Best cycling books: 5 summer reads for your two-wheeled fix

Break open a good book when riding’s not an option

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Best cycling books

When you live and breathe bikes everyday, it’s difficult to know what to do when you stop spinning and sit still for a while. Thankfully we’ve got your back, with our list of recommended cycling-related books to keep your cravings at bay when it’s — heaven forbid — too hot to ride.

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There are plenty of really well-known cycling books on the market, but we’ve tried to veer off the tracks a little with this list, including some lesser known options, as well as some brand new publications for 2019.

Recommended reads

  • Revolution: How the Bicycle Reinvented Modern Britain, William Manners (2019)
  • Back in the Frame, Jools Walker (2019)
  • Pedal Zombies: Thirteen Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories, edited by Elly Blue (2015)
  • What Goes Around, Emily Chappell (2011)
  • Mind is the Ride, Jet McDonald (2019)

Revolution: How the Bicycle Reinvented Modern Britain, William Manners (2019)

William Manners Revolution book
Revolution explores how the humble bicycle impacted many aspects of Victorian society, from racing and competition, to fashion and showing off.
Duckworth

This is one for the history nerds, and is reasonably hot off the press, with the paperback only released last week.

William Manners, AKA The Victorian Cyclist, has written an in-depth and highly entertaining social history of cycling in 1890s Britain.

Revolution explores various aspects of how the two-wheeled wonder machine improved the lives of the more marginalised areas of society, including women and the working class. 

It covers various social uses and areas of public life, including fashion, competition, sociability, romance and travel. So, whether your interest lies in the history of cycling, the emancipation of women, Victorian society or anything in between, we reckon you’ll really enjoy this well-researched and humorous book.

Back in the Frame, Jools Walker (2019)

Jools Walker Back in the frame book
Back in the Frame is charming and engaging, much like its author.
Mildred Locke

Jools Walker, AKA Lady Velo, is another blogger-turned-author who released a debut book this year. 

Back in the Frame charts Walker’s return to cycling as an adult, having not ridden since her teenage years. It’s open and honest, charming and funny, and inspiring for anyone feeling nervous about getting back into cycling after a long hiatus.

On top of that, the book is an eye-opening insight into an area of cycling that may not be familiar to many readers: navigating the industry as a woman of colour.

Walker shares her ups and downs in a way that’s relatable and entertaining, and her passion for all things two-wheeled and determination to get more people on board really shines through.

Most of all, her story shows that there’s no one true way to be a ‘cyclist’. Walker has a passion for fashion and cycling style and shows that you can don Lycra on a Sunday for a road ride and then be back in a dress for commuting on Monday morning.

A really enjoyable and accessible read.

Pedal Zombies: Thirteen Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories, edited by Elly Blue (2015)

Elly Blue Pedal Zombies book
If you like sci-fi, bikes, zombies and feminism, you’ll probably love Pedal Zombies.
Mildred Locke

And now for something completely different. 

Pedal Zombies, published by Portland, Oregon based Microcosm Publishing, is a collection of sci-fi stories where bicycles are central to the survival of the human race in some fashion.

Imagine a future where gas tanks are dry and the only way to survive is on two wheels. Or there’s a pedal-powered zombie apocalypse on the horizon where the effect of the virus is only dulled by the ecstasy of cycling. How about a world where only reanimated bicycles roam the lands, free of human interference?

Some of the stories are scary, while others are hilarious. There’s a real mixture to keep you entertained, and the nice thing is that a collection of short stories is easy to dip into whenever you have only a short amount of time to spare.

Fire up your imagination, and if this kind of thing floats your boat, be sure to check out other publications from Microcosm, such as Bikes Not Rockets, Biketopia and The Velocipede Races.

What Goes Around: A London Cycle Courier’s Story, Emily Chappell (2011)

Emily Chappell What Goes Around book
What Goes Around details the highs and lows of life as a cycle courier, and is a really engaging read.
Mildred Locke

An oldie but a goodie. Emily Chappell’s memoir about her time as a bike courier in London is a riveting read.

What Goes Around takes place long before Chappell embarked upon her ultra-distance racing career (which includes being the first woman to finish the 2016 Transcontinental Race), and co-founding The Adventure Syndicate

We find her in a reception job, having completed her masters degree, and contemplating what to do with her life. Her role involved receiving important documents delivered by cycle couriers, and these frequent encounters inspired her to get back on her bike.

If you’ve ever romanticised the idea of becoming a courier then this is a must-read. Chappell takes us through the highs (community, coffee and confidence) and lows (the first winter was a baptism of fire).

You’ll follow her through some real personal growth, and experience both the excitement and the despair that comes with being a courier.

The book will either leave you feeling satisfied that it’s not for you or have you frantically digging out your messenger bag.

Mind is the Ride, Jet McDonald (2019)

Jet McDonald Mind is the Ride book
Mind is the Ride is no ordinary travelogue, it’s a philosophical journey.
Mildred Locke

Back in 2016, Jet McDonald told us in his own words why cycling and philosophy aren’t so different

Since then, he’s successfully crowdfunded and published his debut book Mind is the Ride, a journey from West to East via the various components of a bicycle. It’s an abstract concept, but it works.

Mind is the Ride isn’t an ordinary travel book. It may involve a literal journey from Bristol to India, but it’s also a philosophical journey from West to East, and an imaginary journey around the bicycle itself. 

Although the premise seems complex, McDonald really pulls it off. It works. His writing style is fluid and accessible, while his storytelling is compelling and self-deprecating. 

As you move from component to component, the bike is gradually built, the history of philosophy is explored, and the journey from Bristol to India is completed. Buckle up for the ride, and put your thinking cap on.

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Got a favourite book that leaves you raring to ride? Share your recommended reads in the comments below.