Thursday, 16 August 2012

a blog about books which are about bike racing before there were blogs

As a quick change of pace toady I’m going to be waxing lyrical about reading, not riding. Given my recent period of extreme sedentaryness I’ve had plenty of time to read. And I took full advantage of it. Most of my reading was of a more academic nature but I did find time to indulge my love of cycling from the comfort of my own sofa.
You’re used to seeing the same old books doing the review rounds no doubt; some guy wrote a book telling people how to eat food (I’m not sure how we came to the situation where that was needed) another wrote a book saying he doped, yet another has a book saying he doped AND alleging that other people did the same (including the guy who wrote the book I mentioned before). Bored and confused yet? For my cycling literary adventures I chose something a little more upbeat, something that reminds me that there was a cycling before oversocks, helmet covers (or indeed helmets), PEDs and marginal gains. Something about the culture which we as cyclists share with other cyclists throughout the world, throughout history. Something of a platonic ideal of cycling if you will.
When I’m feeling in need of such a platonic pick me up I turn to cultura ciclista, a Spanish publishing house dedicated to just such books. You will not find training manuals, diet guides or doping accusations here but rather stories, and ones which will hopefully inspire you to go and ride your bike.
The two books I read were inventando el ciclismo and manana salimos, although I have read all the other boos listed on the website in different languages. The two mentioned helped me through my cycling withdrawal and helped me to remember why I love riding a bike. The adventures, mishaps discoveries and journeys. This is cycling as epic and as tragedy. The victories are won on a different scale, calculated in hours not seconds. The losses are felt on a more existential level. The books tell the story of early cyce racing through the eyes of pioneers of the sport. Inventando el ciclismo chronicles the earliest days of Pais-Brest Paris and the monster races which we don’t see in today’s professional cycling. This really is cycling as a journey and serevs as a wonderful reminder Manana salimos is the story of Jean Bobet,a  cyclist who spent his sporting career in his brothers shadow but intellectually held the yellow jersey amongst cyclists of his era. Not only is the book full of fantastic anecdotes but it paints a picture of the harsh realities of life in postwar Europe.  
I’m reliably assured that these books and others (including Fignon’s fantastic Nous étions jeunes et insouciants , if you’re looking for a hero you can relate to, look no further) will soon be available via  and before you harp off about A) not having time to read a book or b) not having any languages other than English consider that both of these are points to your detriment. If you’ve got time to read my musings there is time in your life for these fantastic stories, and another language broadens one’s world and one’s prospects. I would fins it pretty hard to exist in the USA without Spanish and travel would be a nightmare. Both texts are reasonably priced, available in paperback and make great gifts for yourself, or your non cycling other half (you know the “if you don’t like it I will” kind of gifts) so they can see how awesome cycling really is (and I mean awesome in it’s proper sense) .

The books are available on or @culturaciclista on twitter or via the facebook page by the same name 

1 comment: