Some professional cyclists turn to writing after they have finished cycling competitively – perhaps to produce an autobiography or a 'drugs exposé'. Others, such as Phil Gaimon, manage to write while still competing: his second book, Ask a Pro is a collection of the columns that he wrote for VeloNews magazine for about seven years until he retired from professional cycling.
There may never be sufficient demand for an autobiography by Gaimon, but he did have demand for his first book: Pro Cycling on $10 a day, which made it onto our essential reading list. It does a good job of making the reader think twice about choosing professional cycling as a career unless you are really, really determined and are prepared to sacrifice a lot – with the hope that sometimes the rewards will make it all worthwhile.
That first book ends as Gaimon joins the Garmin-Sharp WorldTour team in 2014; the VeloNews columns were written before, during, and after that period, finally coming to an end in 2016 because 'even though I've only been an amateur for a few weeks I can already feel that I'm losing my credibility'. So what better time to publish a complete collection of those columns?
Gaimon found that his current computer did not have the full set of older columns, so he got his mother to scan the missing months from her complete collection of VeloNews magazines. Then he added a few notes where things have changed since he first wrote the column – and because he can now say things that might have made life awkward while he was still an active professional.
Gaimon's column tried to 'answer every question you could have about pro cycling, including all the weird and distasteful stuff people don't usually ask but can't wait to read'. Sometimes the questions are sensible and serious, and they generally get a helpful and informative answer – with a bit of humour thrown in; other questions lend themselves to answers more biased towards humour, giving Gaimon the chance to showcase his acerbic style.
It seems that pros are often asked the same questions many times, so occasionally Gaimon gives an all-encompassing answer to a question that is a consolidation of every variation he has encountered: it still does not stop him being asked the same question again, though, such as that old favourite 'Can you get me on your team?'.
A question about chamois cream is a good example of the informative and the entertaining: 'I use Chamois Butt'r because they sponsor my team and the company has always been nice to me, but in my experience all the brands work pretty well'. As for applying it, 'Put the shorts on, then reach in and apply directly to the sensitive areas of your skin. In most states, it's a good idea to avoid eye contact with anyone nearby while your hand is in your pants.'
Not surprisingly Gaimon was asked some questions that required a politically expedient answer, such as his views on disc brakes. As his later notes show, the first time he was asked he 'had to dodge the question because I was scared of sponsors getting mad at me'. He enjoyed training with disc brakes, and in a later answer was able to say: 'I personally think that improved braking will reduce the number of...pileups, which will outweigh the risk of disc brakes as a whole, especially as technology improves.'
As a bonus Gaimon tries to include the answer to a question that VeloNews apparently declined to run, but unfortunately the book's publishers (VeloPress) took the same view. The question was: 'What do women do when they have to go during a race?' Having no personal experience Gaimon asked around for input, but we may never know what he found out. Fortunately at least some of the answer can be found in the review of another book on our essential reading list: Ride The Revolution by Suze Clemitson.
If you actually want to know what life is like as a fledgling pro, Gaimon's first book is the better bet; if you primarily want to be entertained with off-beat information and some surreal humour, Ask a Pro does the job, living up to its billing as offering 'deep thoughts and unreliable advice'.
Every question you ever wanted to ask a pro cyclist (possibly), with answers that are sometimes helpful and always entertaining
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ask A Pro, by Phil Gaimon
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?
Ask a Pro - Deep Thoughts and Unreliable Advice
from America's Foremost Cycling Sage - Phil Gaimon
Phil Gaimon's Ask a Pro answers every question you've always wanted to ask about pro cycling - sort of. Gaimon gathers the best of his popular Q&A column - and pokes fun at his younger self.
Despite the howling protests from his peers, no one's ever been more willing to spill the beans on what it's really like inside the pro cycling peloton than the sarcastic scribe Phil Gaimon. Building on the outrageous success of his hilarious 2014 debut, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro, Gaimon gathers the absolute gems from his monthly Q&A feature column in VeloNews magazine into his new book, adding a dose of fresh commentary and even more acerbic and sharp-eyed insights.
With six years of material to work with - including his incredible rise into the pro ranks, the devastating loss of his contract for 2015, and his bold return to the Big League - Gaimon covers every possible topic from the team dinner table to the toilet with plenty of stops along the way. Gaimon offers wise-ass (and sometimes earnest) answers to fan questions like:
* How much chamois cream should I use?
* I've started shaving my legs. How can I be accepted by my friends?
* What do you do to protect yourself when you know you're about to crash?
* How many bikes does my husband really need?
* What's the best victory celebration? Do you practice yours?
* In women's cycling, what is the proper definition of a pro?
* What do you say to someone if they honk or almost hit you?
* Do you name your bikes?
* What do pros think when they see a recreational cyclist in a full pro kit or riding a pro-level bike?
* Can you take your bike apart and put it back together?
* How bad does the weather have to be to call off a training ride?
* How do you know when it's time to change a tire?
* When you're in a breakaway all day, do riders form a future friendship?
* Riders keep complaining about 'unsafe' weather at races. When did pro cyclists turn into such wussies?
* How do the pros define a 'crash'?
Gaimon wields his outsider's wit to cast a cock-eyed gaze at the peculiar manners, mores, and traditions that make the medieval sport of cycling so irresistible to watch. Ask a Pro includes new resources from Gaimon, too, including his Cookie Map of America, dubious advice on winning the race buffet, a cautionary guide for host housing, Phil's pre-race warm-up routine, and a celebrity baker's recipe for The Phil Cookie.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Ask a Pro
Author: Phil Gaimon
Quite expensive for the size.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It entertains and informs.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The humour – most of the time.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The humour – some of the time.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes – and it would make a nice gift.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Accepting that we all have a different sense of humour, you are sure to find something in here to amuse you – and possibly some useful information as well.
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