Books About Bikes

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These are the top things I love in life:

  1. My husband and children
  2. My wider family
  3. Cycling
  4. Reading

So, the next best thing to cycling has to be reading books about bikes!

‘Me, My Bike and a Street Dog Called Lucy’ by Ishbel Holmes

I met Ishbel once years ago at a ‘try the track’ session. She is a phenomenal cyclist who went on to ride for the Iranian National Team. She then turned to adventuring and became ‘World Bike Girl’, setting off to cycle the world.

The book focuses on Ishbel’s adventures cycling across Turkey and what happens when she comes across a street dog who decides to follow her. I won’t spoil the story for you, but suffice to say that the encounter changes Ishbel’s life.

The book is really well written and easy to read. Descriptions of events in Turkey are alternated with descriptions of events from Ishbel’s difficult childhood. Through this, you come to understand just what Lucy meant to Ishbel and how it came to be that they changed each other’s lives.

I couldn’t put the book down once I started it. It also gave me lots to think about.

You should definitely read it!


‘Fuelling The Cycling Revolution: The Nutritional Strategies and Recipes Behind Grand Tour Wins and Olympic Gold Medals’ by Nigel Mitchell

This is somewhere between a recipe book, a book of nutritional advise and a photographic book. Nigel Mitchell is a dietician who has worked extensively with Team Sky and British Cycling.

I am not sure I learnt anything new about nutritional strategies, however, this is possibly because I read it straight after reading ‘ROAR’ (see below). It does have lots of useful hints and tips and is easy to read. I like the recipes and am definitely going to give some of them a go, particularly rice cakes and energy balls. Lots of glossy photos of pro cyclists eating their breakfast are a nice touch too.

Worth reading, although for women, I would recommend reading ROAR too.


‘ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Female Physiology For Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body For Life’ by Stacy T. Sims, PhD

This is a brilliant book which all women with an interest in diet and fitness should read.

So many books about diet and fitness are written for both men and women, and yet women and men are physiologically really quite different. This is the first book I have come across which is specifically written for women. It really made me think about how my own body works and why some of the diet strategies I have used in the past have simply not worked. Be warned, there is a lot of talk about menstrual cycles in the book, but it turns out, that is really quite important!

Stacy Sims is eminently qualified to write on this subject. She is an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist who specialised in sex differences of environmental and nutritional considerations for recovery and performance at Stanford University.

The book is full of technical information and references to scientific studies, but it is still easy to read and understand. Definitely another one to go back and re-read.


‘The Brave Athlete: Calm The F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion’ by Simon Marshall, PhD and Lesley Paterson

This was my first foray into reading about sports psychology – well, who could resist a book with a title like that!

I found the book really interesting and it has given me a lot to think about, both as a cyclist who races and as a coach. I think it is the kind of book which you read once for the overview and then go back to for specific sections later. I have already made a note of the chapters I want to re-read before I start training for 2019.

As you would expect from the title, the book is written in a conversational, no-nonsense style. There is a fair bit of swearing, so maybe give it a miss if you are easily offended! After a brief introduction to how the human brain works, there are sections dealing with a number of issues faced by athletes. For example ‘I Wish I Felt More Like an Athlete’, ‘I Feel Fat’ and ‘I Don’t Handle Pressure Well’ to name but a few.

Definitely worth a read if you are interested in how the contents of your head can affect your cycling.


‘Ride The Revolution: The Inside Stories from Women in Cycling’ edited by Suze Clemitson

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is a collection of short pieces about and by women involved in cycling. The book very much has a theme of road racing, which for me is great. There are chapters about pioneers of women’s racing, such as Beryl Burton through to current cycling superstar, Marianne Vos. The book does not just include riders, there are also tales from female mechanics, photographers, team managers and presenters.

As someone who is just getting into road racing and starting to follow women’s professional road racing, I found the book fascinating. If your interests lie mainly in mountain biking or other cycling disciplines, or in cycle campaigning or family cycling then this might be less your thing. However, the book is unique and well worth a read.


‘The Breakaway’ by Nicole Cooke

Up until now I have not been a huge fan of reading autobiographies by cyclists. Sorry, but I have always found them a bit dull. The Breakaway might just be the book that changes this. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Nicole Cooke is one of the most phenomenal British cyclists ever – male or female. I am not going to list her achievements here as it would take too long and a quick google will easily find this information. Cooke’s book describes just how hard won her victories were. According to Cooke, not only was there little support for women in cycling at the time she was racing, there was active discouragement.

I think that Cooke has worked hard not to sound bitter in her book. Sometimes she achieves this. But after reading the book, I am surprised that she does not sound more angry and bitter about the way she was treated.

As a women who is now starting to get into road racing, I found the book fascinating. It gives a real insight into the tactics of elite road racing and the lifestyle adopted by the women who race.

I believe that the sport is slowly changing. Really slowly changing and mostly due to some incredible women within the sport who are forcing that change to come. I think that Nicole Cooke is one of those incredible women.


‘Scottish Bicycles and Tricycles’ by Louise Innes

This is a fairly short book covering the history of cycling in Scotland. The book mainly concentrates on bike building, although there is some mention of individual cyclists and cycle clothing from Endura.

To be honest, I found it quite hard work to read but perhaps that is because I am more interested in the people in cycling than the bike frames. There are some great old photographs in the book – this was my favourite thing about it.

If you are into the history of bike building in Scotland you will love this book.


‘The Bicycle Book’ by Bella Bathurst

This is a great book if you like reading random stuff about bikes.

There are interesting chapters on bicycle couriers, the history of bikes, frame building, road racing, and all sorts of bike related oddities. I found out lots of bike information I had never heard before in reading the book. Who knew there was such a thing as a watercycle?!

The book as a whole can feel a little disjointed. It reads a little as if Bella Bathurst found an interesting snippet of bicycle related information and decided to pursue it further, then got bored of it and moved on to the next interesting snippet. Perhaps she did. Even if so, it is still a very readable book.


‘Bike Nation: How Cycling Can Save the World’ by Peter Walker

I love this book.

Peter Walker is a political correspondent for The Guardian. He also co-runs the paper’s bike blog. In his book he uses research from around the world to present the arguments for promoting cycling, providing infrastructure for cycling and changing the current culture which is often highly motor-centric.

After the introduction ‘ not everyone on a bike is a cyclist’ the book covers bikes and health, feeling safe on the roads, social justice, big business and bikes, infrastructure, why cyclists are hated, political protests, bike helmets and cycling technology. If you are looking for a study or statistic to support anything to do with cycling, this is the place to find it.

Bike Nation is well written and easy to read. Even if you think you know all there is to know about promoting cycling, you will find something new in this book. I thought I knew about physical activity and health and that I was pretty good at being active, but the statistics in this book terrified me. I have put the move alert back on my garmin ever since I read it.

My only gripe about the book is the title. I think it would be an incredibly helpful book for non-cyclists to read, especially those who might be considering taking up cycling. However, I think the title limits the audience to those who are already committed cyclists (or committed bike riders).


‘Time-Trialling. Fly Through the Pain Barrier: Achieve Your True Potential in the Race of Truth!’ By Adam Topham

This is well worth a read if you race time trials or are thinking of doing so.

Adam Topham is a very successful amateur UK time triallist who fits his training around a full time job and a family. The book covers everything you could want to know about time trialling, including bikes, position, equipment, training, riding technique and nutrition.

Adam Topham is clearly a busy man so he gets straight to the point and his training only includes that which he views as really essential. He simply does not have time for things like one-legged reps, unless they are genuinely going to make him faster. I used the book to plan all my turbo sessions in the winter 2016-17. Although I had planned to get back to time trialling in 2017, this didn’t happen. However, I did start the year feeling incredibly fast and strong on the back of the sessions I had done.


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