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Cycling Shorts and Cycle Clips promises a mix of 'short stories, book reviews, movie reviews, monologues, opinion and reportage from the wonderful world of cycling', and that is exactly what it delivers. As is often the case when such variety is on offer, some parts appeal more than others, but overall there were more hits than misses.
Julian Hutchings comes across as being typical of the 'old codgers' who are the backbone of cycle clubs across the country (and I mean that as a compliment). In his case it's the Old Portilians, and many of the topics covered will be familiar to club cyclists. If you feel that sportives are effectively 'toll roads for cyclists', for example, then you will find a kindred spirit here.
This revised and expanded second edition contains 55 chapters, some barely exceeding a page, so it is an easy book to read in short self-contained sessions. However, the index at the front doesn't reveal page numbers, which seems like an odd omission – so if you want to go straight to a topic of immediate interest you have to hunt around a bit.
I discovered this because I wanted to read 'The Tandem Riders' first, one of many monologues that satirise some of the standard characters that frequent most cycling clubs. Others include those riding with Rapha kit or on a Brompton, as well as the inevitable Turbo geeks.
There are several book reviews in the mix, often of the same books that we have reviewed on this website: it is reassuring to see that on those occasions we share broadly similar opinions! Most of the books covered are from the last few years and might still be topical enough to influence a purchasing decision, such as The Racer by David Millar, or Higher Calling by Max Leonard.
It is a similar story for movie reviews, except perhaps for the unexpected inclusion of one for Breaking Away from 1979, still one of the classic cycle-themed films, but I doubt there is anyone still waiting for a review of it. So just look upon it as an informative and entertaining piece 'about the joy that cycling, and the love of cycling, brings'.
A chapter called 'Cycling Jargon Buster' perhaps encapsulates my experience of the book into a few pages: I found the definition of 'BOA dials' as a 'shoe closure system used prior to the invention of laces' to be funny and perceptive, but the definition of 'Crank' to be 'the sound a rear derailleur makes when it falls off going up a steep hill' didn't really do anything for me.
Although your experience may differ in detail, I suspect that the principle will remain the same: the book may not please all of the people all of the time, but it should please some of the people some of of the time.
Were you to visit Hutchings' website you would see that he has also published several non-cycling books, as well as a couple more about cycling: first up is Tour de Fiction, which contains another eight short cycling-related stories (albeit slightly longer than those in Cycling Shorts and Cycle Clips), as well as a brief autobiography. While you may not be interested in his memoir, it does have some fun and informative discourses on his choice of pedals and cycle computers which will resonate with many.
You will also find Unreliable Death, which is described as 'a murder-mystery novella set on a reliability ride': that must surely be a unique proposition! While there is a cycling theme, it will undoubtedly have appeal beyond a cycling audience. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it only cost £2.85 – it's been many years since I last saw a new book at that price, but with only 71 pages it is a fair reflection of the page count.
The main reason that Hutchings is able to be so prolific with his publications (apart from being retired) is Amazon, which has made it easier than ever to be a self-publishing author. My previous experience of Amazon print-on-demand books is that they don't necessarily feel like a high-quality product, and that is the case here. Nothing major, but I was reminded of pre-publication 'proofing copies', which (understandably) tend to skimp on the weight of paper and generally forgo glossiness.
Like most self-published authors, Hutchings might benefited from having the might of a 'proper' publisher behind him, much as happened to Andrew Sykes, but at the expense of no longer having complete freedom with your writing.
Cycling Shorts and Cycle Clips is a good example of what can be good and bad with a book of assortments, and also the pros and cons of self-publication. It will resonate with a certain type of cyclist, but probably not all, and I certainly don't have anything quite like it on my bookcase.
A quirky farrago that many cyclists will be pleased to discover
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cycling Shorts and Cycle Clips by Julian Hutchings
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?
From the author:
Looking for some cycling wit, interest, excitement, pathos and tragedy? You've stumbled on an exciting new voice. This collection of 55 short-form pieces includes short stories, monologues, movie reviews, book reviews, reportage and opinion from the wonderful world of cycling and is ideal for reading while travelling by plane, boat or train, on holiday, on the daily commute, with your feet up, in the bath or waiting for the peloton to come past. It includes the short story 'Hot Wings' set in Paris on the final day of the Tour de France and 'Goats and Donkeys' about Alpe d'Huez. It is an ideal gift for the cyclist in your life, even if - especially if - that cyclist is you.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Cycling Shorts and Cycle Clips
Author: Julian Hutchings
Publisher: Self-published on Amazon
Date: 9/11/18 (second edition)
Rate the product for value:
You can buy it though Kindle at £4.95.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The variety – when it offered something unexpected and welcome.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The variety – when it didn't interest or excite me.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, to certain types.
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is an unusual book that has little direct competition; it won't appeal to everybody, but will definitely be welcomed by some – as long as they accept that they will probably enjoy some chapters more than others.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding