Book Review: The Cycling Anthology

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Cycling Anthology Review

The Cycling Anthology is a collection of essays writing by many well-known English language writers. The first edition is 272 pages with fifteen essays plus a Toto cartoon.

This is original writing, no pieces are lifted from past newspaper columns or old magazines and they often come with a more personal take and deeper insight than you’d normally get in a shorter piece cropped for a website. It’s a great read and even fits in a cycling jersey.

Each chapter is independent but all cover pro cycling whether by analysis or anecdote and often both. You can tie some threads together. One chapter about “Project Wiggins”, with its watts, VAM and performance audits is followed by the antithesis of Monsieur Thomas Voeckler, captain of chaos. And maybe the chapter about Adam Hansen might not have existed were it not for the enlightened recruitment policy of T-Mobile’s Bob Stapleton explained in another chapter.

With writers from Britain, Australia and the US an English style stands out. French and Italian cycling literature is often more poetic, see Antoine Blondin or Paul Fournel. Here the prose is informative and most contributors are journalists not novelists although “self-confessed Francophile” Edward Pickering comes enjoyably close in his praise for Voeckler.

You might enjoy reading, say, Pickering in Cycle Sport or Daniel Friebe in Pro Cycling. Their pieces are brought to life by fine photos and glossy paper. Yet here there’s no distraction. Apart from the cover the only illustration is an amusing Toto cartoon in the middle and even that’s in black and white.

It’s more personal than a magazine article, contributors often deploy the first person. Pickering writes “Voeckler races how I like to think I would”, David Millar describes the routine involved to meet Michael Barry on a stretch of road beyond Girona whilst Jeremy Whittle opens with his tale of being at a party where a woman declares “Oh God, the Tour? I love it” when mentioning what he does for a living.

If you enjoy this blog then you’ll love this book. For starters it’s better written – I wish I had more time for his blog – but there’s also some content that coincides with popular reads on here. If you liked my piece called Moneywheel about copying the Moneyball ideas for pro cycling then you’ll love Friebe’s “Cyclonomics” piece. When I wrote about luck it inspired William Fotheringham to write a piece in Rouleur magazine (issue 24) whilst in The Cycling Anthology Ellis Bacon also explores the role of chance and superstition.

There’s a wealth of cycling content these days that didn’t exist five years ago. Twitter, video, digital apps and more are on the rise but books like this suggest paper and print aren’t going out yet. I like the simplicity just as I prefer a still photo rather than video for my “The Moment The Race Was Won” series. The Cycling Anthology is small enough to fit in a jersey pocket but too good to tuck away.

Comparisons with other essay-rich publications like Rouleur are inevitable but this is different. It’s solely pro cycling and there are no photos. It’s not for the coffee table, more a pocketbook to pull out in a café as you can read a chapter in the time it takes order, sip and pay for an espresso.

A pleasure to read. It fits in a cycling jersey but is packed with a variety of subjects and rich prose. Those wanting glossy photos won’t find them but you should be rewarded by the writing and the tales within, especially if you’re hungry for detail, backstories and analysis. All for €10.

How to buy
The book is not for sale with Amazon, it seems the US retailer takes too much of a cut from smaller publishers like Lionel Birnie.

It costs £7.99 (about $13 / €10) and available direct from the publishers or Prendas Ciclismo, a British bike shop.

A list of book reviews is available here.

Disclaimer: this book was sent for free by Prendas. Thanks!

Cycling Anthology book review

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Julie @julesmpg December 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Thanks for the review, sounds like a fun read. My blog is small potatoes and is a lot of work. I cannot imagine the time and effort this blog takes.

The Inner Ring December 14, 2012 at 8:37 am

Thanks, I’m glad people get the impression this takes lots of time but it doesn’t (which explains the odd mistake and edits).

Kjetil December 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Thanks. I’ll go tell my wife what I need for Christmas.

Mendip 5000 December 14, 2012 at 5:19 am

It was one of the best 8 quid I ever spent. Really enjoyed the Jeremy Whittle piece with its tale of looking the gift horse in the mouth. I’ve tried Rouler, but it’s a little too “arch” for me. Can’t wait for volume 2 of this though.

I also hear they have underestimated demand and their print run is half sold already.

STB December 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

Thanks for the review, I have placed my order placed with Prendas, it sounds a good value read.

Surprised not to see this available in Kindle format which is ideal for this type of publication.

Christoph Pleitgen December 14, 2012 at 8:52 am

A big thank you for all the sterling work you do. My life would be a little poorer without you.

Mick Tarrant December 14, 2012 at 11:14 am

Merci Inner Ring for such a positive review. We are super pleased to be involved in such a worthy project. Re-action and sales have exceeded anything we or the editors envisaged. Nice touch to picture it in the pocket of a retro Renault jersey. The pocket size is no coincidence as the book was designed to replicate the old Penguin format which easily slipped into most jacket pockets. Who would have thought it, people still like the idea of “hard copy”

bikecellar December 14, 2012 at 11:48 am

On the Xmas list. Off topic, so excited to see that Grand Depart 2014 is Leeds in Yorkshire, 😀

steppings December 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Got my copy from Prendas, prompt as usual and they pay their taxes! (couldn’t resist).

Reader December 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm

But does it fit into a cycling jersey?

The Inner Ring December 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

It does in the photo above. It’s good… but you don’t need to take it on a ride.

Vera December 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I so need to order this book.

Angela December 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Large chunk of husband’s Xmas present now sorted. Many thanks for the timely review!

The only problem now is how to manage to read it myself before wrapping without him noticing…

Mike December 14, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Great review and now I can drop a hint to the wife about what I want for Christmas (along with a new Cervelo P3!)

Vera December 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Okay, I just ordered the book. Comes out to be about $21.00 with shipping. Looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the reviews. I’m learning so much.

jkeltgv December 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm

I’ve read it and particularly enjoyed the A Fotheringham bit on Oscar Frierre. I’ve always respected him but never really warmed to him. This piece on him changed that…..a couple of seasons too late!

So the brother sees this review and says he wants me to bring it to him for christmas (in CH) – I say “i’ve got it, you can read it and give it back” and he says “No. I want my own copy.”

Yes people do still like the idea of hard copy.

Guy H December 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Just ordered this as well, one for me, one for my cycling-nut twin that lives in Sydney. Can’t wait, and thanks for the recommendation.

jonnyvelo December 18, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Yes Amazon takes too big a cut for a small publisher and then pays no f*%king corporation tax. The only f*%kers paying tax in the UK are those poor sods on PAYE. As one American ‘lady’ said “tax is for the little people.”

Another Dave February 15, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Bought this book straight after your blog review received just in time for xmas , read a story each night
can’t wait for the next issue please keep us informed when it is released awesome blog INRING keep it coming

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