In the past few years a whole cottage industry has sprung up dedicated to ensuring that cyclists have something to read when they’re not out riding. Just in time for the holiday gift-giving season (though really, who needs an excuse to buy that perfect book), here’s a list of some of my recent favorites. Enjoy: if this winter is anything like last winter, you’ll have plenty of time to curl up with a good book, the perfect ying to cyling’s yang.
“Bicycle Travel Journal,” by Nigel Peake is unlike any book I’ve ever seen. Peake has combined watercolor and pencil illustrations, envelopes for collecting things while you’re out on your bike, blank space for doodles or notes, and a table to record your rides, with categories such as distance, cadence, and the number of cake stops. Best of all, this handsome, moleskin bound book fits neatly into the back pocket of your cycling jersey. I’m not sure if Peake has created a piece of art, a journal, or an invitation to look at the world a little differently. All I know is that he’s come up with the most unusual book of the year, the kind that makes you smile and know that sometimes all is right with the world.
Michael C. Gabriele’s book, “The Golden Age of Bicycle Racing in New Jersey,” traces the history of cycling in the Garden State. Say what you will about “Jersey,” but back in the day, it was the epicenter of cycling at a time when cycling was bigger than football. Through numerous well selected photographs and a historian’s ear for detail, Gabriele has captured a bygone era of 6-day races, velodromes, and hard men (and women) of the road. I hope Gabriele will find a way to spend some time in the Hub so he can write about the Golden Age of cycling in our fair city.
Best book title of the year goes to Paul Howard with “Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape: The Remarkable Life of Jacques Anquetil, The First Five-Times Winner of the Tour de France.” Remarkable is an understatement. Anquetil married his physician’s wife, had a child with his step-daughter, and then left his wife for his step-son’s wife. Yuck. Still, Howard has done an excellent job of chronicling Anquetil’s achievements on the bike. More importantly, he’s done an even better job of creating an intimate portrait of an accomplished cyclist who led a troubled life.
Matthew Finkle and Brittain Sullivan’s book, “I Love My Bike” is a delightful series of photographs of people with their bikes. The passion, the aesthetics, the love of bike: it’s all here, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. And that age old question, “Why do we love to ride?” Finkle and Sullivan let us in on the secret: “I have spent my entire life trying to re-create the way that I felt as a child when the training wheels were first taken off of my bicycle.” That quote alone is worth the price of admission.
Are you ready to drool? If so, Guy Andrews’ book, “The Custom Road Bike” will get your salivary glands going. Andrews’ photos of frames, tires, cranksets and wheels are irresistible. This book is eye candy, only without that treacly aftertaste. Perfect inspiration for that next purchase, the one that’s guaranteed to make you fast and fit. Or at least happy.
Want to drool some more? Then check out Guido P. Rubino’s book, “Italian Racing Bicycles. The People, the Products, the Passion.” What we’ve got here is another tour de force, a gem of a book that tells, through photos and text, the story of Italian biking. From lugged steel, with its fancy carved metal work, to the latest carbon fiber wonders, this book provides the perfect excuse to go out for a ride, buy a new bike (Italian, of course), or head on over to Tuscany. Ciao.
Davis Phinney, Olympic medalist, Tour de France stage winner, and one of the pioneers of American cycling, has written a moving account of his battle with early-onset Parkinson’s. Phinney’s book, “The Happiness of Pursuit,” chronicles a life well lived both on and off the bike. Phinney’s tale of surviving and thriving despite his illness is riveting and inspirational.
Geoff Drake and Jim Ochowicz’s book, “Team 7-Eleven. How an Unsung Band of American Cyclists Took on the World-and Won,” chronicles the adventures of the first domestic cycling team to achieve success in Europe. Think of this as the insider’s guide to professional cycling. My favorite story? Andy Hampsten’s winter training plan the year he won the Giro (Italy’s version of the Tour de France): 8 hours a day of walking and hiking. I’ll try to remember that once the snows starts to fly.
“Kenk” is a graphic novel that tells the story of Igor Kenk of Toronto, who was arrested in 2008 for stealing close to 3,000 bicycles. Richard Poplak, Alex Jansen, Jason Gilmore and Nick Marinkovich have used found footage, archival material, and filmed interviews to create a Rashomon like portrait of a man who was a crank, a thief, a radical environmentalist, and an urban legend. “Kenk” blends the sensibilities of ‘zines, filmmaking, and comic books to create a rich, textured account that goes beyond the headlines to create a nuanced story.
Jonathan Simmons is an avid cyclist. His book, “Here For the Ride” will be published next spring by Cadence Press.
Readers: tell us about your favorite cycling books.