Though I don’t expect everyone to be as fanatical about cycling books as I am, there are some great cycling books. I thought it would be easy to narrow a list to five books. Boy, was I wrong! After lots of mulling, here’s my list:
1) A great sports story for everyone: Major Taylor: The Inspiring Story of a Black Cyclist and the Men Who Helped Him Achieve Worldwide Fame, by Conrad Kerber and Terry Kerber. Major Taylor, a black, Christian athlete, raced bikes in the late 1800s and early 1900s. What Major Taylor accomplished during that era rivals that of the best black athletes of any era – Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Cassius Clay. It’s unfortunate Taylor’s story has been overlooked by so many historians. I think this is the greatest sports story in history.
2) The cult novel: The Rider, by Tim Krabbé. First published in Holland, this book has a cult following in part because it can be read year after year. It’s the story of a 150 kilometer race, and even if you’re a non-cyclist you can feel your heartbeat elevate as the physical and emotional aspects of the race unfold.
3) The literary novel: The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll, by H.G. Wells, is for anyone who enjoys 1900s prose and a whimsical tale. The story describes how bicycles changed the social and sexual landscape during the late 1800s, as the book’s main character, Mr. Hoopdriver, prepares for a bicycle touring vacation through the
4) Oh, those French: Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape: The Remarkable Life of Jacques Anquetil, the First Five-Times Winner of the Tour de France, by Paul Howard. While Anquetil’s accomplishments on a bike are beyond comparison,
his story off the bike is even more unbelievable. TMZ could not make this stuff up. He takes drugs, is motivated by money, seduces and marries his doctor’s wife, and that’s only the start.
5) The history book: Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation, by Aili McConnon and Andres McConnon. Many books fall into the category of paralleling cycling with world affairs, but this story of Gino Bartali is particularly poignant. Bartali holds the record for the longest span between Tour de France victories. Nicknamed Il Vecchio (“old man”), he lost his best of years of racing
to the war, but stayed in shape smuggling fake identification papers to Italian Jews.
What are your top 5 cycling books? Any that you think should knock any of my top 5 off the podium? Let us know in the comments section – I’m always looking for a great cycling story.
– Todd Starnes
President & Co-Owner