Best cycling books 2020 | Recommendations for riders who love to read

Treat the cycling bookworm in your life to a brand-new read this Christmas

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It’s a very specific kind of person to buy for, but there are plenty of cyclists who love to read. And what better subject to read about than cycling?

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If you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas for a cycling bookworm, or if you need to drop some, ahem, hints… we’ve got your covered.

From historical tales of the Tour de France and epic trans-continental adventures, to training and nutrition guides and beautiful coffee table books, there’s bound to be something here for everyone. 

Because the selection is so vast, we’ve broken it down into categories that should help you narrow down your choices to something your giftee is sure to love:

  • Books about pro racing
  • Biographies and autobiographies
  • Adventure planning
  • Inspiring journeys and travelogues
  • Nutrition and training books
  • Books about cycling history
  • Coffee table books

However if you’re short on time, then here are our top picks from the whole list.

Best cycling books 2020

  • The Road Book 2019, Ned Boulton (ed.)
  • Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike, William Fotheringham
  • Epic Bike Rides of the World, Lonely Planet
  • Where There’s A Will: Hope, Grief and Endurance in a Cycle Race Across a Continent, Emily Chappell
  • The Science of the Tour de France: Training secrets of the world’s best cyclists, James Witts
  • Cycling and Cinema, Bruce Bennett
  • The Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive, Mark Hudson

Cycling books about pro racing

Books about pro racing
Let your roadie friend lose themselves in stories of the great races.
Various

If you’re buying for someone who is an avid follower of the racing each year, they’re sure to enjoy one of the many books that celebrate the best of the race calendar.

The Official History of the Tour de France, Serge Laget

A celebration of the world’s most famous endurance event in the calendar, with stories from each major era of the race, more than 300 photographs (some dating way back to the 19th century), copies of souvenir brochures, period newspaper articles, posters, stickers, postcards and much more.

  • RRP £20 / $29.95

The Road Book 2019, Ned Boulting (ed.)

This cycling almanac is something of a bible for roadies. It contains information about every single WorldTour race in the year, along with essays from leading cycling figures, team profiles, and everything else the ultimate cycling fan could want.

  • RRP £50

The Yellow Jersey, Peter Cossins

Arguably the most iconic garment in all of the cycling world, the yellow jersey is now 100 years old. This book is its tribute, featuring interviews with many of its wearers, including Chris Froome, Thomas Voeckler and Antonin Rolland.

  • RRP £25 / $28.53

Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France, Max Leonard

At the other end of the scale is the Lanterne Rouge, the rider placed last in the Tour, and rarely the name that gets remembered. However, there are some brilliant stories to be told, such as the breakaway leader who took a wrong turn and a drug doper slowed down by his own cocktail.

  • RRP £10.99 / $22.15

Giro d’Italia: The Story of the World’s Most Beautiful Bike Race, Colin O’Brien

Italy’s answer to the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, comes with plenty of drama and lively characters. This book tells many stories about suffering, feuds and betrayals, tradition under threat, and the heroism of the riders themselves.

  • RRP £9.99 / $11.45

The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling’s Greatest One-day Races, Peter Cossins

The Monuments are brutal one-day races prized by the pros, and for good reason: they’re the longest, toughest and usually the dirtiest. Peter Cossins details the turbulent history of these iconic races and the riders immortalised by them.

  • RRP £9.99 / $12

To Hell on a Bike: Riding Paris-Roubaix – the Toughest Race in Cycling, Iain MacGregor

They call it the ‘Hell of the North’ for a reason. In this book, Iain MacGregor takes on the brutal challenge of riding the Paris-Roubaix course, while exploring its history and culture, and gaining insights from some of its legends.

Cycling biographies and autobiographies

Cycling Biographies and autobiographies
There are plenty of fascinating characters in cycling, so how about a biography?
Various

If you’re buying for someone who idolises one of cycling’s many characters, then the story of their life makes a thoughtful Christmas present.

The Tour According to G: My Journey to the Yellow Jersey, Geraint Thomas

The story of how Geraint Thomas finally got his yellow jersey after years of bad luck, crashes and self-sacrifice.

My World, Peter Sagan

Sagan is not only one of the greatest riders of all time, he’s probably one of the most entertaining as well. His autobiography offers a glimpse behind the scenes and into his world of mischief.

  • RRP £9.99 / $19.95

Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike, William Fotheringham

Eddy ‘The Cannibal’ Merckx has a half-told story. Behind the legend lay a sensitive and anxious man who suffered horrific injury, doping controversy and tragedy.

  • RRP £10.99 / $19.99

The Climb: The Autobiography, Chris Froome

Chris Froome’s autobiography takes us from the dusty roads of Kenya, where he was born, to his second time winning the Tour de France.

  • RRP £9.99 / $17.95

The Breakaway, Nicole Cooke

Nicole Cooke’s autobiography tells the damning tale of her struggle to gain the recognition and riches that came so effortlessly to her male counterparts during cycling’s darkest period of doping.

  • RRP £10.99 / $12.81

The Greatest: The Times and Life of Beryl Burton, William Fotheringham

Beryl Burton is one of the biggest names in women’s racing in the UK, dominating the sport during the ’60s and ’70s. This biography was published to coincide with this year’s World Championships in Yorkshire and explores the life behind the legend.

  • RRP £20

The Death of Marco Pantani: A Biography, Matt Rendell

Pantani’s death in a cheap hotel sent shockwaves through the cycling community who knew him as the iconic double-winner of the Tour and Giro in 1998. Drawing upon his own experience of Pantani, while also speaking to his psychoanalysts, family and friends, Matt Rendell tells the full story of Pantani’s short but explosive career.

  • RRP £9.99 / $17.99

Adventure planning cycling books

Adventure planning cycling books
Help the bikepacker or Alpine climber in your life plan their next adventure.
Various

The only thing greater than going on an adventure is planning it. So, if you’re buying for a bivvying bikepacker or a masochistic mountain climber, there’s bound to be something here that gets them excited to plan the next big ride.

Bikepacking: Mountain Bike Camping Adventures on the Wild Trails of Britain, Laurence McJannet

This beautiful book offers an array of off-road routes in the UK, separated by region, and provides suggestions of where to eat and where to stay if camping’s not an option.

  • RRP £16.99 / $24.95

Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, Alastair Humphreys

If your giftee is more limited in time and resources, then introduce them to the world of microadventuring – something cheap, simple and close to home.

  • RRP £16.99 / $21.99

Escape by Bike: Adventure Cycling, Bikepacking and Touring Off-Road, Joshua Cunningham

After cycling from London to Hong Kong over 11 months and passing through 26 countries, Joshua Cunningham offers up some of the best practical advice for planning adventures abroad, from making travel arrangements to packing and navigating.

  • RRP £19.95 / $29.95 

The Scottish Bothy Bible: The Complete Guide to Scotland’s Bothies and How to Reach Them, Geoff Allan

If your bikepacking friend is planning a stint in Scotland, why not get them the ultimate guide to Scottish bothies? It will both inspire their plans and help them find shelter when it’s needed.

  • RRP £16.99 / $24.95

Lost Lanes series, Jack Thurston

If they’re more of an on-road explorer, Jack Thurston’s series of Lost Lanes books provides a multitude of routes to enjoy in the UK. The books also come with downloadable GPX tracks. As well as Southern England, Thurston has produced books devoted to the lost lanes of the West Country and Wales.

Britain’s Greatest Cycling Climbs, Simon Warren

Simon Warren may well be Britain’s most accomplished hill climber, having produced eight regional climbing guides for the UK, covering the South East and West, the North East and West, the Midlands, Yorkshire, Scotland and Wales. And that’s not even mentioning his other books on Italy, Belgium and the Tour de France.

Ultimate Etapes: Ride Europe’s Greatest Cycling Stages, Peter Cossins

Have your friend raring to ride the best routes in Europe with this essential guide to the most renowned stages of modern cycling. It’s aimed at all abilities and provides detailed route descriptions, maps, elevation profiles and suggestions for other rides in the same region.

  • RRP £20 / $29.99

Epic Bike Rides of the World, Lonely Planet

Organised by continent, this Lonely Planet book details 200 amazing rides the world has to offer. Each route comes with a map, practical advice and stunning photography. This hardback is beautiful and doubles up as a great coffee table book as well.

  • RRP £14.99 / $35

Inspiring cycling journeys and travelogues

Inspiring cycling journeys and travelogues
If they dream of seeing the world, they can do so vicariously for now.
Various

We all love to hear other people’s stories, don’t we? If you’re buying for someone who is yearning to challenge themselves, one of the best things you can do is introduce them to someone who’s already done it – let an inspirational story plant the seed.

Where There’s a Will: Hope, Grief and Endurance in a Cycle Race Across a Continent, Emily Chappell

Emily Chappell is an accomplished ultra-endurance racer, having competed in a multitude of events such as the Strathpuffer, the Transatlantic Way, and most notably, winning the Transcontinental Race in 2016. Her latest book is a truly relatable story about self-doubt, self-discovery, grief and achieving what at first seems impossible.

  • RRP £14.99 / $17.64

Mind is the Ride, Jet McDonald

Jet McDonald’s amalgamation of cycle touring, bike anatomy and philosophy is a truly unique reading experience that will have its reader quoting Descartes while pondering the inner workings of their bottom bracket, all while cycling to India.

  • RRP £16.99 / $19.03

One More Croissant for the Road, Felicity Cloake

This is one that’s written in every cyclist’s language. Felicity Cloake cycled 2,300km across France while tasting the best of its culinary offerings along the way. A delightful rendition of her epic journey that will leave your giftee hankering for a bike tour and a madeleine.

  • RRP £14.99 / $13.88

Conversations from Land’s End to John O’Groats, Nick Hand

Nick Hand’s bike is no ordinary bike – it’s a printing press. Taking it on a LEJOG adventure, he recorded conversations with people he met along the way and printed them. The resulting book is a quaint selection of encounters, along with some stunning photography.

  • RRP £16

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

Tim Moore is arguably the two-wheel equivalent of Bill Bryson. In this instalment he takes a small-wheeled, two-geared shopper bike along the 9,000km Iron Curtain trail. Need I say more?

  • RRP £8.99 / $16.95

With the Sun on our Right, Tim Moss

While there are many round-the-world cycling stories out there, what makes With the Sun on our Right unique is the focus it places on personal encounters, and the true hospitable nature of people. If that’s not enough, it’s a refreshing insight into Moss’s mental health, which will hopefully enable other men to open up about this important topic.

Back in the Frame: How to Get Back on your Bike, Whatever Life Throws at You, Jools Walker

Lady Vélo, as she’s also known, offers up a charming story of falling back in love with cycling after a long absence. From her first wobbly days on her Pashley Princess, to taking on the Eroica, she talks openly about how cycling impacts her mental health and how she carved a space for herself as a woman of colour in a very white and male dominated industry.

  • RRP £8.99 / $21.99

Cycling Nutrition and training books

Cycling Nutrition and training books
For a more practical approach, get them something to help with their training.
Various

Perhaps you’ve got a friend or loved one who’s training for a particular event and needs a little push in the right direction. Help them find some practical advice in these guides to training and nutrition, aimed specifically at cyclists.

The Cycling Chef: Recipes for Performance and Pleasure, Alan Murchison

Alan Murchison is a Michelin-starred chef who also happens to be a champion athlete. He now cooks for British Cycling athletes, and in this book he shares 65 recipes for nutritionally balanced, fuelling meals.

  • RRP £22 / $34

The Cycling Mind: The Psychological Skills for Peak Performance on the Bike – and in Life, Ruth Anderson

Ruth Anderson is British Cycling’s Lead Psychologist and she knows a thing or two about the mental barriers that can disrupt performance. In The Cycling Mind she details the athlete’s psychological journey from training to competing, offering practical guidelines to keep moving forward in the most trying times.

  • RRP £14.99 / $19.81

Fast After 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of Your Life, Joe Friel

Who says you have to slow down as you get older? Fast After 50 was written for endurance athletes who want to keep pushing themselves beyond what would normally be considered their peak. It offers high-intensity workouts, strength training, cross-training, recovery and performance-enhancing nutrition.

The Cyclist’s Training Bible:The World’s Most Comprehensive Training Guide, Joe Friel

Now in its fifth edition, this comprehensive guide will help aspiring cyclists to develop a personal training plan and equip them with all the information they need while planning their next big challenge.

The Science of the Tour de France: Training Secrets of the World’s Best Cyclists, James Witts

Give them the push they need to level up. This book includes insights from the likes of Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan and Bauke Mollema, and covers the pioneering science behind the pros, from using power meters to race strategy.

Fuelling the Cycling Revolution: The Nutritional Strategies and Recipes Behind Grand Tour Wins and Olympic Gold Medals, Nigel Mitchell

Nigel Mitchell is head of nutrition for EF Education First Pro Cycling team, and his book is a practical toolkit for any cyclist looking to eat their way to improved performance. It cuts out the pseudo-science and features anecdotes and case studies from real riders.

Books about cycling history

Books about cycling history
Treat the cycling nerd in your life to some riveting reads this Christmas.
Various

When you’re passionate about a subject, you might want to devour everything that’s ever been written about it. If you know someone who feels this way about cycling, treat them to something they can really sink their teeth into.

Bikes and Bloomers: Victorian Women Inventors and their Extraordinary Cycle Wear, Kat Jungnickel

A cycling history book with a difference, Bikes and Bloomers traces the evolution of women’s cycling kit and tells the story of how the humble bicycle contributed to women’s liberation. It draws on in-depth archival research and reminds us just how far we’ve come.

Cycling and Cinema, Bruce Bennett

Bruce Bennett delves into the history of the bicycle in cinema, covering all manner of films from slapstick comedies of the early 20th century to Hollywood blockbusters, and everything in between. Throughout, Bennett makes the case that on top of being a source of fun and a means of transportation, the bike is a vehicle of social and political transformation.

The End of the Road: The Festina Affair and the Tour that Almost Wrecked Cycling, Alasdair Fotheringham

The 1998 Tour de France was not without its drama. This retelling of what’s become known as the Festina affair – when sports physiotherapist Willy Voet was arrested on the French-Belgian border mid-race – is the first English-language book that delves deep into the subject.

Revolution: How the Bicycle Reinvented Modern Britain, William Manners

Manners’ debut book charts the role of cycling in 1980s Britain, from its influence on fashion to the freedom of movement it offered, this well-researched history is as entertaining as it is informative.

Women on the Move: The Forgotten Era of Women’s Bicycle Racing, Roger Gilles

Staying in the 1890s but heading across the Atlantic, Roger Gilles looks at the early days of women’s racing and in particular how it thrived from 1895 to 1902. He tells the stories of some of the best female racers of the time: Lizzie Glaw, Tillie Anderson and Dottie Farnsworth to name a few.

Three Weeks, Eight Seconds: The Epic Tour de France of 1989, Nige Tassell

Another account of a notorious Tour, the 1989 Tour de France saw Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon to the finish line by 50 seconds. The two rivals had been battling it out for three weeks, with the yellow jersey being passed back and forth, and Nige Tassell brings this astonishing story to life.

The Great Bike Race: The Classic, Acclaimed Book that Introduced a Nation to the Tour De France, Geoffrey Nicholson

First published in 1977, The Great Bike Race is hailed as the benchmark English-language book about the Tour de France and has been reprinted this year for more people to enjoy. It was the original book that introduced us to the Tour outside of France, telling the story of the 1976 race in all its glory.

Cycling coffee table books

Cycling Coffee table books
If you have a friend who loves showing off their passion for cycling, a nice big hardback will do the trick.
Various

If you’re really not sure what sort of book to buy the cyclist in your life, you can’t go wrong with a big, hardback book full of beautiful photographs or silly cycling cartoons.

The Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive, Mark Hudson

The Rough-Stuff Fellowship was founded in 1955 and is the oldest off-road cycling club in the world. In this amazing book, its archive is shared with the world, including stunning imagery and hand-drawn maps and documents. It’s a true treasure trove from a bygone era.

  • RRP £30 / $40.20
  • Buy now from Amazon (£30)  

A History of Cycling in 100 Objects, Suze Clemitson

Whether you want to bust out some factoids at the dinner table or answer an onslaught of questions about the sport you love so much, this book can be handy to keep around the house. Why is it a yellow jersey? How did bloomers influence bicycle design? How did Graeme Obree’s ‘Old Faithful’ get its nickname? Give someone the answers this Christmas.

The Cycling Cartoonist: An Illustrated Guide to Life on Two Wheels, Dave Walker

Dave Walker’s cartoons will resonate with any cyclist who gets this book for Christmas. As a true N+1 advocate, Walker makes some great observations about the habits of cyclists, offering a great opportunity to have a chuckle and stop taking themselves so seriously.

Queens of Pain: Legends and Rebels of Cycling, Isabel Best

Published by Rapha Editions, you know it’s going to look good. Queens of Pain charts the history of women’s pro-racing from the 1890s to the 1990s, and traces the stories of its heroines back to their roots as stunt women, speed skaters, mothers, shop assistance and delivery girls.

Boneshaker Magazine Bicycle Stories, Boneshaker Magazine

If you’re not familiar with Boneshaker Magazine, then its two Bicycle Stories collections are a great way to catch up. Rounding up the best of its many stories, these volumes cover an array of subjects, printed alongside beautiful photography and original artwork – it’s the kind of book you ‘accidentally’ leave out for guests to see.

Mountains: Epic Cycling Climbs, Michael Blann

If your giftee is at home in the mountains, then help them bring the mountains home with them. This luxury coffee table book contains stunning photographs taken over a three-year period to chart the most famous European cycling climbs. These are printed alongside personal recollections from the likes of Greg LeMond, Lizzie Armistead, Geraint Thomas, and many more.

Cyclepedia: A Tour of Iconic Bicycle Designs, Michael Embacher

Anyone who appreciates the aesthetic of a beautiful bike will love this book. It contains a unique collection of over 250 bicycles that demonstrate just how much bikes have evolved. It’s carefully curated selection of some of the most beautiful bicycles around the world, and is a true homage to our love of all things two-wheeled.

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