My patience has been tested recently by a couple of books cashing in on the cycling boom, so 'The Srampagmano Tales' - a book of poetry by 'Scarlett Parker with illustrations by Faith Buck' set me straight away on high whimsy alert. The general rule is that bad poetry beats bad prose hands down. Thankfully 'The Srampagmano Tales' is actually rather good.
A re-imagining of Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales': a group of cyclists leave on a London to Brighton ride. We hear the stories of 9 different riders written strictly as rhyming couplets - which isn't easy to do with a broad topic - let alone cycling, but it's achieved with considerable flair. I've not seen a more biting put down of a new 'Sportiviste' than this:
'His carbon frame is monocoque not bonded
He's unaware of anything Lemond did
Reducing heritage to retro clothing
A 39 tooth causes fear and loathing...'
The pedalling rhythm of the rhyme suits the cadence of cycling very well. 'The Roadies Tale' - the tale of a single race being won from a lone break away when a single opponent bridges the gap:
'..Still undeterred I dish out further pain
He latches on magnetically again
Despite the poker face, I know he's shaken
I'm too experienced to be mistaken...'
'The Rouleur's Tale' is a love story of the road where woman trains with man and both rejoice in her growing cycling strength:
'..Through him my dead spots were eliminated
Against him I no longer fulminated
My growing fortitude brought admiration
Engendered not a hint of indignation...'
The Grimpeur is neatly summed up with:
'...Eccentric on account of inclination
His power-to-weight a magical equation...'
Then there is a hint of Betjeman's 'Inexpensive Progress' in 'The Courier's Tale'
'...I head towards the city's concrete fingers
Where half the workforce aimlessly malingers...'
I can sense some squirming at the back of the class and I understand. If all this verse quoted out of context sounds a bit contrived and prissy - then that was my prejudice too before reading it. Cycling poetry could easily have been cringe-making but 'The Srampagmano Tales' is considered and clever and feels fresh and different - always a plus in these days of churned and rechurned information.
There are a few words that you haven't heard for a while like 'treadles' and fantastic ones that may need looking up like 'mucilage' and 'flahutes' but the writing is all the better for it. If you like poetry - or being entertained by something a little different - give 'The Srampagmano Tales' a go. The wood cut illustrations suit the text very well and it's an unusual celebration of cycling. If since school, you've kept on the bike but swerved poetry, 'The Srampagnano Tales' could be just the right re-introduction to verse for you.
If there was a poet Laureate of Cycling - and Andrew Motion doesn't try to steam in on that as well - Scarlet Parker should be it.
road.cc test report
Make and model: The Srampagmano Tales by Scarlett Parker
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?
People who read poetry and ride bikes. People who don't read poetry but ride bikes. People who read poetry and are tempted to ride a bike.
I hope it's successful enough to bring out as a smaller thicker edition as the only thing letting it down at present is its thin pamphlet style. Worth mentioning that there is also a Kindle version for £2.49 from Amazon.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 47 Height: Weight:
I usually ride: Dolan Prefissio - winter bike My best bike is: Condor Moda Ti - summer bike
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,