Cycling's greatest reads

12 of the most compelling and innovative cycling books

Katie Ridehart
May 25, 2020
Open book with images on page of cyclistOpen book with images on page of cyclist

We can’t ride bikes all the time. Sadly, there also has to be some time in the day for rest and recovery and what better way of doing so than by relaxing with a good page-turner? We’ve listed 12 of the most inspiring, exciting and innovative cycling books of all time on our bookshelf. These should hopefully keep you engaged and enthralled for at least a few recovery days.

Between their pages, you can learn more about the history of bike racing, get inspired by the explorative feats of others, or learn how to optimize the way you train. 

Great lives on the bike

Half man, half bike

Merckx, Half Man Half Bike – William Fotheringham
No compilation of cycling books would be complete without a biography of the Cannibal himself, Eddy Merckx. Fotheringham’s detailed account of one of (if not the) greatest cyclists of all time charts Merckx’s unrivaled success from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. Unmasking the man behind the victories, as well as the jealousy and treachery of his opponents. 

Where there's a will

Where There’s A Will – Emily Chappell
Ultra-endurance racer Emily Chappell’s book takes readers along for the journey as she races across Europe in the incredible, world-famous Transcontinental Race. A 4,000km self-supported event, this is the pinnacle of human endurance, and in 2016 Chappell won! Almost two days ahead of the next female competitor. ‘Where There’s A Will’ might just tempt you into riding your own long-distance event.

Draft animals

Draft Animals – Phil Gaimon
Although you might recognise Phil Gaimon from his ‘Worst Retirement Ever’ videos, he is also an accomplished author and former WorldTour rider who last raced for Cannondale-Drapac (now known as the pink-suited EF Education First). ‘Draft Animals’ offers hilarious yet honest insight into the WorldTour. From financial woes, training, and of course, there is the famous Fabian Cancellara controversy. A light but important read that will open your mind about becoming a pro, or at least help you understand the lifestyle a little better.  

Unforgettable lives on the bike

The Secret Race – Daniel Coyle and Tyler Hamilton
‘The Secret Race’ carefully details the performance-enhancing drug epidemic that spread through cycling in the early 2000s. And the levels of deceit and secrecy riders were going to in order to survive. Tyler Hamilton openly recounts his days as Lance Armstrong’s lieutenant at US Postal and his personal battles to stay on top of the sport that eventually spat him out. It’s an exceptional insight into the darker side of modern cycling history.  

Road to Valor: Gino Bartali – Tour de France Legend and World War Two Hero – Aili McConnon and Andres McConnon
Gino Bartali is still one of Italy’s most beloved cyclists, winning the Giro d’Italia twice before the second world war halted it for five years. ‘Road to Valor’ recounts Bartali’s life in lyrical prose, including the honorable actions he undertook during the conflict. Ensuring the safety of hundreds of Jews who would otherwise have been persecuted by the Mussolini regime. His life is not only celebrated for his cycling achievements but the selfless acts of heroism at a time where fascism was the dominant ideology in Italy.

Travel books to stoke your wanderlust

Epic Bike Rides of the World – Lonely Planet
With one of the most popular travel and guidebook publishers at the helm, over 200 routes have been curated for this volume, ready to inspire you to book your next cycling trip. Whether it be mountain biking in Moab, USA, or the Acheron Way in Australia, there are routes for every kind of bike and every ability.   

Inspired by our list of 12 of the most inspiring cycling books of all time to plan your own journey? We offer Worldwide cover as an extension to our Bicycle policies.

French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France – Tim Moore
For the vast majority of us who have never ridden a Tour de France route in its entirety, Tim Moore does it for us six weeks before the 2000 Tour. He does so with hilarity and astute observations on the changing French culture. While telling unheard tales of previous Tours including Hinault’s champagne-filled water bottles. A light alternative to serious travel guides that may still inspire you to ride, Moore is at his absolute best in this loving tribute to the Grand Boucle.

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle – Dervla Murphy
In 1963 Dervla Murphy set out on a journey from Ireland to India by bicycle. ‘Full Tilt’ documents her incredible expedition through diary pages she wrote while traveling. She overcomes immense hardships and barriers along the way but also finds time to enjoy the journey. For those of us consumed by wanderlust, this book may motivate us to break out the map and plan a post-lockdown trip. The world that Murphy encountered has, in large parts, disappeared now. Her time exploring Iran under the Shah is particularly enthralling.  There’s also a thoroughly irresponsible crossing of the infamous Khyber pass in the snow that will have you on tenterhooks.

Feeding your belly and your mind

Eat Race Win – Hannah Grant
Performance chef Hannah Grant excels herself with her second cookbook. Eat Race Win, released around the same time as the Daytime Emmy-winning TV show that followed Grant and Mitchelton-Scott around the 2017 Tour de France. In this athlete’s cookbook, Grant explores the difference in nutritional needs based upon seasonal training focus. The recipes are accessible and each chapter contains interviews with professional athletes such as Peter Sagan. This is the perfect book if you need inspiration to produce nutritional and tasty meals outside of the cyclist’s favorite: porridge. 

The Cycling Chef: Recipes for Performance and Pleasure – Alan Murchison
Michelin-starred British Cycling chef Alan Murchison knows how to produce cyclist-friendly recipes. As an athlete himself, he understands how to fuel for performance, and this is apparent in the book. ‘The Cycling Chef’ offers both nutritional knowledge and fantastically simple recipes. As well as how and when to use them. Perfect for those of us who need to improve our nutrition but aren’t sure how.

Miscellaneous magical moments

The Road Book – Ned Boulting, Cillian Kelly and other contributors
With the first edition published in 2018, the Road Book – or ‘Cycling Almanack’ – has become something of a bible for cycling enthusiasts. The yearly publication charts both the men’s and women’s WorldTour seasons. With reports and stats from every race, interspersed with essays and stories from professional cyclists and experts from the cycling world. A must-have for any discerning cycling fan. 

The Rider—Tim Krabbé
A short but literary classic, ‘The Rider’ has influenced many a bike racer. Including those in the professional peloton. Set inside Dutch amateur cyclist Tim Krabbé’s head as he competes in a fictional road race, the Tour de Mont Aigoual. He gives the reader an insight into the mind of a rider on the physical brink. Published in 1978, the book still resonates with cyclists all over the world today.

The Grand Tour Diaries – The Cycling Podcast team
Compiled by the Cycling Podcast team, the ‘Grand Tour Diaries’ takes a closer look at the 2018/19 seasons’ Grand Tours. Rather than focussing entirely on the riders, this book looks at the perspective of the traveling journalists. Whose job it is to cover the races for the sport’s fans and followers. An entertaining and well-written read from recognisable and well-established journalists.

Yellow Jersey Club

The Yellow Jersey Club – Edward Pickering
Contrary to the usual Tour de France analyses, ‘The Yellow Jersey Club’ gets inside the last 20 yellow jersey-winners’ heads, in an effort to understand the individual mentalities that went into winning Le Tour. Each winner has a dedicated chapter and the book delves deep into their psyche, more than a post-race analysis ever could. 

Training religiously

Cyclist's training bible

The Cyclist’s Training Bible – Joe Friel
As part of 12 of the most inspiring cycling books of all time, we made sure to add the most comprehensive training book there is for the serious cyclist. Joe Friel is the co-founder of the popular web-based training programme, TrainingPeaks. Highly regarded as one of the most knowledgeable coaches in cycling today. Even if you’re not racing, this book provides an excellent reference to get you fit – because it’s not just about training hard, it’s about training smart.

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