This is not the first book to use the title Pedal Power, nor is it the first claiming to collate 'inspirational stories from the world of cycling', but it certainly does what is promised and makes you feel good about cycling.
Anna Hughes has previously written the excellent travelogue 'Eat, Sleep, Cycle', telling the story of her 4,000-mile cycle around the coast of Britain. This is her second book, and it takes her writing in a completely different direction. She describes it as 'a collection of stories, from every aspect of cycling, that have inspired me and many others throughout the ages'.
The first challenge with such a book is deciding what to include and what to leave out. There are so many worthwhile stories out there that this could easily be the first of many volumes, but choices have to be made.
I can see that there is a good case to be made for every story that is included, but I know I might have made different choices: for example, Graeme Obree and Mike Burrows would have made my cut for the chapter on 'Cycling Innovators', or even within 'The need for speed' – but then I would have to decide what to leave out to make way for them...
The second challenge is that with 84 stories to pack into the 11 chapters, there is no space to cover anything in depth: for example, Eddy Merckx is rightly included within the chapter on Grand Tour Masters, but when so many books have already been written about him (like this one), you can't expect the three pages here to add much that is new. What you do get is a succinct biography that serves as a good introduction to 'the Cannibal' and his achievements.
For me the benefit of such a book is that you discover stories about less-well-known people. For example, I did not find out anything new about Laura Trott (which is not surprising given that I reviewed her biography), but the next story provided fresh insight into Lael Wilcox and her incredible achievements in the Trans America Bike Race – which will be a new name to many (but not road.cc readers obviously).
Cycling provides lots of material to choose from for a chapter called 'Marvellous Madness', with antics such as Rob Holden cycling up Mont Ventoux on a 'Boris bike'; it is a similar story with the 'Pushing the limit' chapter, which included the story of Robert Marchand's Hour records. Each chapter gives you half a dozen more stories like that, and the appeal of the book is that you are unlikely to be familiar with all of them.
Along the way we get to know quite a lot about Hughes, such as her experience with the Otesha Project, 'a social enterprise with sustainability at its core'. The end result is that 'I use less and I waste less. I step a little lighter on the world. I am not a different person, but I do things differently' – which sounds like a laudable ambition.
If you want to do your bit to 'step a little lighter', and feel an electronic version could help you achieve that, the book is available in that format for about half the price of the paperback.
A wide-ranging selection of stories that provides a brief introduction to some of cycling's many inspirational characters
road.cc test report
Make and model: Pedal Power by Anna Hughes
Size tested: Paperback
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?
ABOUT THE BOOK
A bike can be so many different things – a simple way of navigating busy city streets or enjoying quiet lanes, a cross-country steed to take a rider up hill and down dale or even a world-beating racing machine. What unites everyone who rides is that they each have their own cycling story to tell.
This book collects inspirational stories from riders around the world, both ordinary and extraordinary, from the cyclist who conquered Mont Ventoux on a Boris bike, to the trials rider who hops from building to building, to classic tales of Grand Tour rivalries and legendary cycling records of days gone by. Essential reading for anyone who loves life on two wheels.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anna Hughes is a freelance writer, cycling instructor and mechanic. A passionate cycling tourist and traveller, her various adventures have taken her around the coast of the UK by bike and by boat, along the spine of Britain from Land's End to John o'Groats, and through the rigours of an Ironman. She lives on a narrowboat on the River Lea in east London.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Pedal Power
Author: Anna Hughes
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It will introduce you to new people and new stories.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sometimes the stories are so brief that you are left wanting more.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? It would make a good present.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It gives a good but brief introduction to many inspirational stories, but at the expense of being a 'jack of all stories and master of none'.
About the tester
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