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.
Cyclogeography 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, 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.
The 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?
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.
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.