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On Biking: The best biking books for the holiday season

Posted by Emily Files  December 10, 2012 01:50 PM

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This has been another banner year for biking books: so many good reads, so little time. And if our almost spring-like weather continues, your average cycle-phile will continue to be out riding, not reading. Still, everyone needs a little down time on the sofa with that perfect book in hand. And with that in mind, here are a few of my favorite suggestions for what book to get for the cyclist on your gift list.

Tyler Hamilton’s book, “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at Al Costs” lives up to the hype. Hamilton and his co-author, Daniel Coyle, offer a detailed description of doping, racing, more doping, and what it was like to ride with Lance. Hamilton’s book goes a long way towards shattering the code of silence (omerta). I hope it helps his own healing process, too. A great read -- my wife, who is as interested in bike racing as I am in root canals, couldn’t put this book down.

I’ve never ridden my bike in Scotland. But if I did, I’d take along Nick Fairweather’s book “Cycling Around Scotland.” It is the definitive book on the subject. Perhaps one of the only books on the subject. It’s also funny, informative, and inspiring. Even if you never plan on riding in Scotland, this book is a pleasure. Great photos, nice stories, and good maps. Though be forewarned: you just might want to pack up and head to the highlands.

Want to train like the pros? Joe Friel’s book “The Power Meter Handbook. A User’s Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes” is a great introduction to using a power meter for your bike. Don’t know what a power meter is? No worries: this book will explain it all. Follow Friel’s advice and you’ll get fast and fit. And unlike using EPO, Friel’s training methods are perfectly legal.

“On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life,” edited by Amy Walker, is a lovely collection of essays on, well, biking. As Walker writes, “Warning! Cycling can be addictive.” “On Bicycles” makes it clear that biking is good for your planet, your waistline, your wallet and your psyche.

If, like me, you enjoy Gretchen Reynolds’ “Phys Ed” column in the New York Times, then you will love her book, “The First 20 Minutes. The Myth-Busting Science that Shows How We can Walk Farther, Run Faster, and Live Longer.” Okay, so the title does not include the word bike. Or bicycle. Or ride. But no worries: there are three drawings of a cyclist on the cover of the book. As well as a runner, skateboarder, weightlifter and dancer. But that’s okay, because if you are going to buy just one book to change your life and get fit fast, this is it. Reynolds has written an entertaining, readable, and highly informative book on everything you’ve always wanted to know but were afraid to ask about diet and exercise and training and recovery.

Zahid Sardar’s book “100 Best Bikes” is a tour de force of bike design and engineering. Sardar writes on architecture and design for the San Francisco Chronicle, and his book reflects a deep appreciation of two wheeled design, engineering, and innovation. Plus there are some great pictures to look at.

Did the BMX racing at last summer’s Olympics make you want to pop a wheelie or grab some air? Are you looking to learn about the history of BMX bikes? Then look no further: “Rad Rides. The Best BMX Bikes of All Time” is the best BMX bike book of all time. Lots of photos of bikes, fashion, and changing hairstyles (my favorite picture: a BMX race in the 1970’s, with 20 teens tearing it up on the dirt track). This book is certainly about bikes. It’s also about the passion and culture that these trick bikes inspire.

"City Cycling," edited by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, is a comprehensive and readable guide to all things related to biking around town. Topics include many of the hot-button issues that dominate the public conversation about biking: from safety and infrastructure to health, bike sharing, and public transportation. This book elegantly explains why bikes are good for you, your planet, your wallet and your waistline.

"Argyle Armada: Behind the Scenes of the Pro Cycling Life," is Mark Johnson's beautifully photographed book from his year spent with the Garmin-Cervelo cycling team. It's easy to dismiss cycling as a dope-addled sport, especially given the recent revelations and accusations about Lance et. al. But what's special about the team that Johnson covered was that its leader, Jonathan Vaughters, works hard to run a squad that is committed to clean racing. What Johnson has come up with is a lavish homage to the life of a racer. This book is truly a case of local boy (Johnson is a B.U. grad) making good.

Many consider Eddie Merckx to have been the best cyclist of all time. His earned his nickname "The Cannibal" on account of the fact that he had an insatiable hunger to win. Plus the fact that he devoured the competition. No one before, and no one since (not even that L guy) dominated his sport quite like Eddie. "Merckx 525," by Ron Reuman, Stephan Vanfleteren, Jan Maes, and Frederik Backelandt offer a treasure trove of photographs and essays documenting his racing career (and those 525 victories). The elves at VeloPress have done it again: this is another one of those must-own books for the cycle-phile on your gift-buying list.

Maybe the cyclist you know is a magazine kind of reader. If so, check out VeloNews (the racer's bible), Bicycling (kind of the Time magazine of bicycling magazines: a great read for anyone interested in cycling), and Roleur (for the cognoscenti, the kind of person who likes bespoke suits and custom bikes). You can't go wrong with any one (or all three) of these magazines.

Jonathan Simmons is a psychologist and an avid cyclist. His book, “Here For the Ride” will be published in March.

Looking for something to do on Tuesday night? Why not head over to LivableStreets and hear what’s going on with biking in Boston.

On Saturday the Somerville Bicycle Committee and the Somerville Arts Council team up to sponsor the third annual Illuminations Bike Tour. It’s short, it’s fun, and best of all, there are hot drinks and treats at City Hall after the ride.

Urban AdventTours is sponsoring a free class on Bicycle Commuting for Everyone on Wednesday, December 12th, at 5 p.m., and Monday, December 17th, at 12:30 p.m. A great way to learn how to safely stay on the road even when the weather turns foul.

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