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42 of the best cycling books — check out the books every cyclist should own

Explore cycling's vast literature from classic races to new personal stories of cycling transformation

Want something to read? There are vast numbers of cycling books out there; few activities have as wide a range of literature. There are books on the bikes themselves, in all their variety; books on where to ride; on riding technique; on the great — and not so great — races; on cyclesport’s heroes and villains; and much more. Here are our picks of the best cycling books; everyone should have at least some of these in their collection.

  • Listed prices are for the paperback edition if there is one — some cycling books are only available in hardback

  • Out-of-print cycling books are sometimes available in Kindle format, a good reason to get an e-book reader

  • Strapped for cash? Check out the second-hand booksellers that sell through Amazon for some real bargains

Contents: the best cycling books

The 16 very best cycling books you can buy

Best manual: Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, by Lennard Zinn — £17.85


The main reason to buy Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance is that it's likely to be the most up-to-date, the most comprehensive and the most thorough maintenance manual available for road bikes, and is a worthy successor to previous editions. I am a great fan of the detailed line drawings that are used to such good effect here (perhaps because I used Richard's Bicycle Book in my formative years, which has a similar style); they make any task so much easier to explain and understand.

Read our review of Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance

Best humour: Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy, by Tim Moore — £7.37


Tim Moore is a glutton for punishment. That's the only conclusion you can reach from the journey at the heart of this book. Moore set out to follow the route of an edition of the Tour of Italy that 90% of the starters didn't complete, and to do it on the rebuilt remains of a 1914 bike, wooden rims and all. Fortunately, Moore is a very funny glutton for punishment; Gironimo! will have you laughing out loud.

Best biography: Put Me Back On My Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson, by Will Fotheringham — from about £2

Put me back on my bike.jpg

With rare exceptions, today's elite cyclists are dull drones mouthing meaningless platitudes while dodging WADA. Tom Simpson was very different.

The manner of his death dominates any story about Tom Simpson. He succumbed to heat stroke and cardiac failure on the slopes of Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France. He had amphetamine in his bloodstream.

But what Will Fotheringham finds as he explores Simpson's life is a trailblazer, a huge talent and a true character. Simpson was as much a victim of the woeful state of sport science at the time and the brutal schedule pro racers endured as of his own burning ambition. His story, affectionately told by Fotheringham, is one every cyclist should read, even if they're not very much interested in racing.

Best fiction: The Rider, by Tim Krabbé — £7.19


The Guardian's Matt Seaton said of Dutch journalist and novelist Tim Krabbé's fourth novel: "Nothing better is ever likely to be written on the subjective experience of cycle-racing."

The Rider tells the fictionalised story of an edition of the Tour du Mont Aigoual race as his protagonist struggles on the tricky descents, and dispatches his rivals on the climbs. It was the first literary success for a writer whose later novels include The Vanishing and The Cave, and draws convincingly on Krabbé's own experience as a racer.

Art illuminates life; life imitates art. The route of the Tour du Mont Aigoual took on a life of its own as riders followed the loop in the hills of France. In 2003 Krabbé attended a sportive on the route, his racing days long past and in no shape to take part. Inspired by the riders tackling 'his' cols, Krabbé trained hard so he could take part the following year and in the process returned to bike racing.

Best history: Roads Were Not Built For Cars by Carlton Reid — £20.69

Roads Were Not Built For Cars.jpg

"Get off the road!". That angry order some motorists shout at cyclists ought to become the longer, but historically more accurate: "Hey cyclists, thanks for the roads and the cars!" Carlton Reid's Roads Were Not Built For Cars sets out to demonstrate how cyclists led the charge for better roads, and it does so in a very readable and thorough manner.

Not only were roads not built for cars, they were not built for bikes either. Pedestrians were the first to take advantage of the pre-set routes, along with four-legged horse power. However, Reid argues that it is a motoring-centric view that roads are just for transport, and that in the past they have been seen as a public space for other uses. We still see glimpses of that today when roads are closed for sporting events, or when royalty give us an excuse for a street party.

Read our review of Roads Were Not Built For Cars, by Carlton Reid

Best campaigning book: How Cycling Can Save the World, by Peter Walker — £12.18

How Cycling Can Save The World

In How Cycling Can Save the World (formerly known as Bike Nation), Peter Walker provides invaluable information on every discussion that you are likely to encounter when making the case for cycling, and from the chapter headings you can tell that he gets right to the point: examples include 'The miracle pill: bikes make everyone more healthy', 'Fear and near misses: the battle to feel safe on the roads', 'Why cyclists are hated', and 'If helmets are the answer, you're asking the wrong question'.

That last one questions the idea of making helmets use compulsory, 'or even to overly encourage them as a supposed safety panacea' – and is likely to be the most contentious, even (or should that be especially?) among those who have not read it.

Read our review of How Cycling Can Save the World

Best Racing photography: 40 Years of Cycling Photography, by Graham Watson — from ~£15

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Professional cycling photographer Graham Watson has produced several books over his career, focusing on various aspects of the sport, but this one 'is the book that trumps them all for it covers everything under one title'. He makes the bold claim that 'it's the most complete photo-book ever produced by one single cycling photographer', and we certainly can't think of a stronger contender for the title.

Watson put his lens cap on for the final time after the Tour Down Under last year, which meant that he had been photographing the top level of the sport for just a few months short of 40 years. His first job in retirement was to work on this book, with editorial assistance from respected journalist Luke Edwardes-Evans. It is his first foray into self-publishing, which brings with it extra demands and responsibilities, but 'no end of control over my work'.

As well a collection of superb images, 40 Years of Cycling Photography has a strong autobiographical side, well told. Not only is the list of photographers with a large enough body of work to populate a book like this a small one, the number of those who can successfully supply the words to complete the page is even smaller. Watson has proven his ability over previous books and articles: I used to enjoy his 'Life through a lens' column for the now defunct Cycle Sport magazine, as it was as much about his thoughts on the racing scene and the background to his work as it was about showcasing his pictures – a bit like this book.

Read our review of 40 Years of Cycling Photography

Best reference book: The Road Book 2019 by Ned Boulting — £40.00

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The Road Book is essentially a statistical summary of the professional cycling season, with many added extras. Whether it is a long overdue and welcome arrival, or an idea that has no relevance today, only time will tell. Either way, it does a fine job of delivering on the promise to be 'the first ever comprehensive cycling almanack'.

Read our review of The Road Book Cycling Almanack

Best technical treatise: The Dancing Chain by Frank J Berto — from £22.50


At first sight The Dancing Chain appears to be just about derailleurs, and 'the history and development of the derailleur bicycle' subtitle reinforces that idea. However, it is actually a more complete history of bicycles than the title suggests, albeit one centred around the development of transmissions. Those who dismiss the book as being too specialist for their interests will miss out on the unique perspective that it brings to the bicycle's history and engineering.

The Dancing Chain follows developments in drivetrains over the years, and explains how we arrived at the brands and components we use today. Why is it that we talk about Shimano more than SunTour today, or derailleurs more than internal hub gears? As is so often the case, good fortune played as much a part as good strategy: it was Shimano's decision to embrace mountain biking that ultimately led to its current ubiquity, for example, and it was professional racing on the Continent that drove the development of derailleurs at the expense of enclosed gears.

Read our review of The Dancing Chain

Best guidebook series:
Greatest Cycling Climbs by Simon Warren
Lost Lanes by Jack Thurston

It's a dead-heat between these two fine series of guidebooks which will appeal to very different types of rider. Simon Warren is the maestro of vertical suffering, documenting in 13 books the toil needed to conquer the greatest road climbs both in the UK and beyond.

Jack Thurston, on the other hand, writes guidebooks for those who want to visit the hidden corners of Britain's countryside, well away from the tourists in cars blatting via A road from beauty spot to roadside attraction.

The well-rounded cyclist would own both sets, of course. To whet your appetite, here's a look at two books from each.

100 Greatest Cycling climbs, by Simon Warren — £7.59

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs by Simon Warren

This super little book gives you a heads up on some of the best climbing to be had in Great Britain. With detailed information on each ascent and an I-Spy style table at the back to check them all off, it's a book that's got a long shelf life.

It's a sterling effort and one made much better by the addition of the table for ticking off the climbs and recording your time. That simple addition makes the book much more than the interesting bathroom reading it could have otherwise been. You get something to aim for, as well as something to read.

Since this first book, Simon Warren has added literally a dozen more, covering British regions in more detail and nipping across to Belgium and France to document the classic ascents of road racing legend.

Read our review of 100 Greatest Cycling climbs, by Simon Warren

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs of Italy — £8.58

Greatest Cycling Climbs of Italy

With 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs of Italy, Simon Warren has used his proven research and writing skills (and fitness) to highlight yet more climbs for cyclists. Italy provided him with an embarrassment of riches to choose from, and the results will undoubtedly continue to inspire adventurous types to 'ride them all'. The book provides a useful guide to some that have featured in a Giro d'Italia, and inspiration to seek out those that haven't.

Simon Warren's books of the greatest cycling climbs have led to debate and sore legs since their first appearance back in 2010. After a promising start of 100 in the UK, followed by 'Another 100', I felt that the series became less compelling with the subsequent eight regional guides, including NE England, Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire and SE England, with under 100 climbs included, of which many were repeats.

However, by making a start on the climbs of mainland Europe, with Belgium followed by France, Warren showed that his little pocket books were still valid as a source of inspiration and information. Now the series has rolled on into Italy, and very welcome it is.

Read our review of 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs of Italy

Lost Lanes North by Jack Thurston — £11.32

2020 Lost Lanes North by Jack Thurston.jpg

In the natural order of things, the cyclist is content to spend the dark evenings of winter with a pile of maps and guide books, planning summer adventures in the knowledge that the cold and wet daytime training miles will be rewarded in due course.

Who'd have thought we'd also be spending our summer dreaming of better times? It's a good job, then, that Jack Thurston has come along with the latest volume of Lost Lanes. It's the fourth in the series, after the original Lost Lanes, Lost Lanes Wales and Lost Lanes West (see below) and follows the same successful format.

Read our review of Lost Lanes North by Jack Thurston

Lost Lanes West by Jack Thurston — £16.99


Lost Lanes West is a lovely thing. If you bought it and did nothing other than leaf through it on the sofa, it'd still be worth the money for the interesting and information-packed descriptions of the riding, and the high-quality photography. You should go out and do the rides too, though. There's some fantastic riding in the West. We should know. Okay, we're biased.

Read our review of Lost Lanes West

Best business study: To Make Riders Faster by Anna Dopico — ~£40.00

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It is hard to believe that the Cervélo brand is barely more than 20 years old, such is the impact that it has already made at the highest levels of cycling. In To Make Riders Faster, Anna Dopico covers the history of Cervélo as an independent business, from its creation though to eventual sale – and the highs and lows along the way. It is essential reading for fans of the brand – but will also appeal to anyone who wants to know a bit more about how the cycle industry works.

This book covers phase one of the Cervélo story, in which Phil White and Gerard Vroomen 'establish themselves as innovators in the cycling industry in less than a decade'. They were two university students who 'lived like paupers, built a world-renowned brand from nothing, and later had the fight of their lives to keep their company, Cervélo, from ruin'.

Read our review of To Make Riders Faster

Best British Cycling primer: The Medal Factory: British Cycling and the Cost of Gold by Kenny Pryde — £8.99

The Medal Factory

The Medal Factory takes its name from the home of British Cycling, the Manchester Velodrome, which is viewed as a production line of medal-winning talent. This success has not been easy, and there is a price to be paid: for the first time the 'cost of gold' is painstakingly revealed, and it can make for uncomfortable – but compelling – reading.

For most of this century there have been frequent opportunities for the media to report on the sporting success of British Cycling (BC), and latterly its close relative Team Sky; more recently there has been increasing reason to comment on the organisation itself, as it became embroiled in one controversy after another. At times it left the impression that when BC continued to win, it might have been despite itself.

Stories of the world-class performances in cycling are uplifting and plentiful, but are well covered elsewhere and receive little attention in this book: the focus in The Medal Factory is not on the athletes' results, but on everything that goes on behind the scenes – including those headline-making issues. There's plenty to choose from, with TUEs, salbutamol, parliamentary select committees, court cases, and tribunals merely being the highest profile of them.

Read our review of The Medal Factory

Best Performance aid: Cycling Science by Stephen Cheung and Mikel Zabala — £18.19


There are many aspects to successful cycling, and a lot of science surrounding it. You will find such information scattered across many books, with occasional updates on the latest findings in magazine article - but every now and then it is helpful to bring everything together to create one definitive reference work. I think that Cycling Science has done that, making it the most comprehensive source of current scientific thought available to cyclists today.

The book's editors are Cheung and Zabala: they also wrote some of the chapters, and then brought in acknowledged experts in their respective fields to write about various other topics. Names such as Hunter Allen, Todd Carver, and Stacy Sims were known to me through their own books, or an involvement in the industry; the other 40 or so contributors sound equally well qualified, making for a stellar cast.

Every chapter concludes with practical recommendations of how you can apply the scientific findings to your own cycling – whether you understood all of that science or not. You may not have heard of 'proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation' stretching beforehand, but you'll still able to look at the recommendations on stretching to see if it can improve on your usual routine.

While the book should have obvious appeal to students of the subject, or to coaches trying to keep their knowledge up to date, it is these sections on 'applying the science' that will give the book its appeal to 'normal cyclists' – or at least those willing to put some effort into finding ways to improve their performance.

Read our review of Cycling Science

Best overall cycling book: there isn't one


There's a gaping hole in the cycling book scene right now, in the shape of an up-to-date successor to the original Richard's Bicycle Book. There's currently nothing out there that covers cycling in all its aspects from velodrome to mountainside, from BMX to the Tour de France and from riding to work to riding round the world.

Instead, cycling publishing is atomised. That leads to some excellent, deep books on cycling's many niches, but there's nothing that can help a beginner to understand the sheer breadth of cycling and get a grip on basic maintenance while also arming experienced riders with the knowledge and inspiration to keep on in the face of the English-speaking world's antipathy to cycling. Maybe we should write it.

26 more excellent cycling books

Endless Perfect Circles: Lessons from the little-known world of ultradistance cycling, by Ian Walker — £9.99

2020 Endless perfect Circles Lessons from the little-known world of ultradistance cycling by Ian Walker

Endless Perfect Circles is a jaw-dropping account of Ian Walker's journey – mentally and physically – from sedentary to world record ultra-distance athlete.

In his mid-30s, Ian Walker was, by his own confession, 'getting pretty fleshy and unhealthy'. Dabbling in the odd walking tour, though, led to him joining the Long Distance Walkers' Association, and within a few months he was battling his way through a 100-mile walk. From there it was long-distance running, then silly-long-distance running, until one fateful day he learned about the Transcontinental Cycle Race. Finishing the fifth edition, 4,000km from Belgium to Greece in 27th place from 250 starters led to winning the North Cape 4000 and then smashing the record for the fastest crossing of Europe.

Endless Perfect Circles is Ian's account of how (and why) he did all this, and Ian's opportunity to share what he learned along the way. There are practical tips aplenty, but even more about the mental side of the game, which is not surprising given Dr Walker's day job as a research psychologist (all you need to do is 'keep moving', apparently).

Read our review of Endless Perfect Circles, by Ian Walker

Lotus 110: The Story of a Bike, by Paul Greasley — £30

2020 The Story of a Bike

Most people think they know the story of the 'Lotus bike'. A British sports car firm crashes the staid sport of cycling, creates an aerodynamic superbike, and grabs gold at the Olympics. Oh yes, and Chris Boardman was the 'pilot'. That narrative has persisted ever since the tabloids ran with with it back in 1992.

People who know a bit more might say the Lotus was conceived by maverick inventor Mike Burrows, Chris Boardman was in fact the best time triallist and pursuiter of his generation, and Lotus stole both the design and the glory.

In this book, Paul Greasley goes beneath the smooth surface of the Lotus 108 and its roadgoing successor, the Lotus 110, in an attempt to weave together a story with more threads than the pre-preg carbon-fibre in these revolutionary frames. Lotus's involvement in cycling lasted just five years, ending in 1996 with Boardman setting an ultimate hour record that still stands. After that the distributor went bust and the bike was banned by the UCI.

This book is also an appreciation of an iconic bike. Greasley is the historian of the Lotus 110 owners' club – just 263 bikes were made – and a leading authority, though he modestly claims that what he knows 'doesn't amount to very much.'

Read our review of Lotus 110: The Story of a Bike, by Paul Greasley

Colombia Es Pasion! by Matt Rendell — £10.82

2020 Colombia Es Pasion by Matt Rendell

Colombia has been 'punching above its weight' in professional cycling recently, with the zenith coming when Egan Bernal won the Tour de France last year. What better time for a renowned expert on Colombian cycling, Matt Rendell, to write Colombia Es Pasión! and help us understand what's going on?

As you might expect, Rendell gives a brief biography on all of the current crop of Colombian professionals, including a few that might not be familiar to you; he also provides reports of the major races where those Colombians have already made their mark – from the Colombian perspective, of course.

However, there is a lot more to the book than that, with Rendell also wanting to make sure that we appreciate what it means to be a Colombian cyclist by covering such matters as the state of the economy, the relevance of politics, the influence of the military, and the social history of the country; it is very apparent that Colombian cyclists are a product of all those things.

Read our review of Colombia Es Pasion! by Matt Rendell

Where There’s A Will by Emily Chappell — £11.79


In Where There's a Will, her second book, Emily Chappell unearths her ultra-distance skills in a journey that takes us beyond the scenery or practicalities of cycling across a continent, to the depths of human will, spirit and connection.

Because of its great length, self-supporting spirit and non-stop clock, the Transcontinental Race has a special way of firing up the imagination – as evidenced by its devoted and passionate 'dot watching' community. In Where There's a Will, Chappell – London courier turned champion ultra-cyclist – takes on the third edition of the annual road race across Europe, then goes back for more.

Devotion to the saddle to the extent of Chappell's is rare, and comes with a special sort of personality. The sort that is filled with horror – to paraphrase Chappell – at the idea of not racing 4,000km across a continent fuelled only by convenience store fodder and micro-naps. Despite this, in Where There's a Will, we quickly find that Chappell is refreshingly relatable. Not necessarily through her actions (she opens the book at the end of a night-long solo ride, after all) but through her soul-baring honesty.

Read our review of the Where There’s A Will by Emily Chappell

The Greatest – The Times and Life of Beryl Burton by William Fotheringham — £19.99

The Greatest – The Times and Life of Beryl Burton by William Fotheringham

When this biography of Beryl Burton was announced, we wondered why it had not been done before: Burton achieved a level of dominance that is hard to comprehend today, and it was worth bringing it to the attention of a modern audience. Fortunately, William Fotheringham has managed to do justice to Burton's impressive career in The Greatest, which tells her story even better than her autobiography did.

As Fiona Kolbinger won this year's ultra-endurance Transcontinental Race, I am sure I was not the only one to be reminded of a similarly impressive achievement by the late Beryl Burton: 'BB' is probably best remembered for winning a 12-hour time trial outright in 1967, including catching and passing the man who was busy setting the men's record. It only took two years for that men's record to be broken, but 50 for the women's.

Not surprisingly, Fotheringham gives that achievement pride of place in his book, but there were a handful of other events where Burton won outright (albeit without a national record), so the 12-hour result was no fluke.

Read our review of the The Greatest – The Times and Life of Beryl Burton by William Fotheringham

Back in the Frame by Jools Walker — £8.59

Back in the Frame

Who knew that a Pashley Princess and a word processor could be such a killer combination? Part memoir, part guide, Back in the Frame is a thought-provoking and down-to-earth book to inspire not only the would-be-cyclist, but any reader who has felt the fear about anything and not yet done it anyway.

In her debut book, award-winning blogger Jools Walker (aka Lady Vélo) takes us back to her green trike days and the origins of her relationship with cycling, along with the barriers that contributed to her stepping away from the saddle – including getting the message that it's a boy's game, to being on the receiving end of creepy cat calls.

But when she combines her first word processor with her first bike as an adult, Walker finds the strength to face her fears and get back in the frame. At first, her gaze is firmly fixed on the chic, city side of cycling rather than road and Lycra – in her blog from 2010 she muses 'Lycra outfits (no thanks)' – but in dedicating herself to pedalling and writing about it, an unexpected journey begins to unfold.

Read our review of the Back in the Frame by Jools Walker

Around the World in 80 Days by Mark Beaumont — £8.19

Around the World in 80 Days by Mark Beaumont

We frequently report on Mark Beaumont's cycling exploits on this website, including the start and finish of his recent round-the-world record attempt. As expected, there is now a book about it, and Around the World in 80 Days will leave you in awe at the enormity of the challenge that he set himself – and the extent of his preparation.

Read our review of Around the World in 80 Days

The Comeback, Greg LeMond, by Daniel de Visé — £13.17


Greg LeMond remains the only American rider to have officially won the Tour de France. These days the idea that an American rider could triumph again is hardly remarkable, but The Comeback makes clear that if it was an unparalleled achievement when LeMond first realised it, his second success was even more unlikely. As if the highs and lows of his sporting career were not enough, The Comeback also shows how LeMond had to endure similar fluctuations in fortune during his business career, thanks in part to Lance Armstrong.

Read our review of The Comeback

Cartes Du Tour by Paul Fournel — £40


There are a lot of books about the Tour de France out there already, and every year more appear. Many of them cover the same ground, but occasionally you come across a different proposition that has been well executed: Cartes du Tour is one such success, and it presents an alternative perspective of le Tour.

We are all familiar with the overall route map of the event that the organisers of le Tour produce, which much of the media faithfully reproduce; in fact, such is the control over 'le Brand' that one rarely sees anything other than the official (and rather formulaic) Tour map these days. A collection of those going back over the years is naturally included in Cartes du Tour, but you soon realise that they are not the main attraction.

Read our review of Cartes Du Tour

Sunday in Hell, by William Fotheringham — £12.69

Sunday in Hell - Behind the Lens of the Greatest Cycling Film of All Time by William Fotheringham.jpg

William Fotheringham's Sunday in Hell tells the story behind the making of the famous film of the 1976 edition of the Paris-Roubaix classic of the same name. Along the way he paints fascinating portraits of the professional racing scene of the era and some of the biggest names in cycling, with the bonus of an education in Danish avant-garde film-making to boot.

Fotheringham has made an excellent job of tracking down and interviewing the surviving main players, including cyclists Ole Ritter, Francesco Moser, Freddy Maertins and Roger de Vlaeminck. Director Jørgen Leth himself makes a substantial contribution to the book.

In the end, it'll make you want to watch the film again, which has to be taken as a sign that Mr Fotheringham has done a great job.

Read our review of Sunday in Hell

This Road I Ride, by Juliana Buhring – £9.99

Juliana Buhring This Road I Ride

Juliana Buhring might just be the most remarkable woman cyclist on the planet. Raised in the Children of God religious cult, she escaped that life as a young adult and ended up in Kampala, Uganda doing what she terms "quasi-missionary" work distributing food and medical supplies to orphanages and schools by day and performing as a go-go dancer by night to pay the bills. After her soulmate was killed in a crocodile attack, she again pulled herself out of the darkness, this time by deciding she'd be the fastest woman to circumnavigate the world by bike.

This book is the story of a remarkable 152-day ride that, despite her lack of cycling experience, shot Buhring into the upper echelon of ultra-distance cycling where she continues to amaze and inspire.

The Cycling Jersey - Craftsmanship, Speed and Style, by Oliver Knight — £34.99*

The Cycling Jersey.jpg

The Cycling Jersey is the result of one man's passion for a piece of kit that defines cyclists the world over. Naturally the book has wonderful pictures of cycling jerseys (and lots of them), all presented in large, glossy, and colourful splendour. The book wants to be about more than just the actual jersey, though, and has several related articles and interviews. It may be a niche subject, but there is enough here to convince even the most committed Philistine about the beauty of jerseys and the 'craftsmanship, speed and style' that they represent.

*Currently sold out; link goes to AbeBooks who may have second-hand copies.

Read our review of The Cycling Jersey - Craftsmanship, Speed and Style

Tom Simpson: Bird On The Wire, by Andy McGrath — £36

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Andy McGrath's Tom Simpson: Bird On The Wire is a beautifully written and designed book that brings a new dimension to a much covered cyclist thanks to some fantastic imagery and insightful writing.

Tom Simpson was one of the most widely respected cyclists in the professional peloton in the early 1960s and became the darling of British racing, arguably becoming the cyclist who paved the way for the likes of Chris Boardman, Bradley Wiggins, and Mark Cavendish to become world beaters. Fifty years after his famous death there has been a huge amount of commemoration, including this book.

Read our review of Tom Simpson: Bird On The Wire

Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling, by Carlton Reid — £22.99

Bike Boom The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling by Carlton Reid.jpg

'Bikes are booming!'

'Bikes are not booming!'

Both statements are true: it just depends on what you are measuring and over what period. The message from Bike Boom, by Carlton Reid, is that despite appearances, bike usage is not as good as it has been, and is certainly not as good as many of us would like it to be, so what can be learnt from history to help create the conditions that might lead to a genuine bike boom?

Some of you will have been involved in a mini-boom in the bike market, such as when mountain bikes first appeared, or more recently the MAMIL-led growth in road bikes – but in many countries, says Reid, 'there is no bike boom right now, nor has there been one in the United Kingdom or the United States since the early 1970s'.

Read our review of Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling

The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Along the Iron Curtain Trail, by Tim Moore — £6.99

The Cyclist who went out in the cold.jpg

In his latest tale of throwing himself in the deep end on an epic cycling journey, Tim Moore brings his much-loved wry humour to a trek along the Iron Curtain on a £50 shopping bike. The one-liners and the horror stories come thick and fast.

The Cycling Anthology Volumes 1-6, edited, by Ellis Bacon and Lionel Birnie — from £4.80 ea

The Cycling Anthology Volume 6.jpg

If you're even casually interested in cyclesport, all six editions of this series of collections from the world's best cycling writers deserve a place on your bookshelf. As we said of volume one:

"The Cycling Anthology is professional pro cycling journalism for grownups. There are no lazy clichés, egotistical pretences to any inner circles; no soundbites or gossip presented as fact for the cheap thrill of basking in all the retweets. 14 of the world's best writers on cycling and David Millar (who apparently knows a fair bit about cycling...) have offered up 15 gems."

That standard continues right through the series to volume six, in which editors Ellis Bacon and Lionel Birnie maintain their record of contributing to every volume so far. Three writers appear for the first time including Felix Lowe who writes the Blazin' Saddles blogs for Eurosport, and recently won 'Blogger of the year' at the Cycling Media Awards. Another new entry is Robert Millar, who is becoming as well known for his writing as his cycling. Finally there is a LeMond, but not the one that you might expect: Kathy LeMond 'writes about what it was like to support her husband during some of his bleakest days'.

Read our review of The Cycling Anthology Volume one
Read our review of The Cycling Anthology Volume two
Read our review of The Cycling Anthology Volume three
Read our review of The Cycling Anthology Volume five
Read our review of The Cycling Anthology Volume six

Triumphs and Turbulence: My Autobiography, by Chris Boardman — £21.90


Chris Boardman has been making headlines for over 30 years, and in that time he has been the subject of numerous articles and interviews. As a result, some of what you read in Triumphs & Turbulence may be familiar – but here you get the full story, told in typical Boardman style with his usual dry humour.

Read our review of Triumphs and Turbulence: My Autobiography, by Chris Boardman

Mountains: Epic Cycling Climbs by Michael Blann — £35.00

Mountains Epic Cycling Climbs Courtesy Thames and Hudson.jpg

'Coffee table book' can have negative overtones, but Michael Blann reclaims it with this 'luxury' (his own word) coffee table collection. To qualify, a book usually needs to include lots of large high quality pictures, and in that respect Mountains delivers. Some coffee table books give the genre a bad name by offering little else, with no reading material of any substance – and that is where Mountains sets itself apart, with several well-known professional cyclists contributing short essays to the book.

Read our review of Mountains: Epic Cycling Climbs, by Michael Blann

Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World's Fastest Cyclists by Michael Hutchinson — £8.28


Michael 'Dr Hutch' Hutchinson has been one of Britain's most successful time trial riders for the last several years. He's also an amusing, intelligent and analytical writer and in 'Faster' he addresses his own obsession with speed on the bike, examining the ways a rider can improve, and demolishing myths. As our reviewer Dan Kenyon said: "Hutchinson deals with realities not beliefs. It's a list of the incredible diversity of variables that may or may not affect performance and a discussion of how difficult it is to say that what works for one athlete will work for another."

Read our review of Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World's Fastest Cyclists, by Michael Hutchinson

The Hour, by Michael Hutchinson — £7.59

The Hour.jpg

With all the recent high-tech attacks on the Hour Record, this account of Dr Hutch's old-fashioned attempt on the record is an insight into how much things have changed since the mid-2000s, as well as being laugh-out-loud funny.

Spoiler alert: he didn't break the record, run then under the UCI's 'athlete's hour' rules which hobbled riders with 1960s technology, but this book pulls literary and comic success from the jaws of sporting failure.

Rough Ride, by Paul Kimmage — £7.71

Rough Ride

Before he became a thorn in the side of cycling's governing body and egregious cheats, Paul Kimmage was a domestique for the RMO and Fagor teams in Europe, eventually quitting in disgust at his inability to compete against riders who used performance-enhancing drugs.

Published in 1990, Rough Ride mostly deals with Kimmage's struggle to adapt to the pace of life as a European pro, but it's the sections on doping that caught widespread attention.

Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro, by Phil Gaimon — £12.99

Phil Gaimon.jpg

We tried to get fitness expert Dave Smith to choose a book on training and cycling fitness, but there aren't any he felt he could wholeheartedly recommend.

Until Dave gets round to writing The Big Book Of Going Faster On A Bike, he says: "Anyone who wants to race should read Phil Gaimon 'How to be a pro cyclist on a day'. If I had to choose one, that would be it."

Gaimon became a pro rider almost by accident, discovering he had talent after starting riding just to get around, and eventually ending up with a berth at Garmin-Sharp. His story is told with self-deprecating wit, warmth and blunt honesty.

City Cycling, by Richard Ballantine — £16.49 (used from £3.47)

City Cycling

No selection of cycling books would be complete without some incarnation of Richard Ballantine's seminal Bicycle Book. This 2009 guide to urban survival was the spiritual successor to Ballantine's original paperback, which morphed into various coffee table books in the 1990s.

Ballantine tackles cycling from the vantage point of city riding and breaks the book into five different sections. Each flows effortlessly into each other, and doesn’t feel tired or repetitive despite having a very familiar format thanks to his conversational, authoritative and engaging delivery.

Read our review of City Cycling, by Richard Ballantine

Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France by Richard Moore — £9.99


The 1986 Tour de France was supposed to see five-time winner Bernard Hinault hand over the leadership of his La Vie Claire team to rising star Greg LeMond, and to help LeMond win his first Tour. It was to be payback for LeMond's loyal support the previous year.

But instead of supporting LeMond, Hinault went on the attack, claiming he was attempting to wear down LeMond's rivals, but looking a lot like he was going for his sixth Tour victory. What was really going on?

It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, by Robert Penn — £7.20


If the shiny bits we all ogle, weigh and covet are affectionately termed the generic bike porn, this book is the equivalent of Delta of Venus: erotica for the cycling fan. It's an account of Penn's search for the perfect bits for his perfect bike, but the joy of the way he has written this is that it's not just techie stuff for technoweenies.

Penn's paean to steel and the dying breed of custom frame builders is sung to a Brian Rourke frame. Reynolds and Brooks get their due, so too DT and Royce. A trip to Italy takes in those entertaining chaps at Cinelli as well as the somewhat more straightlaced guys at Campagnolo, and he even manages a quick digression down Repack way en route to picking up some extremely recherché wheels from Gravy in Fairfax, California. Well, why not? If opportunity knocks, let it in.

It's all approachably written, the right mix of enough info without being overpowering, and it zips along happily like a comfortable steel-framed bike powered by the right pair of legs.

Read our review of It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, by Robert Penn

Tour de France: The Official 100th Race Anniversary Edition, by Serge Laget et al — from around £4.00

Tour de France 100th.jpg

Every cycling library should have a history of the Tour de France, and this 352-page slab that covers the race's first 100 editions is the definitive official record. Authored by Tour historian Serge Laget among others, it covers the races from the Tour's early years as a tool in a newspaper circulation battle, through the heroic era of the 1950s to the helicopter-televised modern Tour of triumphs and scandals.

Ride The Revolution – The Inside Stories From Women In Cycling edited, by Suze Clemitson — from about £6

Ride the Revolution

This is a book written entirely by women, mostly about women, but certainly not just for women: the revolution in the title refers to the increasing participation of women in so many aspects of the sport, and this book celebrates that involvement.

Read our review of Ride The Revolution – The Inside Stories From Women In Cycling edited, by Suze Clemitson

Over to you

Is there an essential book we've missed? Let us know in the comments.

Explore the complete archive of reviews of books on

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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

Add new comment


jaysa | 5 years ago

Moods of future joys by Alastair Humphreys - riding around the world (2 vols)

epic, inspirational and wonderful. Read the reviews on amazon.

Fishpastesarnie | 5 years ago

I tend to listen to audiobooks rather than read so the narrator can sometimes make a difference.

However I found 'The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold' to be a bit dull. I did enjoy Chris Boardmans book and was surprised at how unprofessional cycling came across. Particularly pre 21st century.

I also found Ned's 'On The Road Bike' and both of Sean Conway's books to be interesting and enjoyable too.

brooksby | 5 years ago

You could probably add Grant Peterson's 'Just Ride' to this list, too.

The first bike book I bought, after starting to ride as an adult, was Ballantine's 'City Cycling'.  Great read, and I do still go back to it.

I've read a few different 'round the world' type cycling travel memoirs, and I find that they tend to blend together and become a bit samey.  I did quite enjoy Julian Sayarer's 'Life Cycles', mind, which threw a bit more politics into the mix.

Some of the 'round Britain' memoirs manage to be a bit different/quirky - Mike Carter 'One man and his bike' and Anna Hughes 'Eat, sleep, cycle', for example.

ColT | 5 years ago

Almost finished Fallen Angel, by Fotheringham (W), and recently re-read In Search of Robert Millar, by Moore.

Both very interesting and insightful, I'd say.

Next up, Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape, by Howard. Did read it before and remember thinking it was  disappointing, but cannot recall why, so I'll give it a second chance.

little miss bik... | 5 years ago

A new book on the scene that I really loved is  You & a Bike & a Road by Eleanor Davis. This illustrator drew her way through the southern USA as she traveled by bicycle. Fantastic, especially for graphic lit fans. 

I listed a few more books that that motivated me to bike tour on my website. 

ktache | 4 years ago
1 like

I enjoyed It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels, by Robert Penn, and the bbc4 doc off the back of it made for good watching, but a book I could not put down was David Walsh's Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong.

Ned Boulting's How I Won the Yellow Jumper: Dispatches from the Tour de France was entertaining.

All 3 from my local library.  I love libraries.

In my to read pile, I have The Secret Cyclist (by an anonomous cyclist) and Ned Boulting's Heart of Dart-Ness (not cycling, but I do like Ned's style (and darts)), both brand new, and am considering David Millar's Racing Through the Dark.  Whatever is on the shelf.

caw35ride | 4 years ago

Riding in the Zone Rouge, by Tom Isitt. Part travelogue, part history lesson, part story of the daftest race ever held. A great read.


caw35ride | 4 years ago
1 like

Riding in the Zone Rouge, by Tom Isitt. Part travelogue, part history lesson, part story of the daftest race ever held. A great read.


kil0ran | 4 years ago
1 like

Tom Simpson has to be one of the most covered cyclists in history, but I'm really enjoying Chris Sidwells' very personal account -

It goes beyond the bike and the man to provide lots of family history and context which brings him to life, and sets the tragedy of his death in sharp focus. 

Dr Ofsereb | 4 years ago

There's also a good interview on Youtube of Tyler Hamilton at Oxford University Students Union where he talks about the book and then takes questions. Sorry, slightly off topic but a good link into the book itself.

bradym | 4 years ago

I would like to recommend The Escape Artist by Matt Seaton. Not only it is a very evocative book but it shows how inner strength can overcome tragedy. 

taberesc | 4 years ago

I'm not an avid reader but a couple of recommendations from me which I really enjoyed:

  • Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle; Dervla Murphy (1965)
  • We Were Young and Carefree: The Autobiography of Laurent Fignon (2009)
  • It's All About The Bike: The Pursuit Of Happiness On Two Wheels; Robert Penn (2011)


Ned | 4 years ago

"Besoin de Velo" by Paul  Fournel is easily one of the most beautiful books ever written about cycling. The available translation "Need for the Bike" is unfortunately not as skillful as he book deserves, but if you can't read it in the original French the English version is still a wonderful evocation of the beauty and weirdness of riding a bike.

NickJP | 4 years ago

My recommendations would be:

The Great Bike Race, by Geoffrey Nicholson, about the 1976 Tour de France. Recently reprinted.

Sting in the Tail, by Peter Duker, about his ride around the world in the early 1970s. Out of print, but 2nd had copies can be had.

WolfieSmith | 4 years ago

Maglia Rosa by Herbie Sykes is superb. 

French Revolutions by Tim Moore is still his best. 

The Bobet book? Yep. Such a good read. 

pprowse | 4 years ago

My recommendation would be 'The Race Against the Stasi' by Herbie Sykes. I always enjoyed his Retro articles in ProCycling and consider him to be one of the very best writers of the sport. It is more of an important history book covering a time not that long ago which just happens to be about a cyclist. I found it a bit difficult to get into at first because of the way in which it is structured but gradually I was hooked and have since re-read it many times. If I had to keep one cycling book out of my large collection this would be it.

Velophaart_95 | 3 years ago

A large selection, but all a bit too road biased it must be said....

peted76 | 3 years ago

You 'must' add "Bib Shorts and other short cycling stories" by Kevin Haylett.. it's a charming, funny, very British, book of short stories and anecdotes all centered around a club in the north of England. A joyous read.

rjfrussell | 3 years ago
1 like

Probably bad form to comment on an article that you commented on previously, but just realised that nobody has suggested Three Men on the Bummel.

Alf0nse | 3 years ago

You always leave out Dog in a Hat by Joe Parkin. Which is pretty much the best cycling book

pockstone | 3 years ago

Possibly mentioned in the historical comments below, but "The Beast, The Emperor and The Milkman" by Harry Pearson is recommended.

For a book about what Flemish potato farmers get up to during wet weekends in March, it's very entertaining.

Plus one for Lost Lanes North also, a terrific book with some great ride suggestions.

mdavidford | 3 years ago

The best ever cycling book is missing from this list:

PpPete | 3 years ago

The World of Cycling According to G    (by.... none other than .... G) definitely deserves a place

bertinol | 3 years ago
1 like

You forgot one:

Full Tilt: Ireland to India  by Dervla Murphy 


Tass Whitby | 3 years ago

I've just read Ishbel Holmes' Me, My Bike And A Street Dog Called Lucy and it's brilliant. Funny, sad, inspiring – can't recommend it highly enough. 

Shades | 3 years ago
1 like

In Pursuit of Stardom: Les Nomades Du Velo Anglais by Tony Hewson - been recommended on before and also by the man in Mr Bs bookshop in Bath (cycling nut).  Pro cycling on the continent in the 50s.

Probably The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton which won the William Hill award; how Lance pulled it off.

pockstone | 5 years ago

Higher Calling. Max Leonard. Yellow Jersey Press.

Great book about the mountains.

risoto | 5 years ago

Am I the only one who struggled reading The Rider? didn't really enjoy the writing style and I hated the strange names of the most riders.

My favorite is Juliana Buhrings book. I saw it by chance on Amazon just before it was published. I was intrigued that it was a cycling book by and about a woman! I researched her and her story and have been absolutely captivated ever since. What a story and what a woman! Add do that her fantastic writing style. Highly recommeded!

fennesz replied to risoto | 5 years ago
risoto wrote:

Am I the only one who struggled reading The Rider? didn't really enjoy the writing style and I hated the strange names of the most riders.


I suspect that's more down to the translation.  I agree, it's a hard read.

Marin92 | 5 years ago

This seems like a pretty good selection. However my favourite cycling book is ETAPE, some excellent stories from the TdF over many years.

By the way, when is someone going to write the biography of Mike Hall, or is it still too soon?


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