Bike Books
September 18, 2011 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Recommend some good books about bikes?

Bike lovers, what non-fiction about bicycles, bicycling, or bike riders would you recommend? I am *not* looking for repair manuals or how to's, per se. I would, however, be fascinated to read about bicycles in history; the history the 1970's bike boom; histories of classic bike or bicycle component companies; interesting bike-travel memoirs (or any memoirs in which bikes/bicycling is a major theme); any and all political topics relating to bicycling anywhere in the world; essays about bicycling, restoring old bikes, building bikes, etc.; and notable bicyclist biographies (female subjects would be especially appreciated--though not at all required!) Thanks!
posted by applemeat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Bicycling Science, by Wilson, is one of the more interesting books on the subject that I've seen.
posted by pmugowsky at 5:03 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bicycle: the history by David Herlihy is the go-to, no-shit historical monograph of the bicycle.
posted by cog_nate at 5:11 PM on September 18, 2011

I've read and very much enjoyed these two in the last year or so, I'm fairly sure as a result of recommendations by people on this site.
The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance and Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer
posted by valleys at 5:13 PM on September 18, 2011

Bicycle, by David V. Herlihy has nearly everything you ask. (Seconding, on preview.)
I just found an old copy of How I Learned to Bicycle, by Frances Willard which chronicles her attempts to master her bicycle in the late 19th century.
posted by melgy at 5:16 PM on September 18, 2011

I haven't read everything by Joe Kurmaskie, the Metal Cowboy, but I've enjoyed everything of his I've read. Travelogues of long-distance bike touring, including adventures like breaking a frame in the middle of the Australian outback.
posted by straw at 5:25 PM on September 18, 2011

Dervla Murphy: Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle
posted by ryanshepard at 5:31 PM on September 18, 2011

Try Three Men on a Bike:
"In 1989, prompted by a cocktail of cheap red wine and headstrong naivety, Rory Spowers and three friends set off on one of the most bizarre bicycle rides of the century. One year and two 278 punctures later, they had traversed the length of Africa on the Goodies's 1930s tandem [sic] and a mountain bike, retaining their sanity (barely), but minus one testicle and their preconceptions. Experiences ranged from starring as extras in a Clint Eastwood movie, being attacked by machete-wielding men and poisonous snakes, surviving regular bouts of malaria and travelling through some of the most beautiful lands in the world."
Yes, you read that right - the Goodie's trandem. They can hardly steer the thing at first.
posted by unliteral at 6:05 PM on September 18, 2011

The Rider, by Tim Krabbe. First-person, fictional, well-written account of a single bike race.

Love for the Bike, by Paul Fournel. Essays about the bike.

A Dog in a Hat, by Joe Parkin. Memoir about the author as a young American living in Belgium, trying to scrape together a hardscrabble career as an unglamorous pro cyclist.
posted by entropone at 6:14 PM on September 18, 2011

Also, Bike Cult by Dave Perry is a lengthy tome about (as per amazon's description) "technology, history, sociology, amusement, creativity, spirituality, and physiology."

It's good.
posted by entropone at 6:15 PM on September 18, 2011

Some sport-themed items...

...inside accounts of life with pros...
A Rough Ride - Paul Kimmage
Breaking the Chain: Drugs and Cycling: The True Story - Willy Voet

We Were Young and Carefree - Laurent Fignon - unusually readable for a pro cyclists memoirs.

In Search of Robert Millar - Richard Moore - Interesting biography of an under-appreciated and complex hero of the sport.

Le Tour: A History of the Tour de France - Geoffrey Wheatcroft - interesting not only to fans.
posted by normy at 6:49 PM on September 18, 2011

I thought Tour De Lance was actually pretty good. It provides some interesting insight into modern pro cycling and is not super biased either way on the topic of Armstrong himself (Strickland is pro-Lance but not annoyingly so, in my opinion).
posted by ghharr at 6:51 PM on September 18, 2011

After spending most of high school building bicycle wheels for the shop I worked in, I read The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt as a freshman in college. Boy, wheels do not work like I thought they did.
posted by workerant at 6:51 PM on September 18, 2011

If you can find it, The Penguin Book of The Bicycle by Watson & Gray (1978) is fab. Dated, yes, but it's written by a poet and an english prof, and it covers technology, literature and culture around cycling. Worth looking for.
posted by scruss at 6:58 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

On Your Bicycle - Jim Mcgurn - a not-too-dry social history, one of the best treatments of the subject.
posted by normy at 7:05 PM on September 18, 2011

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne (of Talking Heads). When he travels he usually takes his folding bike with him, and also primarily uses his bike to get around in NYC. A meditation on bicycles and places.
posted by Emanuel at 8:42 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Catfish and Mandala. Awesome book & writer.
posted by imalaowai at 11:39 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Ram Ram India" by Nick Rossiter and Alan Thompson.

An account of a bicycle ride from pretty much the northernmost point of India to the southern tip. It's both amusing and informative and it makes you want to go and do it yourself !

My copy is falling to bits from having been read too often

As far as I can make out it's no longer available new but there are second hands on Amazon and the like.
posted by southof40 at 2:27 AM on September 19, 2011

"The Immortal Class" by Travis Hugh Culley
posted by Blake at 3:59 AM on September 19, 2011

In addition to some of the other books mentioned here, I quite liked Lance Armstrong's War. Even if you aren't a fan of Armstrong (and I'm profoundly ambivalent), the book is a great description of what goes into winning a modern Tour, and how Armstrong and Bruyneel approached it.
posted by OmieWise at 4:55 AM on September 19, 2011

'Three Men on the Bummel' by Jerome K Jerome is a classic, written at the tail-end of the Victorian cycling craze. It's pretty racist at times, text available at Project Gutenberg.

The Crane brothers' 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' and 'Bicycles up Kilimanjaro' are accounts of epic adventure rides on early MTBs.

English cycling legend , the late Beryl Burton wrote an autobiography.

Tim Moore's 'French Revolutions' is a good insight to what it means to ride the Tour for your average lardy English journalist and has a decent potted history of the Tour itself.

Josie Dew has a number of books out, on adventure touring. 'A Ride in the Neon Sun' is particularly good.

Mousehold Press publish some interesting stuff (and some less interesting stuff, e.g the Indurain biog.) if you're interested in British Cycling history, Les Woodland's book is meant to be good (not read it personally, but his 'Unknown Tour de France' was entertaining.)

Otherwise, there's a good list here, some neat looking histories of manufacturers.

Oh, and seconding the reccomendations for Fournel's 'Need For the Bike' and the Robert Millar biog.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:42 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, and 'Eddy Merckx: Greatest Cyclist of the C20' is fantastic, but sadly out of print.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:47 AM on September 19, 2011

I haven't updated this in years, but here are reviews of bike travel books. (Also, it's interesting how much of the best writing is by women: Mustoe, Murphy, Selby, Dew.)
posted by Huw at 11:54 AM on September 19, 2011

SyntacticSugar took my "Three Men on the Bummel" recommendation, so I'm going to have to go with "The Immortal Class", Travis Hugh Culley's memoir of his time as a bike messenger.
posted by cardioid at 6:44 AM on September 20, 2011

Two cycling books I've enjoyed; one about building a bespoke bike, interspersed with bits of cycling history: It's all about the bike; and one about Tom Simpson, one of the great/tragic figures of cycling: Put me back on my bike.
posted by fatfrank at 8:26 AM on September 20, 2011

Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage if you like the touring journals. Barbara and her husband toured the world by bike back in the late 70's / early 80's (can't remember now). 2nd the Joe Kurmaskie book mentioned earlier.
posted by dukes909 at 8:56 AM on September 20, 2011

Immortal Class was pretty heavily criticised by the messenger community, but it's a breezy read, right enough. Moving Target and Emily's blog are far better accounts of messengering IMO.
Enjoying 'In Pursuit of Stardom' at the moment, btw.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 7:23 AM on September 22, 2011

Response by poster: This is a fantastic list! Thank you so much, everyone who commented!
posted by applemeat at 9:22 PM on October 3, 2011

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