Cycling books are always a delight to unwrap on Christmas morning, or to treat yourself to at any time of year, and the growth of interest in cycling as well as the success of British riders means that bookstore shelves – plus those in the warehouses of online retailers – are groaning under the weight of them as never before.
Here’s our pick of just some of the books we’ve enjoyed that have come out this year that you might want to drop hints to friends and family about as the big day approaches, or spend any gift vouchers that might come your way on, or even treat someone else to.
Prices shown are the publisher’s RRP – you’re likely to find them for less, especially on Amazon.co.uk, where a lot of them are currently going for half price or below.
Amazon’s Super Saver option means there’s still time to get most of these books ahead of Christmas, while you (or your nearest and dearest) are also likely to find many if not all in a branch of Waterstone’s, Blackwell’s or WH Smith, as well as independent bookstores.
It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, and reflects our own choice of just a few books from a vintage year for cycling publishing – there’s bound to be some we’ve left out that many of you will have read, so if you think other road.cc users would be interested in them, please flag them up in the comments.
21 Days to Glory
Photographer Scott Mitchell first followed Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky on their largely forgettable debut Tour de France in 2010, when the rider never looked like matching the form he'd shown when finishing fourth the previous year. This year, both Sky's leader and the snapper embedded with the team hit the jackpot.
The result is a book that stands as a lasting document of what, in a year of towering achievement by British athletes, is the biggest of all. One thing that sets this book apart is the intimacy forged between Mitchell and the team, resulting in a closeness to the subject seldom found in sports photography, also reflected in the interviews with Sky riders and staff. It’s also refreshingly free of many of the clichés that press photographers following the race need to get to satisfy picture editors.
Bradley Wiggins and William Fotheringham
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press
A first British Tour de France winner in the race's history means we're going to make no apologies for including a second book about Wiggins on this list. Several hit the bookstore shelves in the wake of his success this summer, but like 21 Days to Glory, this one stands out because it's in Wiggins' own words - well, with a little help from William Fotheringham.
The emphasis is less on Wiggins' past - it's covered, of course, but not as comprehensively as in his earlier autobiography In Pursuit of Glory, which continues to be regularly updated - and more on his 2012 season and preparations for those victorious performances in the Tour and the Olympic time trial. Well worth sticking on your wish list.
Publisher: Rouleur Books
There have been plenty of books published on Coppi over the years, but none like this. Interviews with those who perhaps knew the Italian legend best, the men who rode alongside them, link the hundreds of pictures, many never seen before, that document the life of someone who for all the strength he showed on the bike was, like the rest of us, possessed of human frailty off it. The book's from Rouleur, so it goes without saying it's beautifully presented.
There's something about photos from the immediate post-war era that just can't be captured any more - maybe it's the clothes, maybe it's the cameras used, maybe it's because those years were the heyday of photojournalism, Italy of course being the home of the paparazzi. Combine that with the ongoing fascination with Coppi's life and you have one of the standout cycling books of the year.
Merckx: Half Man Half Bike
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press
Like Coppi, Eddy Merckx is another cyclist whose fascination endures down the ages - the matinee idol looks may be long gone, but if you ever find yourself close to him at a signing session or sportive, the star aura is very definitely still there - and there are few cycling writers better than Fotheringham in providing a fresh but engaging look at a well-worn subject.
The book gets under the skin of the highs and lows of Merckx's career through interviews of many of the people there, and equally the few but well chosen pictures serve to illustrate those triumphs and disasters of the man who for many remains the greatest cyclist there has ever been.
Paul Forunel, with illustrations by Jo Burt
Publisher: Rouleur Books
Transparency is all the rage in cycling right now, so we’ll say straight away that a lot of the appeal of this book lies in the striking illustrations by road.cc contributor Jo Burt, better known in these parts as VecchioJo. Rouleur bill Vélo as “a unique look at the bike. Through a series of short essays, Paul Fournel beautifully evokes the experience and spirit of all aspects of cycling."
The text itself is a collection of writings by Fournel, some of which appeared in his previous work, Need for the Bike, others drawn from the columns he pens for Rouleur, covering topics such as the cyclist’s tan to the smell of cycling. Perfect for dipping in and out of when the fancy takes you.
The Secret Race
Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
Publisher: Bantam Press
As one of only three works about cycling to have won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year – the others are Paul Kimmage's Rough Ride and Lance Armstrong's It's Not About The Bike – this is perhaps the must-read title on this list. Wisely, the book was bumped up the schedule so it could build momentum in sales and publicity prior to USADA's publication of its reasoned decision in the Armstrong case – Hamilton's own affidavit potentially proving the ultimate spoiler.
While it was the salacious details about his former team leader at US Postal that had the cycling abuzz, there is of course much more to Hamilton's own story - a gifted cyclist who succumbed to the temptation of doping like so many others, who vehemently denied the evidence of his own cheating before ultimately deciding to tell all. Essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of the EPO era.
100 Best Bikes
Publisher: Laurence King
We could spend hours poring over any book full of pictures of beautiful bikes – remember Michael Embacher's Cyclopedia, which showcased his collection of rare and wonderful machines? This book is in the same mould, but whereas Cyclopedia's coverage focuses on past decades, 100 Best Bikes is more or less bang up to date, with the emphasis firmly on the modern.
According to Sardar, the bikes showcased, encompassing all types of cycling, "epitomize the widespread twenty-first century bicycle renaissance," and they span everything from production models from well-known brands to concept machines that give a hint of how the future of bicycle design may look. There's a nice section at the back showing examples of accessories in areas such as storage and luggage, too.
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Photography-based cycling books aren't all about pictures of rare or unusual bikes, or riders suffering on Alpine cols or the pave of Flanders - here, the man nicknamed Denmark's ambassador for cycling takes his Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog that spawned imitators around the world and translates it to the printed page.
The pictures, sourced from around the world, demonstrate the sheer pleasure of people who use a bike to carry out everyday journeys. Colville-Andersen took most of them, and his text in the captions is short and to the point. Be warned though - if you think cyclists should wear helmets and hi-viz clothing, this book's going to drive you nuts.
Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding
Publisher: Quercus Books
Hardback edition £20
Saddlebag edition (pictured) £9.99
Whether you're after a book to flick through on a Sunday evening, or looking ahead to the following day's Tour de France stage – or even aiming to tackle some of these climbs yourself – this book fits the bill. Two versions are available – a hardback volume that would grace any cyclist's coffee table, and a saddlebag version (admittedly a large saddlebag) that will withstand more of a battering, perfect for chucking in the suitcase for a trip to the Alps or Pyrenees.
You can perhaps argue with Friebe's choice of climbs – many readers will have a favourite that failed to make the cut – but it's difficult to find fault with the way the book's put together, with descriptions, profiles and some cracking photos of each ascent. What it lacks is pictures of cyclists – there seem to be more cows and sheep than people riding bikes – but that's not a bad thing, since without that distraction, Goding's pictures let the roads, and the surrounding scenery, often stunning, do the talking.
Another 100 Great Climbs
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
As Warren's first book 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs amply demonstrated, you don't have to head across the Channel to find some taxing climbs - those in Britain may lack the length and fame of some of the mythic passes of the Alps or the Pyrenees, but your legs will feel them all the same as you head towards the summit.
He starts this follow-up with an apology to readers of the earlier book who are still ticking off the climbs for doubling their workload, but if you discover a couple of great ascents to tackle within striking distance of where you live - the geographical approach again makes them easy to spot - that can't be a bad thing. It fits nicely into a Christmas stocking too or, more to the point, a jersey pocket.
The Cycling Anthology Volume 1
Edited by Ellis Bacon and Lionel Birnie
Publisher: Peloton Publishing
With so many terrific titles around this year, it can be hard making a choice. Here’ a book that might provide the solution. There’s some great writing by big name writers in here, and even better, unlike some other collection, all of it’s original. It’s also the first volume in what will build into a series – the second comes out next summer, and celebrates the Tour de France as it heads into its 100th edition. It’s not available from Amazon, but you can buy it from Prendas.
So what’s inside? Ed Pickering has won plaudits for his piece on Thomas Voeckler, while Alasdair Fotheringham profiles Oscar Freire as the multiple world champion heads into retirement. Richard Moore poses the question of how Robert Millar might have fitted in with Team Sky, while Times writer Owen Slot looks at the rivalry between Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton as it reached its climax at London 2012. There’s much more besides, as the full table of contents below shows.
Project Wiggins by William Fotheringham
In Praise of Thomas Voeckler by Edward Pickering
The New Wizards of Oz by Rupert Guinness
Gone Biking by David Millar
The Cobbler (Frederic Guesdon) Retires by James Startt
Cyclonomics by Daniel Friebe
Pendleton versus Meares by Owen Slot
The Grand Slam by Lionel Birnie
The Original Individualist by Richard Moore
The Best of Luck by Ellis Bacon
Another World? by Kenny Pryde
The Exile by Alasdair Fotheringham
Il Magnifico's Return (Mario Cipollini) by Samuel Abt
Bin Bag of My Dreams by Jeremy Whittle
Raleigh: 125 Years
£25 reduced from £40
We know that the iconic Nottingham-based brand has a special place in the hearts of lots of road.cc users (not to mention staff) given that for many British kids, it made the bicycle they found next to the tree on Christmas Day and which – after briefly wondering how on earth Santa got it down the chimney – gave them their first taste of freedom.
A book at home on or under the coffee table, this tome focuses on road racing and Peter Post’s TI Raleigh team of the late 1970s and early 1980s, with plenty of fantastic action shots from the period, but there’s also a section detailing the history or Raleigh advertising posters from the company’s foundation in the late 19th century onwards. Again, the book is available from Prendas, whose website also has a preview of some of the cracking images it contains.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.