Cycling books

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  • Recently finish Phil Gaimon's book (the fat kid to euro pro one). Quite enjoyable.

  • Currently reading Peter Cossins' book about the first TdF; some interesting untangling of the various legends of the early Tour.

    That ^^ book about early women racers looks interesting; isn't Rapha also meant to be publishing something about women racers soon (Queens of Pain - think it's going to be a coffee table book)?

  • Full Gas by Peter Cossins is excellent lots of good insights into tactics in the current pro Peleton

  • Boulting £50 one year late ripping off the cycling podcast book.

  • The Midlife Cyclist by Phil Cavell (from Cyclefit). Saw it mentioned in the middle aged thread. Quite enjoyed the book and it's levelled my fitness expectations of myself in quite a positive way, I'd say. A few bits of opinion where there should be science, but overall pretty good and lots of sensible advice.

    I need to re-read The Pain-Free Cyclist.

  • I've been meaning to take a look at this - is it likely to be of interest to non-racers/non-serious-training cyclists?

  • I wrote this for the Pedal Club newsletter, I don't think it's out of place here.

    A Golden Age of Cycling
    Charles James Pope, edited Shaun Sewell

    This book gives an insight to a lost but attractive era of cycle touring, but it has many flaws.

    Let us begin with the problems. The production looks OK superficially, but just a first glance inside tells you that the cyclists on the cover illustration have nothing to do with the style of riding practised by the author; they are racing men, Mr. Pope was very much a tourist. This may seem a petty criticism, but it suggests the editor did not really have a feel for his subject.

    Just to give one example of this weakness, page 270 has a mention of some one who “pushed up hill and downhill on a top gear in the nineties” You would have thought this needed no explanation, the ‘nineties’ here referring to inches, but the editor gives us a footnote ‘explaining’ that this refers to cadence, that is 90 rpm. Well, ‘if in doubt, leave it out’ would have been a good strategy here. If this were the only error it could easily be forgiven, but I’m afraid it is just one among many.

    A more fundamental problem is that the book is a diary which does not appear to have been written for publication, rather more as a memory aid. The great majority of the content is about where the author made his very frequent refreshment stops, where he stayed overnight and what he ate. Places he passes through are usually described as ‘pretty’ or, rather too often, ‘very pretty’ – it seems the only place he really doesn’t like is Watford. It’s like a collection of holiday snaps which are mainly intended to remind the owner of an enjoyable holiday, rather than inform or entertain the viewer.

    And yet even the dullest holiday slides can reveal, unintentionally, matters of great interest, especially in the background – so it is with Charlie Pope’s diary. Just one example – a ‘cattle drover’ in South Wales told Charlie that he had once travelled as far afield as England, by which he meant Ross on Wye! The main attraction is the atmosphere of the time which comes across to the reader through small incidents, insignificant in themselves but when combined begin to give the reader a feeling of what it was like to ride on the roads of the twenties. This was a world where travellers expected to make frequent stops for refreshments, and these were provided by individual establishments which reflected the character of the area and the proprietor. There were no chain restaurants with tedious logos and factory produced food; this in itself made travelling more worthwhile and interesting than it can be today.

    Pope lived in Hammersmith and generally chose to ride westwards – this gives an added interest to any west Londoner since he often uses routes that we might follow today. Twickenham, Maidenhead, Henley, Benson, Oxford – he refers to ‘the long pull up to Nettlebed’ which I’m sure will be familiar to many of us.

    A frustrating aspect for many readers will be the skimpy references to the bikes that were used. He mentions a James, a Chater Lea and three Merlins, but says almost nothing about them. They seem to have been equipped with Sturmey three speeds, but even this has to be inferred from mentions of ‘a 48” bottom gear’, or ‘an 84” top.’ The editor suggests that Charlie was ‘a dab hand at roadside repairs, but my impression is he was not very interested in the bikes themselves – at one point he mentions that the Merlin needed some minor repairs and adjustments, so he took it back to the maker’s shop in Goswell Road. I guess most of us would have dealt with such things ourselves.

    If you want to gain detailed knowledge of 1920’s cycle touring this book may disappoint you, but if you enjoy soaking up the atmosphere of this lost age, rather as the typical Sherlock Holmes reader does, then it has plenty to offer.

  • Just ordered Patrick Field's new book The Cycling Revolution: Lessons from Life on Two Wheels. Saw it mentioned in the CTC mag and was reminded of riding a few bits of LEL with him in 2009.

  • It's good, very terse short texts, admirable writing. It is to some extent aimed at beginners, but you'll still enjoy it.

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Cycling books

Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick