What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Picks 10 Great Cycling Books


The best gifts are often great books, and with over 50 cycling books reviewed in the PEZ archives, it’s a small step to humbly suggest some of my personal favorites.  Here’s 10 of the best cycling books to make your holiday reading and shopping a little easier.


We’ve managed to collect a small library’s worth of fine cycling reads over the years – many of those titles the works of VeloPress  – who truly champion the cause for any of us interested in reading about this great sport – and almost all of them thoughtfully reviewed by our own in-house literary expert Leslie Reissner.  It’s true that distilling the list to only 10 is open for much debate, so that’s why I approached this one from a purely personal point of view.  The list is by no means limited to just 10 either – and we’d love to hear from readers on other cycling books you’ve enjoyed – but at the least we can use this as a jumping off point for some great reading, and welcome gift ideas.  Now let’s get to it…




Shoulder to Shoulder: Bicycle Racing in the Age of Anquetil
We’re lucky to live in a era of so much change to the sport of bicycle racing, that we can still meet and talk to people who witnessed cycling’s golden era.  In the pre-digital age – it’s easy to imagine life moved at a much different pace than today, when with so many less things to distract, one couldn’t help but focus on and savour the sport in ways we never will again.
Les Sez:   Welcome to the world of “Shoulder to Shoulder,” a very deep dive into the Horton Collection archive.  Who has not gone through the belongings of their grandparents or parents and not found somewhere a big old shoebox full of dog-eared photos? Turned sepia with age (or by intent), they portray mysterious people (why didn’t anyone ever label these things?) and events of the past, often in locales that may no longer exist. What a delight it was to plough through them, imaging a world that was truly a foreign country, a place where people dressed differently, acted differently and even looked unlike us. Just imagine a shoebox like that filled with 350,000 photos all devoted to bike racing and you have the stuff that dreams are made of for cycling fans.
• Read the Pez Review here
• Buy it on Amazon.com here


Maglia Rosa – Triumph & Tragedy At The Giro d’Italia – by Herbie Sykes
Pez Sez:  One of my very favorite books on my favorite race – so good that I pull it off the shelf each May and re-read a few chapters to get me amped up for the actual race.  The book is a good mix of historical action across the Giro’s lifespan from the very beginning up until 2010.  The best chapters reveal accounts of the racing and personalities Sykes recorded from interviews and many years of research, and living in Italy as a cycling journalist.

Les Sez: Mr. Sykes certainly speaks with his own voice and in addition to his intriguing ruminations, the book features superb photos, generally black-and-white and, benefiting the subject, often very dramatic. “Maglia Rosa” is an enormous pleasure to read, and often made me realize why there are so many things to love about the disorderly, messy, crazy Giro as it stumbles its way around one of the most beautiful, and passionate, places on earth. Sure, we can all wax eloquently about the philosophy of bike racing, but it has its farcical elements that Mr. Sykes clearly cherishes.

• Read the PEZ review here
• Buy it on Amazon.com here


Beyond the Finish Line
Les Sez: A kind of art book, with cycling as a unifying theme. There are no captions to the photos, although the event is indicated (“Tour de France 2013,” “Paris-Roubaix 2014,” “Amstel Gold 2013” to note the famous ones; “Circuit Race Baarlo 2014,” “Arctic Race of Norway 2014 (!),” “Boxmeer “Daags Na De Tour” 2013” to name the less obvious). The photos are all of a technically high standard and include close-ups of fans, long shots of the peloton in action, moments of intense action and others of serene reflection.

• Read the Pez Review here
• Buy it from the Publisher here


Goggles & Dust 

Drawn from the Horton Collection – maybe of the world’s finest collections of cycling artifacts, the book from VeloPress, ‘Goggles & Dust’ collects over 100 stunning photographs from competitive cycling’s heyday in the 1920s and ’30s.  This of it as Instagram before the internet – it’s more of a picture book than a read, but still a wonderful leaf-through that should be added to any respecting afficionado’s collection.

• Read the PEZ Review here
• Buy it on Amazon.com here


Tour de France 100  – by Richard Moore
To mark the 100th in edition of the Tour de France, VeloPress produced this elegant photobook to celebrate the first 99 editions of cycling’s greatest event, the Tour de France from 1903 to 2012.

Les Sez: The magic of “Tour de France 100,” which does feature excellent written commentary by Richard Moore, seems to be more in the distant haze of yesterday. Yes, there was plenty not to be nostalgic about and the reader can pick and choose his or her own view of the Tour de France and what it means. But the race’s history is well-served by this finely-produced book with far too many excellent photos to describe. It should find a respected place among the many tomes dedicated to the ne plus ultra of bike races.
• Read the PEZ review here
• Buy it on Amazon.com here



Paris-Roubaix: A Journey Through Hell

Les Sez: In 2006, L’Equipe published a gorgeous history of the race and it is this book, in an excellent idiomatic English translation by cycling historian David Herlihy, that has now been published by VeloPress. Compared to the vast tide of books about the Tour de France, this one appears to be the only substantial work in English about Paris-Roubaix, in spite of the race’s legendary status. This in itself merits its inclusion on a cyclist’s bookshelf, but the book has intrinsic qualities that make it a must-have.

• Read the PEZ review here
• Buy it on Amazon.com here


Etappe: 20 Great Stages From the Modern Tour de France


Pez Sez:  Amazingly, we haven’t officially reviewed this book – but we should, because it’s one of the great reads if you like gripping accounts actual racing – the kind that go way beyond what most places post as “race reports” – these are dramatic, juicy accounts of not only what happened, but why.  These kinds of stories can only be written after the fact and after talking to all the players, then combining those accounts into whats distilled down to excellent story-telling and excellent reading.  The premise is simple – Richard Moore masterfully paints some of the best racing stories through his trademark in depth interviews and research, spun up in his so readable and entertaining style of writing.  My favorites include chapter 11 called “The Devil” – that transports the reader to the slopes of Sestriere the day that Claudio Chiappucci won an epic stage of the 1992 Tour on his home soil.  Chapter 18 called “Playstation Cycling” may single-handedly wipe all doubts of Andy Schleck as a less-than-deserving hero as we’re taken through his stage win in the 2011 Tour to the top of the Galibier.  There are 18 more stages all worth reading.

• Buy it on Amazon.com here


Switchbacks Vol. 1 The Rhone Alps


Les Sez: For someone considering a cycling trip to the Rhȏne-Alpes this book provides a great deal of useful information. For those who just like good cycling yarns, this is a fine collection. It is self-published and has a few proofing errors (Signore Pantini must be spinning!). Considering the limited niche market it is no surprise that it is not inexpensive although given the quality of the publication definitely worth the money. And judging from the photos you might even be able to enjoy a beer with Mr. Barlow if you meet on the right col at the right time!

• Read the PEZ Review here
• Buy it from the publisher here


Cinelli: The Art and Design of the Bicycle


Les Sez: Published by Rizzoli, famous for its beautiful art books, “Cinelli” is not anything like your usual bicycle history but is truly another art book. It is superbly designed, of course, like many bike books are but the content much more addresses aesthetic issues rather than technical ones. There is a mix of history, usually respectful, with matters of texture and quality, perhaps a big dose of fashion-world pretense but also some genuine humour. There is a generous selection of excellent photos, marvellously sharp and evocative, no matter which era represented.
• Read the PEZ Review here
• Buy it on Amazon here


Roads Were Not Built for Cars
Ever wonder how we got to this point of thousands of miles of paved pathways that allow us as road cyclists to live out our passions for two wheeled self propelled freedom on the open road?

Les Sez:  Occasionally a book comes to us that does not fit into any of the usual categories and not only informs us of previously-unknown facts but might have an importance extending beyond cycling enthusiasts. One of these books has to be “Roads Were Not Built for Cars” by Carlton Reid, an exceptionally well-researched book whose very title is fightin’ words.
• Read the PEZ review here
• Buy it on Amazon.com here


Read all the PEZ Book Reviews here.

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.