycra-wearing people who happen to cycle or want to start, it contains plenty of no-nonsense advice on topics such as choosing a bike, clothing and other equipment, proper use of locks, and how to stay safe on the road.

3 replies on “Five cracking bike-themed reads”

The only one I have so far read is Dervla Murphy’s Full Tilt, an amazing account of her ride to Delhi. It seems she just got on her bike and packed a few essentials including a revolver and set off in one of the worst winters on record. Ignorance is bliss and inspired. Highly recommended

The spirit of Laurie Lee a la ‘I walked Out One Midsummer’s Morning’. Now, I didn’t pack a revolver nor head to India yet the 13 year old twas I set out on my Raleigh bound for Canterbury with the very same spirit of adventure. No mobile phone, nor GPS just a map on loan from the library, a compass half understood, a pre Gortex ‘waterproof’, and my ex RAF shoulder bag choc full of nibbles and adventure. And last week during half-term I rediscovered some of that joy along the river bank of the Arun; the byways criss-crossing the Weald and Pevensey levels and spinning t- he sweet hedge-rowed minor lanes of Suffolk. Blow me who should my path cross with? None other than our very own cycling guru Charlie. Tis a small world!! I can recommend two other reads – ‘Muck, Sweat and Gears’ as a tasty celebratory smorgsboard of cyclinfo and All About the Bike

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