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
The Srampagmano Tales by Scarlett Parker
8 10

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.

Rate the product for quality of construction:

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.

Rate the product for value:

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Overall rating: 8/10

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,



captain_slog [455 posts] 5 years ago

Flahute: that's a new one to me. I hope it doesn't become vitiated through overuse.

Mind you, it perfectly describes me on my snowy commute last Friday.

notfastenough [3731 posts] 5 years ago

Snow falling, the weather turned.
With longing looks, and weekend looming,
To get the miles in, our road club yearned

So shouted Mark, beg, borrow or steal!
A mountain bike, with big fat wheels
So off we went, for 30-odd mile
No thoughts of thin tyres for a while

Through mud, on tracks, but no blood loss
This felt like Cyclo-cross!
Of a sudden then we stopped
Ralph said, a bollock we've dropped!
A human chain to clear the railing
Alex hoisted the bikes, his face paling

But old habits die hard
The velo need for speed,
Saw us driving yard for yard
By 12 o'clock we'd done our bit
Ah! A warming brew, for a caffeine hit