For the last few years, I’ve felt a curious compulsion to watch the Tour de France, having previously shown no interest in it at all. Ever. Maybe it’s the comparative lack of football that’s on (this summer being a glorious exception). Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t quite afford to go on holiday to France for four weeks at a time. Or possibly it’s to do with the sheer brilliance, oddness, tradition and spirit evoked by approximately 200 lycra-clad blokes cycling approximately 2500km, the majority of which seems to be uphill in the rain. It is thrillingly bonkers.
Since moving to London, I have only briefly owned a bike before it was stolen, and have yet to replace it (frankly the idea of a 10 mile commute, with 200 lycra-clad blokes, probably uphill, probably in the rain, has not spurred me on). However, I love watching cycling, enough to stand for… a number of hours on The Mall two weeks ago, for what was essentially two seconds of cycling action. Those guys go fast. The rise in cycling in Britain over the last few years – fuelled by the successes of 70’s hardware store owner Bradley Wiggins and Mr Tickle impressionist Chris Froome – is extremely exciting to see, and seems to have finally pushed overground what was once a marginalised culture. The ‘cycling book’ is now one of the most popular in the sports category, and it can seemingly do no wrong, having largely dispensed with the controversies of the 2000s.
So if you’re in the mood to pedal, check out these books from Turnaround for further inspiration:
For practical advice on bike repair, look no further than The Chainbreaker Bike Book (Microcosm, £10.99) and for thoughts on how to dress, shop and live as a regular cyclist, Everyday Bicycling (Microcosm, £7.99) is an unmissable guide. Also from the marvellous Elly Blue is her new book Bikenomics (Microcosm, £10.99) about how cycling could save the economy (if we let it).
For the more, shall we say, armchair cyclist, why not try Fabio Genovesi’s gripping novel Live Bait (Other Press, £11.99) about a teenage cycling sensation in a small Italian town – with an Italian currently wearing yellow on Le Tour, there couldn’t be a better time to get reading. And if your armchair happens to be next to a coffee table, why not plonk a copy of the wondrous Hollywood Rides a Bike: Cycling with the Stars (Angel City Press, £14.99) on it? Featuring sumptuous shots of Brigitte Bardot, Sean Connery, The Beatles and, er, Kevin Bacon on bikes, this is a perfect gift for lovers of both movies and two-wheelers.
If you’re after some impossibly cool-yet-practical accessories for your ride, why not invest in some Lucetta magnetic bike lights from Palomar (£24.99 for a set of two). Simply stick to the front and back of your bike and remove again when finished. The two lights stick to each other like glue so you’ll never be in the dark again. View the video trailer here. And finally, what better way to record all your cycling travels / favourite spots / personal best times than with the all-in-one interactive Moleskine Voyageur? It boasts interactive content such as sharable maps, a collective Flickr account and a tool to note down web content on screen and print it as pages for your journal! This is truly a must-buy for both budding and seasoned travellers.
If all that hasn’t inspired you to hop on a bike, or at least watch a bit of Le Tour, I don’t know what will. It probably won’t be the thought of me wearing lycra, though.