The 15 best ever cycling books

2016-08-15 00:00:00

The 15 best ever cycling books as rated by the Cycling Express team and       . To make this list we each compiled a list of our personal favorite cycling books and then compared them to the highest rated and most popular cycling books as ranked online.    

The following 15 cycling books came out on top.    

 1. Miles from Nowhere: A Round the World Bicycle Adventure    

 Barbara Savage (1985)    

 4.3 out of 5 - 992 Ratings        


Miles from Nowhere is the true story of one couple's round the world cycle tour. Before the era of Lycra, ANSI approved helmets, carbon frames, 22 speed Di2 and specialised touring bikes Barbara and her partner toured the world by bike. Along the way they make many first time cycle tourist mistakes, so many so that you could re-title the book ‘how not to tour the world by bike.’

Their experiences are real, and are bound together by the love of the journey, the spirit of adventure, and love for each other.

Spoiler alert: This book is according to this reader the greatest cycling book ever written, but if you can’t handle a sad ending move on to number two on the list.

Warning: Read this and the book below and you could wake up finding yourself in a foreign country, with only a few belongings and not a care in the world.

 2. Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle    

 Dervla Murphy (1987)    

 4 out of 5 - 1466 Ratings        


Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle is based on Dervla Murphy’s daily diary. In 1963 Dervla travelled across frozen Europe, through Persia and Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and finally into India – and all whilst enduring one of the worst winters of the 20th century.

Full Tilt is a timeless cycle touring classic and a true adventure, I read Full Tilt and Miles From Nowhere in 2007 before embarking one year later on a one year around the world cycle touring journey of my own.

Read it at your own risk. You just might sell your house and all of your belongings (like I did after reading it) and with zero cycle touring experience begin an epic travelling journey by bike that you will never forget.

 3. The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs    

 Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (2012)    

 4.32 out of 5 - 9083 Ratings        


The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs is without doubt the most popular and most highly rated cycling book of the past decade (and quite possibly ever). Simply put, it is a page turning must read.

It won the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. In the book, Hamilton details his career and his relationship with Lance Armstrong, for whom he was a teammate and a confidant. It also details some of the doping practices he and Armstrong were using on the U.S. Postal Service team, such as EPO injections and blood transfusions.

The Secret Race is the book that rocked the world of professional cycling—and exposed, at long last, the doping culture surrounding the sport and its most iconic rider, Lance Armstrong. The award-winning story of Tyler Hamilton takes us deep inside the secret world of professional cycling and his years as Lance Armstrong's teammate.

The book lifts the lid on the systematic and institutionalised doping regime behind the US Postal Service – I found it absolutely riveting and well worth reading.

 4. Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever    

 Reed Albergotti, Vanessa O'Connel (2013)    

 4 out of 5 - 2017 Ratings        


Wheelmen is the most widely read post Armstrong doping scandal book according to both reviews and number or reads (Tyler’s book came before the public admission, this came after).

The Wall Street Journal reporters Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell broke the news of Armstong’s confession and the incredible trove of related scandals before their anyone else was able to.

In Wheelmen they divulge the wider story of how Armstrong and his factions used money, power, and front-line science to subjugate and bend to their will the world’s most demanding bike race.    

Wheelmen presents U.S. Postal Service Team owner Thom Weisel, who in an incredibly bold power play overthrew USA Cycling's top governance and got control of cycling in the United States, safeguarding Armstrong’s supremacy.    

 5. The Rules: The Way of the Cycling Disciple    

 The Velominati (2014)    

 4.2 out of 5 - 296 Ratings        


‘The Velominati embrace cycling as a way of life, as obsessed with style, heritage, authenticity, and wisdom as with performance. This is their bible.

The Rules is an essential part of every cyclist’s kit—whether you’re riding to work or training to be the next Cadel Evans or Fabian Cancellara. Winning awards and gaining millions of viewers, has become an online cycling mecca. In 92 canonical rules, these masters of the peloton share tips on gear, tell stories from cycling’s legendary hardmen, and enforce the etiquette of the road—with a healthy, often sinister sense of humor.

Practical and motivating (Rule #12: the correct number of bikes to own is N + 1, where N is the number of bikes currently owned), unflinching and authoritative (Rule #9: If you’re out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.), The Rules will help readers find their cycling passion, whether it’s in high alpine passes or tight velodrome races, in the garage before the ride or in the bar afterward. Vive la Vie Velominatus.’

A rule book written by four professional cyclists that includes anything and everything a cyclist may need to know, or ‘should know.’ The Rules covers everything from cycling etiquette, image, motivation, tan lines, attire and many, many more. Mostly humorous, sometimes serious, often amusing.

 6. The Escape Artist: Life from the Saddle    

 Matt Seaton (2002)    

 4 out of 5 - 148 Ratings        

An autobiographical tale about a riders fixation with amateur road bike racing: fine-tuning the machine, shaving the legs, the physical and emotional fellowship of riding with friends, the early-morning training rides, the etiquette of the peloton and the suffering are all here.

The book also interweaves the story and eventual death of Seaton’s wife, the journalist Ruth Picardie, from breast cancer, aged 33, two years after the birth of their twins.

The Escape Artist is a tastefully written, painful story about life and the passion of cycling.

 7. Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist    

 by Paul Kimmage (1990)    

 3.99 out of 5 - 989 Ratings        


As a boy Paul Kimmage dreamed of cycling in the Tour de France, wearing the yellow jersey and becoming an Irish cycling hero. Even from a young age he knew that to achieve his dreams he would need to ride harder and longer than    —he spent his teenage years cycling an average of 400 miles per week.

Kimmage’s long hours on the bike quickly began to pay dividends and as an amateur he represented his country, finishing sixth in the World Championships. In 1981 Kimmage won the national road race championships at the young age of only 19. He then replicated his successful reputation as an amateur cyclist in Ireland for the French ACBB team and the Belgian CC Wasquehal amateur team. He also represented his country at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.

In 1986 he turned professional and quickly realised that success was not about who trained the hardest or who had the most grit or dedication, it was about drugs, and that without taking performance enhancing drugs he was not even capable of finishing a race let alone winning one.

In 1989, after only 3 years as a professional cyclist and after struggling with injury and distaste for doping he retired early with no wins, blaming mass doping in the peloton and rigged criterium races.

In 2012 he was fired from the Sunday Times and claimed that the loss of his job is came from his overzealous reporting on drugs in cycling. It was reported that because many of his doping and cycling stories were rejected by the paper's lawyers, he was unable to get as many published articles as he otherwise would have, and this led to his losing his job.

In 2012 Kimmage was named among the top 10 most influential sportswriters in Britain by the trade publication, UK Press Gazette and in July 2014, a documentary film called Rough Rider, filmed over 2 years was released. The film was set against the fall of Lance Armstrong and followed Kimmage as a journalist during the 2013 Tour de France where he questions what is being done to remove the doping culture in professional cycling.

 8. It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels    

 Robert Penn (2010)    

 3.93 out of 5 - 1,232 Ratings    


Robert Penn has ridden bikes for over 35 years and has owned almost every bike you can imagine, from a Raleigh Tomahawk to a specially built up touring bike that he rode 40,000 kilometres on around the world for three years in the 1990s. Penn currently has five bikes, and this book follows his quest "to grow old with" the most beautiful bike of his dreams, a combination of parts put together to form what he feel is the perfect bicycle.

As he writes early on: "Anyone who rides a bike regularly and has even the faintest feeling of respect or affection for their own steed will know this hankering – I want my bike."

Penn writes that he had ridden a bike nearly every day of his adult life. After touring for 3 years in his twenties he now rides to get to work, sometimes for work, to bathe in air and sunshine, to travel, to go shopping, to stay sane, and to skip bath time with his kids. When the time came for a new bike, he decided to pull out all the stops. He would build his dream bike, the bike he would ride for the rest of his life; a customised machine that reflects the joy of cycling.

If you’ve ever dreamt of the perfect custom bike, a combination of the most beautiful parts, frame, wheels and paint then you’ll enjoy It’s All About The Bike.

Robert Penn has worked as a lawyer, waiter, contractor, DJ, photographer, and journalist-and biked to every single job. He writes for the Financial Times, the Observer, and Condé Nast Traveler, as well as a host of cycling publications.

 9. Pro Cycling on $10 a Day    

 Phil Gaimon    

 4.2 out of 5 – 480 Ratings    

For anyone who’s ever dreamed about having the glamorous life of a pro cyclist, Phil Gaimon’s Pro Cycling on $10 a Day serves up some realistic—and hilarious—truths. From the uncertain process of finding a team, to dealing with performance setbacks and achievements, to the crazy stuff riders see while traveling, Gaimon provides an engaging portrait of life on the road as a domestic pro. The best part: Even through the toughest moments of his cycling career, Gaimon’s dedication to and love for his sport shines through—which is something any rider can relate to, pro or not.

 10. The Rider    

 Tim Krabbé (1978; English translation 2002)    

 4.2 out of 5 – 2277 Ratings    


This fictional account of a professional bicycle race by the Dutch journalist, author and former racing cyclist, is a cult classic. Finely written and full of rhetorical flourishes, it captures the peculiar dynamic of the peloton beautifully, from the point of view of one rider. At just 150 pages, it is a book you simply have to put down, in order to savour it. It is also a meditation on pain, for armchair enthusiasts who don’t fancy it much themselves. For bike-racing fans, it’s essential reading.

 11. Put Me Back On My Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson    

 William Fotheringham (2002)    

 4 out of 5 – 361 Ratings    

Guardian writer Fotheringham has written several good biographies of racing cyclists but this one stands out, not least because Tom Simpson was such a mercurial character. A lionhearted anti-hero, Simpson collapsed and died on Mont Ventoux during the Tour de France in 1967, with amphetamines and cognac in his blood.    

He was an Olympic medallist, a world champion, an obsessive professional and the first Briton to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. Thus, he helped turn an insular European race into a global phenomenon. Fotheringham sympathetically unravels the most enigmatic figure British cycling has produced.

 12. French Revolutions    

 Tim Moore, (2001)    

 3.8 out of 5 – 1703 Ratings    

The cliché you see on the back of a million books – laugh-out-loud funny – has never been more apt. This book is not to be read over a cup of tea because you’ll end up spitting most of it out as you snort with laughter. Certainly the funniest cycling book you’ll ever read, this is Moore’s story of his attempt to ride the route of the Tour de France back before that itself was a cliché.

 13. The Death of Marco Pantani    

 Matt Rendell, (2006)    

 3.8 out of 5 – 664 Ratings    


The death of Marco Pantani is a precise account of the life and death of Marco Pantani, the world’s greatest climber and the most loved of all Italian cyclists. Worth reading if you, like me, were a post-Pantani cycling fan.

Book excerpt: Marco’s humiliation at Madonna di Campiglio awoke in him a voice, a rant – “Look what they’ve done to me. Look what they’ve reduced me to” – that began to consume him. It would take him over for days and became a hindrance to living. In his cocaine delirium it began to fill books, paper scraps, even bed sheets. These jottings read like cries for help, or suicide notes written years in advance.

 14. Lance Armstrong’s War    

 Dan Coyle, (2005)    

 3.81 out of 5 - 1,341 Ratings    


Dan Coyle writes about the Lance Armstrong saga from a unique angle. With perceptive observational abilities and well written yet an easy to understand writing style Coyle writes about the life of Lance Armstrong in a way that few others could.

Times have well and truly changed since Coyle wrote this book making some narratives seem passé, but the class of the storytelling makes this an essential part of the Lance Armstrong catalog.

Or if you’re more of an Armstrong detractor the best modern post doping scandal book is Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong by Juliet Macur. Cycle of Lies is a definitive account of Lance Armstrong's spectacular rise and equally spectacular fall.

 15. Kings of the Road    

 Robin Magowan, (1987)    

 3.81 out of 5 -    

Kings of the Road explains the sport of city-to-city bicycle racing, and profiles the racers and the major races, from the Tour of Flanders to the Tour de France

The book shows "from (the) point of view as close to the rider as possible what bicycle road racing looks and feels like at the top professional level.'