After the popularity of last week’s 8 greatest cycling documentaries ever made, we thought it would be only fair to give cycling books the same treatment. With some help from the SportPursuit community (thanks everybody!) and some biking bookworms at SportPursuit HQ, we’ve streamlined the eclectic variety of recommendations received into our list of the 10 best road cycling books every cyclist should read.
Have a favourite of your own to add? Let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page!
1. The Rider – Tim Krabbé, 2002
“Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are. A man shouts: “Faster!” He probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast”
Set during a fictional/mythical Tour de Mont Aigoual, The Rider describes a single 150 kilometre race in just 150 pages. Krabbé expertly captures both the physical and mental aspects of the sport making the reader feel like they are right there in the action. A captivating glimpse inside the mind of a rider.
2. Racing Through the Dark – David Millar, 2012
“The manner in which one loses the battle can sometimes outshine the victory”
David Millar lifts the lid on the darker side of professional road cycling. Millar combines a frank account of his own foray into the doping culture and his resulting fall from it, with an insight into the shady world of pro cycling’s doping era. Millar tells his story honestly and without any excuses.
3. Slaying the Badger – Richard Moore, 2012
“LeMond and Hinault were teammates, perhaps even friends, who became bitter rivals in the course of that Tour. Their battle was fascinating”
Expertly written and researched, Richard Moore tells the tale of the 1986 Tour de France and the rivalry between Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond. Moore gets behind the scenes of one of the greatest Tours to have ever taken place and delves into the background of the two protagonists.
4. A Dog in a Hat – Joe Parkin, 2008
“Ever since I had announced I was going to go to Belgium to give racing a try, I’d been collecting drug warnings like bad pennies”
Parkin shares his trials and tribulations encountered moving from the USA and trying to make a living as a pro cyclist in Europe. Parkin’s account of Belgian bike racing in the early 90s is brutally honest with no glitz or glamour.
5. Hunger – Sean Kelly, 2013
“I wondered if it was a bit of an excuse because he was the sort of guy who complained of a stomach ache one minute and downed a can of Coke in one the next”
From a farmer’s son to a pro cycling champion, Sean Kelly shares his remarkable journey modestly and with little embellishment. Kelly’s character comes across strongly as he concretely conveys the many sacrifices involved in the dedicated life of a cyclist.
6. The Hour – Michael Hutchinson, 2007
“The rewards of racing a bike have more to do with feeling like this than they have to do with winning”
In this riveting read, Hutchinson recounts his ambitious attempt to cycle further in one hour than anybody else in history. Comprehensively written, Hutchinson covers the history of “The Hour” alongside interesting and fascinating facts about it. An entertaining and enlightening read.
7. The Death of Marco Pantani – Matt Rendell, 2007
“There was self-mutilation in these performances, a shedding of everything worldly, before the indestructible heart brought him back, as it did every time, no matter the altitude or depth, to the applause of millions”
Through exceptionally detailed research, Rendell attempts to debunk the myths surrounding the death of Marco Pantani and unearths some surprising revelations in the process. Not your average sports journalist, Rendell takes readers from Pantani’s birth to death and beyond. A strong and gripping read.
8. Rough Ride – Paul Kimmage, 2007
“Others had reached the top with talent or class mixed with spirit. I only ever had spirit. Fighting spirit. Never say die, spit in your eye”
A gritty and realistic insight into what it’s like being a struggling cyclist on the Tour. Kimmage frankly shares the joys and frustrations that he went through during his cycling career, showing a harsher side to the world of professional cycling that many will never see.
9. The Secret Race – Tyler Hamilton & Daniel Coyle, 2013
“All I knew, though, was the more I pushed myself, the better I felt. Exertion was my escape”
As well as a fascinating story about the life of former pro cyclist Tyler Hamilton, The Secret Race is an insightful exposé of widespread doping at the highest level of cycling during the 1990s and early 2000s. An open and honest account by Tyler Hamilton of his time with the US Postal Team.
10. Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike – William Fotheringham, 2013
“Merckx changed the standards by which cycling is judged, setting the bar impossibly high. He raced in a new way, always attacking, taking every race on from start to finish”
Fotheringham gives an extremely detailed account of the whole career and life of cycling legend Eddy Merckx. Fotheringham makes a great attempt at understanding the motivation and passion of Merckx, and puts the many inspiring achievements of Merckx into context.