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Verdict: 
A welcome reprint of this 'cult' cycling novel
Weight: 
250g
The Rider by Tim Krabbé
8 10

It's back! The Rider is often held up as being one of the best books about cycling, and after several years of being out of print it has now been republished.

Although written in 1978 (with the title 'De Renner'), the book was only translated into English in 2002 by Sam Garrett; this was thanks in part to a grant from the 'Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature'.

> Buy the paperback online here

> Buy the hardback online here

Since then it has been the subject of numerous reviews, both in the specialist and mainstream press. From what I have seen, all of them were positive, and I doubt you will find reviewers saying anything different this time around.

It's in road.cc's list of 14 books that every cyclist should own – or at least read – the only novel in the list. 

Bloomsbury published the English version first time around, and, recognising that it had a timeless classic on its hands, has now decided to publish it again.

Unlike when a book is appearing for the very first time, both the paperback and hardback versions have been released together. The hardback edition gives you a little bit extra for your money, with an outer sleeve that can fold out into the shape of a wheel (with a size of approximately 22 inches and 36 spokes!).

To summarise the plot briefly, the central theme is an account of Krabbé's participation in the fictional Tour de Mont Aigoual, a one-day race of 137km. Throughout the race report he regularly branches off into musings on various topics, and many flights of fancy.

I suspect that most of us enjoy the opportunity to let our minds wander during long hours in the saddle, but Krabbé takes it further than most – and surely further than anyone would have the capacity to manage in a race.

The result is a very readable story, although I think you would have to understand a bit about cycle racing to fully appreciate it.

While the principles of the racing Krabbé describes will still be familiar today, it is when the bike itself is referenced that the book shows its age. In a discussion about gears, for example, the choices are between a 14-15-17-18-19-20 tooth freewheel, or a 13-18 'straight through' – all selected without the help of indexing or STI levers.

Cue calls of 'Kids today don't know they're born' and references to Monty Python.

> Read more book reviews on road.cc here

New cycling books seem to be appearing faster than ever, so The Rider is coming back into a busier market than it left, but crucially there have been remarkably few new novels in that time – and undoubtedly The Rider is still the best known of them all.

I think the book still warrants inclusion in a list of 'best cycling books' of any type; when it comes to novels with cycling as their central theme, the choice is a lot more limited, so The Rider has even more reason for being on your list.

Verdict

A welcome reprint of this 'cult' cycling novel

road.cc test report

Make and model: The Rider by Tim Krabbé

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

From the publisher:

At the start of the 137-kilometre Tour de Mont Aigoual, Tim Krabbé glances up from his bike to assess the crowd of spectators. 'Non-racers,' he writes. 'The emptiness of those lives shocks me.' Immediate and gripping from the first page, we race with the author as he struggles up the hills and clings on during descents in the unforgiving French mountains.

Originally published in 1978, The Rider is a modern-day classic that is recognised as one of the best books ever written about the sport. Brilliantly conceived and best read at a break-neck pace, it is a loving, imaginative and passionate tribute to the art of cycle racing.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Title: The Rider

Author: Tim Krabbé

Publisher: Bloomsbury Sport

Date: June 2016

Format: Paperback / Hardback

Pages: 148

ISBN: 9871408881729 / 9781408881705

Price: £9.99 / £18.99

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? I did - first time around.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

It's very good. And now that people can easily access the book again, it makes sense to include it in any 'best books' list.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 55  Height:   Weight:

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding

7 comments

Avatar
timb27 [135 posts] 12 months ago
1 like

I didnt just read it this year, I also rode it! Well not all of it, it was a long morning on the bike as part of a non cycling family holiday, so me and a mate did the second half of the fictional route, including the 28km ascent of Mont Aigoual. The book is great (I finished it in one return train journey from Devon to London), but the Cevennes are spectacular. Meyrueis is a beautiful classic French mountain town. Recommend both highly. There's a route on Strava if you're ever in that neck of the woods.

Avatar
brooksby [2400 posts] 12 months ago
1 like

Didn't Krabbe also write 'The Vanishing'? Creepy Dutch film turned into a godawful Hollywood remake with Keifer Sutherland?

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Blackhound [456 posts] 12 months ago
1 like

I was lent it some years ago and my initial thought was that book on racing would be boring, cannot recreate the feelings and atmosphere.  I was so wrong, really enjoyed it and I would like to ride the route one day.

Avatar
philhubbard [44 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:

Didn't Krabbe also write 'The Vanishing'? Creepy Dutch film turned into a godawful Hollywood remake with Keifer Sutherland?

Yep, The Vanishing was him as well along with the Cave, made into another awful film

 

Avatar
paddyirish [52 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes

Love the Rider- my favourite cycling-related book.  The book is available for a fraction of the price given in the article here

Krabbe is also a high quality chess player and even better author- his Chess Curiousities book is out of print and widely sought after in chess circles.

 

Avatar
MrB123 [58 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes

A good read but wouldn't want to pay £18.99 for it as it's very short. Takes less time to read than the length of the race depicted!

Avatar
darnac [9 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes
MrB123 wrote:

A good read but wouldn't want to pay £18.99 for it as it's very short. Takes less time to read than the length of the race depicted!

What's that got to do with anything?