Cycling Books and My Reading List

Byron Kidd
Over the cold winter break here in Tokyo, there is nothing better than climbing in to the kotatsu with a good book, or even better two good books which is exactly what I did.  Here are two of the great books I consumed during the break.

Ride: Short Fiction About Bicycles by Keith Snyder, Paul Guyot, Simon Woods and Stephen D. Rogers

In this collection of short stories about bicycles, a grocery store worker finds more than he bargained for when he wangles his way into a gated community with a perfect hill for ancient Constantinoplean invents a two-wheeled contraption to impress a girl...a bicycle reflects on its life while chained outside in New York eerie rider exacts gruesome revenge on automobile drivers... These and more in eight stories of gears, pedals, and the need to RIDE.

Comedian Mastermind is the way the unintentionally brilliant Dr. Michael Lämmler once sarcastically described Elden “Fatty” Nelson. Now it’s the name of the first Best of volume.

So take that, Dr. Lämmler.

Taken from the first two-ish years of the blog, but peppered with new insights, introductions, and an absurd number of footnotes describing what Fatty was thinking as he wrote, this book contains valuable information every cyclist absolutely must know. Marvel at Fatty’s penetrating analysis of cycling company ads, his completely scientific method for rating the value of each cyclist you pass during recreational rides, his keen insight regarding how to pee while riding your bike, a whole bunch of epic ride stories, and quite a few pretty decent swipes at Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France. And more. Much more. No, even more than that.

Comedian Mastermind is like the FatCyclist blog, but with Fatty standing behind you, reading over your shoulder, and telling you what he was thinking while he wrote and why he wrote it, all while eating a sizable sandwich. And it’s only the good parts – none of the stuff where Fatty just phoned it in.

It makes excellent bathroom reading material.

My Reading List:

Having enjoyed those books thoroughly I've decided to keep a to-read list here.  If you have any recommendations please let me know and I'll add them here so I don't forget to get around to them.

Recommended by: @HenryVeitch

Cycling is explodingin a good way. Urbanites everywhere, from ironic hipsters to earth-conscious commuters, are taking to the bike like aquatic mammals to water. BikeSnobNYCcycling's most prolific, well-known, hilarious, and anonymous bloggerbrings a fresh and humorous perspective to the most important vehicle to hit personal transportation since the horse. Bike Snob treats readers to a laugh-out-loud rant and rave about the world of bikes and their riders, and offers a unique look at the ins and outs of cycling, from its history and hallmarks to its wide range of bizarre practitioners. Throughout, the author lampoons the missteps, pretensions, and absurdities of bike culture while maintaining a contagious enthusiasm for cycling itself. Bike Snob is an essential volume for anyone who knows, is, or wants to become a cyclist.

Recommended by: @byronkidd

The joys of commuting by bike attract scores of new converts every year. But as fresh-faced cyclists fill the roads, they also encounter their share of frustrations careless drivers, wide-flung car doors, zoned-out pedestrians, and aggressive fellow cyclists, to name a few. In this follow-up to the best-selling Bike Snob, BikeSnobNYC takes on the trials and triumphs of bike commuting with snark, humor, and enthusiasm, asking the question: If we become better commuters, will that make us better people? From the deadly sins of biking to tactics for dealing with cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists, this primer on bike travel is a must-read for cyclists new and seasoned alike.

It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn

Recommended by: @btownbren

Robert Penn has saddled up nearly every day of his adult life. In his late twenties, he pedaled 25,000 miles around the world. Today he rides to get to work, sometimes for work, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, and to skip bath time with his kids. He's no Sunday pedal pusher. So when the time came for a new bike, he decided to pull out all the stops. He would build his dream bike, the bike he would ride for the rest of his life; a customized machine that reflects the joy of cycling.

It's All About the Bike follows Penn's journey, but this book is more than the story of his hunt for two-wheel perfection. En route, Penn brilliantly explores the culture, science, and history of the bicycle. From artisanal frame shops in the United Kingdom to California, where he finds the perfect wheels, via Portland, Milan, and points in between, his trek follows the serpentine path of our love affair with cycling. It explains why we ride.

It's All About the Bike is, like Penn's dream bike, a tale greater than the sum of its parts. An enthusiastic and charming tour guide, Penn uses each component of the bike as a starting point for illuminating excursions into the rich history of cycling. Just like a long ride on a lovely day, It's All About the Bike is pure joy- enriching, exhilarating, and unforgettable.

Robert Penn has worked as a lawyer, waiter, contractor, DJ, photographer, and journalist-and biked to every single job. He writes for the Financial Times, the Observer, and Condé Nast Traveler, as well as a host of cycling publications. Penn lives in Wales with his wife and three children.

The Rider by Tim Krabbe

Recommended by: @rudyinjapan, @momopappa

Originally published in Holland in 1978, The Rider became an instant cult classic, selling over 100,000 copies. Brilliantly conceived and written at a break-neck pace, it is a loving, imaginative, and, above all, passionate tribute to the art of bicycle road racing. 

Not a dry history of the sport, The Rider is beloved as a bicycle odyssey, a literary masterpiece that describes in painstaking detail one 150-kilometer race in a mere 150 pages. The Rider is the ultimate book for bike lovers as well as the arm-chair sports enthusiast. 

Bike Touring Survival Guide by Friedel Grant and Andrew Grant

Recommended by: @glye

Dreaming of a big bike tour? You can do it, and the Bike Touring Survival Guide will help. It includes information on:

  • Getting Ready (packing, planning, finding a route)
  • Daily Logistics (navigating, sleeping, eating)
  • The People You Meet (weird questions people ask, accepting hospitality)
  • Staying Connected (staying in touch, gadgets, electricity, internet)
  • Challenges (dogs, traffic, bad weather, staying healthy)
  • Far Away Places (visas, vaccinations, safety, bribes and bargaining)
  • Coming Home (readjustment, getting a job again)
  • Bike & Gear Tips (caring for your bike, tent, stove, sleeping mat, etc)
  • Resources (packing list, recommended equipment)

The book is written by Andrew & Friedel Grant, who have 60,000km of bike touring experience, including a round-the-world bicycle tour and run the popular bike touring website. The book also includes the tips, stories and photos of 50 other bike tourists.

"This book’s got soul! I’d recommend it to anyone setting out on the road to get the best ‘feel’ for what life on the road is like. -Stephen Lord, author of the Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook (also a fantastic book)

Put Me Back On My Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson by William Fotheringham

Recommended by: @CycleExeter

Tom Simpson was an Olympic medalist, a world champion cyclist, and the first Briton to wear the fabled yellow jersey of the Tour de France. He died a tragic early death on the barren moonscape of the Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour, and fans continue to make the pilgrimage to the windswept memorial that marks the spot where he died. A man of contradictions, Simpson was one of the first cyclists to admit to using banned drugs and was accused of fixing races. Yet the dapper “Major Tom” inspired awe and affection for his obsessive will to win, which ultimately cost him his life. Fully updated, this gripping biography features a new preface and final chapter that provide further revelations about Simpson's life and death.


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