Books about cycling

Get your summer holiday reading sorted with these cracking books about life on two wheels...


The Tour de France may be over for another year but, from travelogues to psychological insights into road racers, here to fill the void is this veritable smorgasbord of bike books…   GREAT CYCLING JOURNEYS OF THE WORLD £24.99   Spending the summer with the team in 220 Towers can be taxing enough without beautifully photographed tomes like this, showing cyclists having fun around the world, popping through the letterbox. But even if the book’s size will soon see your baggage weight allowance disappear, as inspiration for a bike-centred-break it proves hard to beat.   From Patagonia to Botswana and Eastbourne (although the bike crazy countries of south-east Asia are neglected), the far reaches of Earth have been covered, with each route accompanied by a rudimentary map, lodging suggestions and a more comprehensive analysis of the terrain from author Steve Razzetti and team. The focus is largely on MTB, but plenty of trips can be modified with the help of a decent map and a Rough Guide. Right, time to start saving for that off-season bike break in Bolivia. Verdict: Well-photographed guide and a welcome addition to any cyclist’s coffee table. 82%     LE METIER £35.00   This is more than simply a year in the life of a professional cyclist. It’s a glimpse into the psyche of someone that has worked tirelessly since childhood to realise their ambition. An ambition that seems to amount to working tirelessly. The author, Michael Barry – currently of Team Sky but a veteran of the US Postal, T Mobile and Columbia-High Road squads – takes you behind the scenes to sample 12 months of training, travelling and racing.   Barry describes that period, as well as the path he took to reach it and the people he’s met along the way, while Camille J McMillan’s documents the journey with mesmerising photos. That Barry is one of the most open and eloquent athletes helps immeasurably towards making this book so absorbing, but it’s the pictures that really provide a window into his world. The captions could be a little more informative but this is a truly stunning book, nonetheless.   Verdict: A captivating look at a demanding, mundane and rewarding lifestyle. 88%     THE RIDER £6.99   When the opening paragraph of a cycling novel declares, “Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives amazes me,” the warning lights instantly start flashing. Is Tim Krabbe’s imagining of the mythical Tour de Mont Aigoual going to be a po-faced account of bike racing, laden with cycle snobbery and sniping? Happily, such qualms are soon put aside as Krabbe, over the brief 148 pages, takes us on a 137km journey and delivers a passionate and surprisingly amusing portrait of the characters, politics and dynamics of the peloton.   Crucially, we also gain a psychological insight into road racer’s mind. Why do they push themselves to the edge in ill-attended and financially unrewarding showdowns? It’s a question that can be applied to us triathletes, too, but it’s one that Krabbe answers throughout this gripping tour de force.   Verdict: Eye-opening and evocative insight into the mindset of a road racer. 84%     IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BIKE  £16.99   Like Mark Cavendish, Robert Penn grew up on that major breeding ground for bike enthusiasts, the Isle of Man. It’s All About the Bike is his geeky, yet strangely engaging, worldwide journey to build his ‘dream machine’. Slightly chaotically, he talks the reader through the evolutionary stages of bikes, yet there are noteworthy facts here if you can bear some chronological issues.   What’s less successful, however, is the recounting of his quest to build a ‘dream machine’. While Penn is eloquent, you can’t help wondering who exactly would be interested in this self-serving pursuit. There are engaging stories – look out for the Welsh farmer – and Penn hits the right note with his assertions that riding your bike is ‘to bathe in air’. But there’s a disjointed quality rather than a jaunty flow. We much preferred the BBC programme to accompany the book, Ride Of My Life.   Verdict: Self-serving and slightly shambling but not without its merits. 69%