BikeCommuters.com

Tag Archive: books for bicyclists

Book reviews: Last-minute gift ideas for the bicycling reader in your life

I’ve got a backlog of book reviews waiting to be published, so I thought I would combine them into a longer “roundup” — as you well know, books can be a great holiday gift for the two-wheeler in your life. Or, you could always treat yourself to one of these titles. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Bike Porn, Volume 1

bike_porn

Chris Naylor is the author of Bike Porn, Volume 1 (West Sussex, UK: Summersdale Publishers, Ltd., 2013). In this book, Chris has compiled dozens of high-quality photos of some really spectacular bikes. These photos are juxataposed with cycling-friendly quotes, from notables such as H.G. Wells, Grant Peterson, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bob Weir, and many more. It’s a celebration of the craftsmanship and technology of the modern bicycle.

Lots of custom bikes from today’s hot builders are featured, as are components like wheels. The photographs are from many contributors, and all of them display crisp resolution, focusing on subtle details as well as the entire bike. The book is printed on matte-finished, high-quality paper, and serves as a mini “coffee table” book. The tech geek in me wished for more information about some of the bicycles displayed within Bike Porn’s pages, but that’s beyond the scope of the book. This is a good addition to a collection of bicycle design titles, generating inspiration and interest in some really fantastic two-wheeled machines.

The Road Less Taken

road_less_taken

Kathryn Bertine’s The Road Less Taken: Lessons from a Life Spent Cycling (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2014) is a humorous peek into the world of professional women’s bike racing. Kathryn is an accomplished writer, penning features for publications like ESPN, espnW. In addition to her professional racing career with the Wiggle-Honda team, she has also found the time to create documentary films and to write two other cycling memoirs. Most importantly, she is one of the founders of Le Tour Entier, an organization that helped launch La Course, the women’s Tour de France that premiered in the 2014 season.

Kathryn details what it’s like to be a professional cyclist among women’s ranks — the financial struggles, homestays, mechanical issues, and so much else. She approaches her narrative with a large dose of self-deprecating humor, giving a funny and insightful overview of the fairly deplorable state of professional women’s bike racing. Kathryn’s ability to convey her passion for the sport despite the many struggles is refreshing, and she gives a great look into what motivates riders, how they stay focused, and how she was able to overcome adversity during her years as a racer. She finishes off the book with some articles she wrote for other publications, highlighting women’s sports issues and showcasing other female athletes. The book, on the whole, is a bit scattershot — Kathryn tends to jump around a bit in almost a stream-of-consciousness writing style. It works here, though, and I found it to be a very enjoyable read.

The Monuments

the_monuments

Since I began following bike racing in the mid 1980s, I always had a soft spot for the spring and fall classics, particularly the five races known as “The Monuments”. In Peter Cossin’s book The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling’s Greatest One-Day Races (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), I found a treasure trove of information. Let me just put this out here right now: this is overwhelmingly the best book I’ve read this year, and I read a LOT of books (60-80 a year). I simply could not put this tome down…it is filled with historical accounts, little-known facts, and the origins of the greatest races on the pro calendar.

What are The Monuments, you ask? Well, in order of their placement on the racing calendar, we’ve got Milan-Sanremo (known as “La Primavera” in Italian, their phrase for “spring”). Next up is de Ronde van Vlaanderen, known to English speakers as the Tour of Flanders, referred to by fans as “Vlaanderens mooiste” (Flander’s most beautiful). A week later comes Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North. This one is considered the Queen of the Classics, and legends are born on the cobbles. Next up is La Doyenne (the old lady), cycling’s oldest Monument that most people know as Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Rounding out the calendar is the Giro di Lombardia, colloquially known as “The Race of the Falling Leaves”. This last used to mark the end of the pro season, and was a last chance for many cyclists to get a prestigious win for the year.

Peter Cossins addresses each race with incredible detail, from accounts of the first runnings of each race through to modern times. These accounts are amazing in their detail — it is almost as if the author was there, roadside, catching all the breathtaking action of true cycling legends giving their all in these events. Even as a seasoned follower of these races, I learned many details. For example, most fans think Paris-Roubaix is called “Hell of the North” due to the mud, the inclement weather, and the torturous cobbled secteurs. In fact, it was given that nickname just after World War I, when the race traversed areas utterly devastated by the fighting in that brutal conflict.

The Monuments deserves a place in every racing fan’s bookshelf — I simply cannot convey how much I enjoyed reading this title. I even skipped meals in order to finish this thing; it is that compelling.

Faster

faster

Written by Michael Hutchinson, a professional cyclist with over 50 national titles, Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World’s Fastest Cyclists (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) gives a detailed examination into the art and science of professional bike racers. Hutchinson presents the information in a way that breaks down complex ideas about physiology, nutrition, and technology into concepts that are easily digested, even for a layperson. In other words, I didn’t have to ask my wife to explain some of the physiological details to me (she’s a medical professional working on her doctorate).

Hutchinson talks about some of the extremes pros go to to eke out those crucial seconds that stand between them and a win (high-altitude simulation tents, anyone?). He delves deeply into laboratory testing, the psychology of successful riders, and many other facets of the sacrifices, black magic, and hard science of the professional athlete’s training regimen. Throughout the book, Hutchinson is not afraid to poke fun at himself or at a lot of the mysteries surrounding extreme athletic preparation. His writing style blends humor with a rich examination of the sport, and it’s been very pleasant to read (so far…I’m not quite finished with the book yet). For the cyclist who also likes to pin on a race number from time to time, this is a valuable addition to a book collection. There are no “secret formulas” on offer here, but much of the information can be used to formulate training game plans all the same.

These four books are available online or at most well-stocked book retailers. Each of them makes a fantastic gift for the bike fan in your life.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Book review: “The Bike Deconstructed” by Richard Hallett

Over the past couple months, I’ve had the pleasure to read a copy of The Bike Deconstructed: A Grand Tour of the Modern Bicycle by Richard Hallett (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014).

bike_deconstructed

The book gives a detailed look into the inner workings of all aspects of the bicycle by showing exploded diagrams, close-up photos, and line illustrations of the frames, the components, and the hidden areas like bearings and internal gear systems. Along with the lavish and detailed artwork, Hallett explains the function and the history of the various components showcased, talking about materials, variants, and other details that will keep the jaded cycling techie reading along. There is a LOT to enjoy here. Discussion of how the parts work together, how the components developed from early prototypes, and the manufacturing methods involved with some of the parts really gives bike novices and seasoned experts alike a lot of information to delve through.

The bike is organized into the major sections of the bicycle itself: the frameset, the wheels, the drivetrain, the accessories, and so on. Each section covers the history and development of what we know as modern bicycle gear. There are a couple of points where the author mentions a piece of technology or a variation of a component that evolved along the way, but doesn’t offer a photo or illustration of it. This is a minor gripe, of course — there’s not room in the book for every possible permutation, but I would have liked to be able to picture a couple of the tech details he mentioned.

bike_deconstructed_inner

The book, as you can see from the example above, is a visual feast — the photographs and illustrations within are crisp and richly detailed. Complex structures are broken down and labeled to facilitate understanding, and Hallett’s expertise in presenting all this information is apparent. While the subject matter is highly technical, the author doesn’t get bogged down in overly complex technical jargon, making this book very accessible to cyclists of all experience levels.

The Bike Deconstructed is another great addition to your cycling bookshelf — I was happy to have it during my recent move to the nation’s capital, where the book kept me company in a variety of anonymous hotels and empty houses until my relocation was complete. The book is available directly from the publisher, or can be purchased from a variety of online booksellers. It retails for $29.95.

Book Review: “My Cool Bike” by Chris Haddon

Our friends at Independent Publishers Group sent us a review copy of My Cool Bike: An Inspirational Guide to Bikes and Bike Culture by Chris Haddon; photography by Lyndon McNeill (London: Pavilion, an imprint of Anova Books, 2013).

mycoolbike

At first, I was a bit skeptical: “aw, man, ANOTHER artsy book about bikes?!?” I expressed my concerns to my contact at IPG, and she assured me that yes, this was another art/coffee table book, but from the author’s very successful (and quirky) series called “My Cool…” Based on her guidance, I gave the book a fair chance, and I’m glad I did.

My Cool Bike is a fun look at the incredibly diverse world of bike culture, where all kinds of people are represented: punks, artists, designers, scientists, tinkerers, adventurers, free-thinkers. This should come as no surprise to many of you; we’re all pretty different from one another, yet we all share a rather passionate love for two-wheeled machines. Chris Haddon traveled to a number of cities and met with a lot of people, and in the process captured a fairly broad set of bike characters who embody bike culture as we know it. Lyndon MacNeill’s photographs really seal the deal, though — the bikes and the personalities behind them are captured in rich color, and those photographs also perfectly capture the joy and enthusiasm of each bike’s owner.

No hardcore racers or superathletes here; the personalities represented in the book seem to not take themselves so seriously, but clearly enjoy the freedom and individuality the bicycle brings to their lives. I think we can ALL relate to that, yes?

My Cool Bike is an enjoyable book to page through — there are no revelations contained within its pages, but I think you’ll enjoy this look at our unique two-wheeled community. There’s really something for every bike fan here; bikes to drool over, fun personalities you would love to go on a ride with, tales of adventures you’ll want to emulate. After seeing some of the collections of bikes owned by people in this book, I don’t feel so bad about the bike jumble in my own garage. While paging through the book, I did find myself wishing for a larger storage space, though!

Take a look at My Cool Bike, available through a number of online booksellers and perhaps even in your local library (if they don’t have it, ask nicely and they might be able to get a copy for you). You’ll enjoy the ride!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Book Review: “Half Man, Half Bike” by William Fotheringham

The Spring Classics are over, and we’re getting close to the Grand Tour season in pro cycling…in this era of “specialists” who train for particular races, what better time than to present a review of a book about a man who could (and just about DID) win everything he entered — stage races, track events, one-day classics, kermises?

As many of you know, I’m a fan of the professional racing scene…and have been since the early 80s, when I dabbled in some racing of my own. Anyone who knows anything about professional cycling knows the name Eddy Merckx — a true legend in pro circles. Merckx’s many records may never be eclipsed and the utter dominance he displayed in his racing career is the stuff of dreams for most other pros.

When our friend Jen at the Independent Publishers Group offered to send me a copy of William Fotheringham’s Half Man, Half Bike: The Life of Eddy Merckx, Cycling’s Greatest Champion (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2012), I eagerly accepted! This is the second Fotheringham book we’ve reviewed, the first being Cyclopedia: It’s All About the Bike, and the third of his books I’ve read (his biography of Fausto Coppi is fantastic).

half_man

Let me just get this out of the way right up front: Fotheringham delivers once again! It is fair to say that he is my favorite cycling author…his combination of painstaking research and his ability to capture some very intimate human elements of his subjects makes his books a joy to read. As you might imagine, there are many dozens of books written about Merckx’s exploits during his racing career. Fotheringham thoughtfully distills much of this information into an easy-to-read and gripping tale.

As much as I love the post-war exploits of Coppi, Bartali and others, Merckx’s years in the peloton are my favorite “golden age” — when he and Van Springel, Anquetil, Gimondi, Godefroot, Ocana, Fuentes, de Vlaeminck, Sercu, Van Looy and many other notables duked it out on the roads and circuits throughout Europe.

Half Man, Half Bike begins as World War II is winding down and as Edouard Merckx is born in war-ravaged Kiezegem, Belgium. The author illustrates the difficult childhood Eddy had — including a stern, somewhat tyrannical father and a gentle mother who didn’t initially appreciate her son’s interest in racing. Merckx began his junior career in 1961, and found success quickly; his mother reluctantly agreeing to let him race rather than finishing his schooling. After winning the Belgian junior champion’s jersey in 1962, it wasn’t long before he made the jump to the pro ranks. And the rest, as they say, is history — with nearly 500 wins as a professional, including five wins each of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, dozens of spring classics, and three World Roadracing Championships, his career was unparalled.

Fotheringham paints a vivid picture of Merckx’s quick rise to glory. He describes many of Merckx’s innermost thoughts about why he raced the way he did…the catalysts that drove him to dominate his rivals. The entire book is riveting — while I’ve heard many of the stories of Merckx’s wins on fabled Tour stages, the details Fotheringham presents truly capture the essence of the tactics, mindset and spirit of this champion. The author caught up with Merckx in the 90s and describes his post-racing business ventures and activities, but points out that:

What Merckx has given the sport can be seen in the way bike racing on the road has been perceived since his retirement. La course en tête as Merckx forged it remains the benchmark for the entire sport. The way he raced is the gold standard to which all professional cyclists and all their victories are compared.

If you like racing even half as much as I do, I cannot recommend this book enough. You’ll have a hard time putting it down. It’s readily available on the major online book retailers…so what are you waiting for?

______________________________________________

I missed a chance to meet Eddy Merckx at Interbike 2010. I got wrapped up talking to one of our advertisers and missed the “window of opportunity”. Luckily, my pal Moe had me covered — braving a long line to get me an autograph (being signed in the photo below):

moe_eddy

Book giveaway contest

If you didn’t know, we’re hosting a giveaway contest for a copy of Gold: A Novel by Chris Cleave over on our Facebook page. The publisher Simon & Schuster was gracious enough to offer a free copy to one of our FB fans.

And, in case you missed it, here’s the review of the book…it’s a good one!

gold