Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reading and Riding

Rack Full o' Books
When I started cycling I never dreamed of getting into bicycle-themed literature. In fact, I intentionally avoided it. I guess I wanted to think of myself as "normal," didn't want to get obsessed, you know?.. Just a person who rides bikes, and not a person who is so defined by them that even her reading list is bike-themed. Fast forward several years, and my coffee table is littered with books and magazines about... you guessed it, cycling. My laptop has browser windows open to cycling-themed reading material. I'm a goner for sure. And you know what's worse? For some reason, most of the stuff I like is roadie themed. Let me explain: There is some truly excellent writing in this genre. Not just writing that seems good because I am into bikes. But writing that is so genuinely compelling in its own right, that it has gotten me interested in topics I had otherwise been indifferent to. Here is a sampling of my favourites, by category:

Book: The Rider by Tim Krabbé. I posted a sort-of review of it last winter and it remains my favourite. It is ultimately a novel about human introspection. That just happens to also be about bicycle racing. By the end, you may not be able to separate the two.

Writer: Limiting myself to just one, I would have to say Graeme Fife. "I'm not greatly interested in results, frankly but the metaphysics and aesthetics of cycle racing excite me enormously," this man once said in an interview.

Magazine: I started reading Rouleur because it was available at the Ride Studio Cafe library and I was looking for something to leaf through with my coffee. After a couple of issues I was hooked. The articles have an unexpectedly brooding, almost dark tone to them that lured me right in. I had no idea what I was reading about half the time, but it was gorgeous, so I kept reading until it gradully began to make more sense. That's how they got me.

Blog: Red Kite Prayer. This is a roadie blog that I really have no business reading. But the entries are so thoughtful and well written that I keep checking in and finding common threads, sometimes even patches of common ground.

Blog Entry: Favourite cycling blog post of all time is a masterpiece by a girl named Beth Newell. Now, this is a girl who went from riding her first roadbike to turning track national champion in just a few years, all the while documenting it hilariously. But my favourite post of hers has little to do with cycling, and focuses instead on a student exchange trip to Hungary. So, if you're having a dull night, do yourself a favour: Pour a nice glass of wine, click here, then search for the phrase "perhaps the most traumatic story about my calves dates back age twenty" and start reading from there. You will not regret it.

36 comments:

  1. Oh WOW, never heard of Rouleur till now but the site is pretty compelling, Thanks for dropping it on us(unless of course I waste 8 hours eating Sarah's Halloween candy and reading it all night like I did after checking out some Austrian vintage bike sites you linked once), if I do then CURSES on your head...

    Spindizzy

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    1. I will spare you from further links to Austrian bike p0rn. For now...

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  2. Flann O'Brian, The Third Policeman

    Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles

    Rene de la Tour and J.B. Wadley as they appeared in Sporting Cyclist in the 50s and 60s.

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    1. Got a copy of The Third Policeman; it is next on my list.

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  3. Beth Newell's blog IS very funny. Good recommendation.

    My personal favorite other than "Lovely Bicycle", is crazyguyonabike.com I love reading about tours (also photos) and especially the long, exotic ones. Must be nice to have a life so free from obligation that you can take months and even years to ride a bicycle all over the planet.

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  4. You forgot blog with most dramatic change in outlook.

    http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2009/04/yearning-for-lovely-bicycle.html

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    1. I'd call it a supplement in outlook : )

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  5. For my enjoyment with a glass , I go to crazyguyonabike.com and I'm in heaven . There was one journal that used sketches instead of photos .A collection is "The Literary Cyclist" by Starr. "wiggo's " story is coming . Another interesting cycling connection is Rock n 'Roll , nice blog !

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    1. Yes! Some of the writing in those journals is quite compelling, vivid.

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    2. While there are of course many 'what I did on my vacation' style journals on CGOAB, there always seem to be at least one or two with writing, photographry and sometimes both that go way above.

      My only problem with the journals is they leave me wanting to do way more tours than life allows.

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  6. A few of my favorite bicycle related reads -

    The Yellow Jersey by Ralph Hurne -

    The Lost Cyclist by David Herlihy

    Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy


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  7. form vs content
    thoughts?

    mark

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    1. Lots of "thoughts," but I'll limit myself to this one: Form is a gateway to content. Think of that charismatic teacher who makes physics or calculus seem exciting. That author who uses style to make us see things differently and consider viewpoints other than our own. If we want pure content, we can read a textbook or a manual.

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  8. The other readers in the New Jersey Randonneurs recommended THE RIDER to me a few years ago. It was still on my Kindle when I ran out of reading material while on the subway last month, so I figured I'd re-read a little and buy another book when I was above ground with cell service again. I read it all the way through instead. It's a hell of a book.

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  9. Looking forward to your discussion on bicycling movies. I watched Jules et Jim the other night and was reminded of its short but charming bicycling scenes.

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  10. I'll lump The Rider, Rouleur and RKP into the same bin: no thanks. Rouleur can be ok when it concentrates on the surroundings, i.e. extrospective, but the average age and writing ability of its contributors sets a pretty low bar. That's what the pictures are for, of course.

    For me, Strickland tends to start out so promising, getting to the nuts and bolts and thought processes...then often times crossing wheels and hitting the tarmac hard in a jumble of non-relateable introspection.

    So what do we have? Relateable, in which case ok fine we're on the same page so what I've been there. Non-relateable...might as well just pick my nose.

    Funny people > introspectors. bethbikes' bf Hernando is pretty effin funny too.

    For non-navel gazers pvcycling.wordpress.com

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    1. The main problem with blogs you recommend, is how selfish they are. I mean look at pvcycling. No pictures. Would it kill the guy to pull over once in a while, whip out his iphone and show us the pink socks or Cher's compound?

      And Beth's blog. The girl becomes a national champion and just stops posting because she has to "train" and she's "tired." Selfish.

      The nice thing about the so-called NG writers is that at least we can rely on them for frequent photodocumentation and count on them not to abandon their readers.

      Rouler's "writing ability of its contributors sets a pretty low bar" - what about Herbie Sykes?

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    2. Can't say I know Herbie the Love Bug's stuff. I'm too cheap to by the rag, to impatient to wade through the dross. I know of no shop that has it sitting around but one guy has BQ. That's always good for some lively talk.

      Wankie is going like 400 watts all day on the 101 with parked cars to split, sun-stroked jaywalking beach bums schlepping surfboards, fat cat zeros "dropping their hammers" and getting shiite thrown at him...and he's supposed to take a picture of Cher's Madame Tussaud's embalmed face for the NGs?! Cher the road baby.

      Newell just pisses me off, wasting that lit gift during the day to what, save the underprivileged. Total BS.
      Here's a story on her: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/the-road-less-traveled/Content?oid=2967113&showFullText=true

      Grant is a very good writer but I hate to say he doesn't ride enough at different speeds to come off as anything but doctrinaire, but that's the point I guess.

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  11. http://cyclescribe.blogspot.com/
    http://www.classiclightweights.co.uk/
    http://www.cyclinginquisition.com/
    http://www.velorunner.blogspot.com/
    http://www.veloclassics.blogspot.com/
    http://tsaleh.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00-07:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00-07:00&max-results=23

    Rabid, but a cyclist! http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/

    Must watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__2w6mXTNMk

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  12. Replies
    1. I definitely visit the Rivendell site for the writing. Not just the news/blug page, but even the product descriptions. GP needs to write a book or two, beyond the quotable soundbites of "Just Ride." He is a gifted writer.

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  13. Check out "The Immortal Class" by Travis Culley if you haven't already.

    One of my favorites (of course, that could be because I had lived in Chicago and did a brief part-time stint as a courier). Nevertheless, it's a good read!

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  14. Anybody read the Lance Armstrong book by any chance?

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  15. "Need for the Bike" by Paul Fournel. Written by a philosopher, it talks about why we ride. Beautifully written, beautifully translated, and without any of the pretense that makes Rouleur so superficial.

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    1. +1. I bought "Need for the Bike", and have truly enjoyed it. Its almost a short story.
      Once in awhile I will return to it. Fun read.

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    2. Bought a used copy today; will follow up.

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    3. If you read French,

      The original is both wonderful, lyrical and modern French, and a third longer (including a long section cut from the translation) Ed. de Seuil. It is worth hunting down. Easily my favorite read on cycling.

      Best Regards,

      Will
      William M. deRosset
      Fort Collins, CO

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    4. I've often said Need for the Bike is my Tao te Bike. It's either poetic cycling guidance, or bicycle-tinged spiritual wisdom; I'm not sure. It's also funny, and beautifully written. Delightfully continental, too.

      My #1 bike book, no doubt.

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  16. Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervia Murphy

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  17. I'm making a bicycle-themed horror film this month! Stay tuned!

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    1. Looking forward to it. Maybe this is finally the cycling movie for heather.

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  18. I watched a cheezy expose on Lance Armstrong last night, and boy is pro road racing corrupt, so I am not amused with road racing to say the least. Nor did I imagine that anybody made money from this. So glad Wiggins is so charming and lovely, maybe the new face of pro cycling.
    That said, I have never had any interest in road racing or road cycling in all my years of cycling. I do regret not having found a way to get into road cycling when I was younger, but it was all mountain bikes at that time, and road cycling was seen as dorky, lame and for 'old' people. but now? I still don't want to wear skin tight lycra, more like stylish merino. I have not had a proper road bike in years, mistakenly got a touring bike, but soon to fix that...
    But I loved Beth Newell's post and the sock bit totally hit home! I've been cycling most of my life for transportation etc so have the legs right, but over the past several years of living in a mountainous area, and often riding a narrowly geared 5 speed, maybe my calves are really built? I have trouble getting some boots on, and I love boots. Sometimes when I try on a pair of skinny jeans, I wonder why I can't get them on...but mostly I wonder why when I put socks on they are so tight I feel my circulation is being cut off!! I invested in many nice expensive icebreaker socks, but can barely wear them because the lycra or spandex content makes them so tight. So I have to cut the cuffs off, or cut down the side so there is a bit of stretch.
    I am always looking for nearly 100% merino or cashmere socks that naturally stretch.
    I would like to see a really cool movie about cycling. Not that ridiculous recent gangster crime chasing movie that happened to have a bike courier in it. Not really what I had in mind. On TV and in hollywood movies, people still don't bike, or may be seen as kooky if they do.

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    1. The doping scandal is disappointing, but it doesn't kill my attraction to the sport. The way I see it, the problem at the root of the LA fiasco has nothing to do with cycling. The real issue is the human tendency toward idolatry. The fans wanted a superhero and chose to overlook the implausibility of what was happening, because they enjoyed the fairy tale. Now that it's over, everyone is hurt and angry because the illusion has been shattered. But that's the price to be paid for idolising someone. All this is to say that I don't think picking a new face of pro cycling is the answer; the answer might be to avoid doing so.

      Oh, but socks! I have thin ankles and long shins, so socks that hit below mid-calf tend to slide down. In particular 100% cotton or merino socks just slide right off me; I need elastic content. Polyester/acrylic socks are disgusting. Nylon socks are good, but I wear through them very quickly. For cycling I've come to gravitate toward DeFeet Wooliators, which seem to offer the best combination of wool content and staying up. I tend to destroy socks within a year, but amazingly the DeFeets have endured.

      "Skinny jeans" for me are anything but; they hug in all the wrong places and look terrible. Have been wearing bootcut since high school, and they fit as nicely over heels as they do over work boots.

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    2. That would be "idolizing". You are dead on, however, about the LA scandal.

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  19. If you haven't heard of "The Ride Journal" you've absolutely got to check it out. Best bike related magazine out there right now! Especially awesome is the fact that all the past editions are available for download on their website!
    http://www.theridejournal.com/

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