10 best cycling books
To celebrate Bike Week and the start of the Tour de France, we find inspirational works for fans of life on two wheels
From the great cycling memoirs and accounts of incredible sporting achievement to lesser-known stories and in-depth analysis of the engineering of the sport, our round-up includes books for armchair enthusiasts and bike nuts alike.
1. Bernard Hinault and the Fall and Rise of French Cycling by William Fotheringham: £14.99, randomhouse.co.uk
The latest work by the grand homme of cycling writing explores the life and glories of “The Badger”, France’s greatest and - to date - last Tour de France champion. Fotheringham recalls Hinault’s triumph in the race France invented, and the last 30 years without a French winner.
2. The Hour: Sporting Immortality The Hard Way by Michael Hutchinson: £8.99, randomhouse.co.uk
Before Bradley Wiggins adds a chapter to his autobiography, read about the glory and torture of cycling’s Hour record in this humourous, compelling account of the writer’s own attempt to break it. (Then buy Faster, Hutchinson’s more recent book about speed).
3. The Biography of the Modern Bike by Chris Boardman: £19.99, orionbooks.co.uk
Few people understand the mechanics and technology of the modern bike than Chris Boardman, the self-confessed bike geek whose Tour de France and Hour record heroics revived British cycling in the 90s. His book, out in July, explores a beautiful evolution.
4. The Race Against the Stasi: The Incredible Story of Dieter Wiedemann, the Iron Curtain and the Greatest Cycling Race on Earth by Herbie Sykes: £18.99, quartouk.com
Caught on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, Wiedemann became a pin-up of Soviet sporting power. But when he fell in love with a woman to the West of the Berlin wall, he plotted an audacious escape. Sykes tells his story.
5. Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore: £14.99, randomhouse.co.uk
The writer builds a bike of the era with wooden wheels and wine corks for brakes to set off on a foolhardy - and, for the reader, funny - mission to understand the full horror of the notorious 1914 edition of what remains one of cycling’s toughest races.
6. The Rider by Tim Krabbe: £8.09, bloomsbury.com
In an idiosyncratic classic of sports literature first published in Dutch in 1978, the rider recounts in dark, compelling prose the pain and glory involved in a fictional race, covering 150km in 150 gripping pages.
7. Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France by Max Leonard: £16.99, randomhouse.co.uk
Way behind the front of the Tour de France, a traditional and at times absurd contest goes on to be the last man to finish, named after the red light (lanterne rouge) that hangs on the back of trains. Leonard tells the untold story of losing at its best.
8. The Climb: The Autobiography by Chris Froome: £9, penguin.co.uk
Out in paperback in time for his attempt to win his second Tour de France, Chris Froome recalls an unlikely start as a gangly boy growing up in Kenya, and how he emerged from the shadow of Bradley Wiggins to win the 100th edition of the world’s greatest race.
9. The Escape Artist: Life from the Saddle by Matt Seaton: £8.99, 4thestate.co.uk
A touching and deeply thoughtful account of how an obsession with bike racing collided with the realities of life and life-threatening illness in a beautiful book that has become a modern classic.
10. The Flying Scotsman by Graeme Obree: £8.99, birlinn.co.uk
Bradley Wiggins spoke touchingly as he prepared for his Hour record about how Britain had failed to recognise the gifts of Graeme Obree the athlete, the Scottish rider who came from nowhere to battle with Chris Boardman during the Hour rush of the 1990s. But Obree the human we already knew thanks to his searingly honest account of a troubled but brilliant life.
To get geared up for the Tour de France (starting 4 July), try Fotheringham’s latest work about French attempts to win those yellow jerseys. Or pick up Chris Froome’s autobiography to learn more about our man with his eyes on the prize. Then read the Lanterne Rouge about those battling it out at back of the peloton. If that all sounds a bit serious, try Tim Moore’s very funny Gironimo! for some light relief.
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