If, like me, you enjoy the little, incidental tales as well as the big stories from the long history of racing bicycles, you should find 12 months' worth of entertainment in A Year in the Saddle.
When I saw the title I thought I was in for one of those "off round the world, what I learned about myself" cycle touring journals, but it's nothing of the sort. Instead, Giles Belbin has trawled through the archives for people, events and the stories around them, then retold them in a direct and pithy diary entry for each day of the year.
Sad to admit, as soon as I saw the format I knew where this book was going... It's perfect for the "smallest room" and makes sure you add daily to your knowledge of cycling esoterica.
"Did you know that this was the day, in 1974, that the Oude Kwaremont was introduced into the Tour of Flanders, dear?" you will say as you descend the stairs for breakfast.
Admittedly, some of the stories are whiskery old favourites: Eugene Christophe snaps his fork on the Tourmalet (1913); Tom Simpson's death on Ventoux (1967), for example. But for every tale of Merckx there were plenty of people I had never really heard of and should have: Ferdi Kübler, for example, or André Darrigade.
The spring and summer months are packed with tales from the Classics and the Grand Tours. Out of season, there's more reversion to anniversaries of riders' births (or deaths), with the opportunity for a potted history of their careers. It's interesting, though, to find out what was happening at the Paris-Roubaix in 1910 in the same week this year's event was being staged.
There's more to the book than road racing, with mountain biking and even BMX making the odd appearance, but if there's anything that doesn't interest you, at least it'll be short and you're on to something else the next day.
Ideal lavatory literature for the 'regular' rider
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road.cc test report
Make and model: A Year in the Saddle by Giles Belbin
Size tested: 352 pages
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?
Subtitled "365 Stories from the World of Cycle Sport"
From the blurb:
"Cycling writer Giles Belbin brings together the most important, memorable and intriguing moments of this wide and varied history. With striking and beautiful illustrations by artist Daniel Seex, each inspired by the stories told, A Year in the Saddle is a sporting treasure trove of human virtue, vice and cycling trivia."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Format: Hardback, 352 Pages
Publisher: Aurum Press
A handsome hardback production.
£20 for a year's reading seems good to me!
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A variety of stories from a range of cycling disciplines over the whole history of cycling sport.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Well-told stories including plenty that were new to me.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not leap-year friendly!
An index would be nice.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
An enjoyable read, well researched and told, packed with stories from cycling's recent and distant past.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking