Rapha may not be the first brand that you would associate with less-experienced riders, but with this series of handbooks that is exactly who it's trying to help become better cyclists. Over four titles, the books draw upon the collective wisdom of many experts to help the reader become more proficient, and supplement that with some delightful illustrations.
Back in 2018, Rapha produced the first in the series. Called Getting Started In Road Cycling, it was "designed to guide you through the beginning of your journey as a cyclist". As with the rest of the series, the aim was to provide "real-world advice from a variety of experienced cyclists", and in this case author Guy Andrews' writing was accompanied by Laura Quick's illustrations. It's the only one of the series priced at £7; the other three are £12.
Later that year, Longer Rides appeared, deviating slightly by being both written and illustrated by the same person, in this case our very own VecchioJo – Jo Burt. You won't find many people better qualified for the role, combining as he does proven abilities in writing, riding, and of course illustrating.
Well-known journalist Guy Kesteven was next up, with his title, The Self Sufficient Cyclist, being illustrated by Aikaterini Paraskevopoulou, and described as "a frenetic free for all of insider knowledge to short circuit every potential cycling problem".
The recently retired cyclo-cross rider Helen Wyman was behind the fourth book in the series, Exploring Off-Road, which was again illustrated by Laura Quick. In it, Wyman hopes to provide "ideas on how to master enough skills to really enjoy your off-road riding and enough inspiration to give something different a go".
No doubt there are many more topics that could be covered, but with nothing more planned at present it seemed like an opportune time to look at the series. We have these four beautifully presented little guides from acknowledged experts in their respective fields, complemented by quirky illustrations.
There is a lot of good information in these books, and it certainly has the potential to fast-track the proficiency of any cyclist keen to learn more; however, thinking back to some of the books that I read in my formative years, I know I didn't always fully appreciate the significance of any advice at the time, to my own detriment. In my case that guide was Richard's Bicycle Book, and in fact I felt that the spirit of Richard's was present in what Rapha has produced, especially in the first one, which is most welcome.
Ironically, an experienced cyclist might be better placed to understand why a point is being made, but only because they have already learnt about it the hard way. As the saying goes, 'if only we knew then what we know now'.
Whatever your level of skill or knowledge, you will find something of interest in these books. I really enjoyed the contributions from a host of well-known names – a little tip or nugget of information from the likes of Gary Fisher, Emily Chappell, Isla Rowntree, Andy Hampsten, and dozens more.
I felt that each book lived up to its aim to "help cyclists find their way into cycling", being "informative, inclusive and specifically written to demystify the world of cycling". There are other books out there that go into a lot more detail about some aspects, but not doing is one of the advantages of these handbooks: they provide enough information to help cyclists without being intimidating. As you build knowledge and ability and want to know more, you might move on to more specialist books – such as those on mechanics, nutrition or training, for example.
And if you don't feel you would benefit from the books yourself, you might well know of another who might: you should be aware that a box-set is on the way next year, in case you are in need of inspiration for a present.
Educational and entertaining guides for cyclists, with Rapha's production values
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Handbooks 01-04
Size tested: 144 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?
From Rapha Editions:
A series of books designed to help cyclists find their way into cycling. Informative, inclusive, and specifically written to demystify the world of cycling. Rapha Handbooks are individually illustrated to help reinforce and add some fun to the real-world advice from many respected and experienced contributors, writers and cyclists.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Rapha Handbooks 01 - 04
Publisher: Rapha Editions
The extensive contributions from well-known names.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The lack of guidance on sources of additional information – eg a bibliography.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, selectively.
Use this box to explain your overall score
A very good attempt to provide the essential information a cyclist needs to be competent enough to enjoy his or her cycling to the full.
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