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My Favorite Cycling Books

A few good books on cycling.

My Favorite Cycling Books 04/03 2014 by Pieter Van Pietersen

I have never been a voracious consumer of cycling literature, preferring to be out on the bike instead.

However, over the years I've stumbled across quite a few cycling books. Some have been great and some needed a bit of speed reading to get through them. Here are my favorites.

Cycling general interest

The Secret Race: Inside the hidden world of the Tour de France | Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
After years of watching pro races, it was fascinating to find out more from behind the scenes. For a cycling fan, this is the best book ever. I loved how Tyler talks about walking like an old man. The fitter you get, the slower you walk, and the more the wife complains. I loved hearing about about the killer training sessions in the South of France. I've got great memories of the roads around Nice.

French Revolutions | Tim Moore
Perhaps I was in a good mood when I read this, but it was very funny. If you are looking for a bit of light-hearted cycling babble then this is it.

The Rider | Tim krabbé
I've included this as it is a cycling classic. It is probably the best written cycling fiction, and gives a good idea of what goes through the mind of the cyclist. Worth a download.

The Best Cycling Training books

Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World's Fastest Cyclists | Michael Hutchinson
Hutchinson is one of UK's best cyclists. He is a smart guy with a PhD who has devoted his life to going fast on a bike. Now he's decided to share the information with us. What makes us faster? And what makes us slower? It is all here.

The Obree Way | Graeme Obree
After spending years following complicated training plans, it was fantastic to read Obree's approach. Either ride until you bonk or ride flat out. Train every 36 hours, eat real food and do most of your training on the turbo. The approach sounds simplistic, but you would need to have strength of mind to carry it out. With the recent HIIT training protocols becoming popular, it seems that Graeme was years ahead.

Training and Racing with a power meter | Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan
Once you own a power meter, it is difficult to figure out what to do with the data. This book tells you how to test yourself, how to compare your results to others, then how to improve. I personally find the training regimes too intensive, which results in burn-out. But perhaps I should just harden up. Really good book and essential for anyone who owns a power meter.

Cutting Edge Cycling | Hunter Allen and Cheung
Another Hunter Allen book. This covers a lot of material from Racing and Training with a power meter, but talks about more than just the engine. It covers aerodynamics, recovery, nutrition and bike fit. It is packed with tips that you might take years to find out otherwise.

The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness | Dr Steve Peters
This isn't a cycling specific book, but it was written by the team GB psychologist. His explanations of how the brain works are simplified, but easy to understand and apply to sport and life. I related it to cycling here but it has also been useful in an office environment.

The Cyclist's Training Bible | Joe Friel

This one's getting a bit old now, but it is still a good one, as the principles are well founded. The training style is fairly traditional, but coach Joe Friel has seen what works, so these methods are tried and tested. If you decide to ignore all his training advice and go with an Obree method, this book is still worth reading as there is excellent advice on overtraining, gym work and diet.

Coffee table books

Bike! | Moore Benson
This was given to me for my birthday, and it is a beautiful book full of pictures of bikes and bike bits. This is one for the bike fetishists who prefer to fawn over bike bits rather than just go out and cycle.

The Custom Road Bike | Guy Andrews
Guy is one of the brains behind Rouleur magazine and grumpy, but all round good chap. This book has lots of crisp pictures of lugs, brake blocks, spokes and saddles. Just the sort of thing you want to spend hours absorbing.

Mountain High: Europe's 50 Greatest Cycle Climbs | Daniel Friebe
Most cyclists would love to attempt the big climbs one day. After watching them on the Tour de France and seeing countless black and white pictures of dust-ingrained suffering, it is a dream to feel what it is like.

Well I can tell you now, bring a compact and prepare for hours of boring slog where all you can do is set the pain threshold to 'ignore' and just get on with getting to the next tree for hour on end. You'll be so busy staring at the road that you won't remember anything about the view. Which is where this book comes in, because you can study the beautiful mountain pictures in the comfort of your rocking chair.

I've read plenty of other cycling books, mainly of the biography type. They are generally chronologies of the rider's life.

I wish they would include some more juicy details about how they trained and prepared before winning a big event, or how they overcame mental hurdles. Tips, if you like. I feel that such tips are lacking in these books. I assume they are intended for a non-cycling audience, but surely we want to find out what made these guys great, and if we can emulate them some how. To be fair, Mark Cavendish hands out a few good tips.

I rather fear that the true answer is that they were born to be good at endurance sport, and really they didn't do anything special to get to the top except exercise their talent. Before anyone thinks of doping, remember that these guys were already incredible machines before any medication.

Special Mention
These are all entertaining books, and the best of the rest. Worth a read for sure.

Breaking the Chain by Willy Voet
One of the first books to discuss the doping culture in cycling. After its publication the rules got tighter but nothing really changed for at least another 10 years.

At Speed Mark Cavendish
Worth a quick read, with a few useful tips in there.

We were young and carefree
I enjoyed this as I remember watching Laurent Fignon winning races in the 80s, so it brings back fond memories for me. One thing that struck me was that this guy was born to be a great bike rider. He was able to win races by riding off alone right from the start.

Landscapes of Cycling
Nice pictures to look at. Most people tune into the Tour de France to look at the scenery, so I guess this book follows on from that.

I know there's plenty of awesome books out there that I don't know about. Share your knowledge, please. I'll read them and review.


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