Every now and then I do posts about gift ideas for women’s cycling fans and women who cycle. It’s always a case of things I like, or that are recommended to me, I don’t get any personal benefit – I just want to help you buy nice presents for the nice people in your life!
Now, I love reading, so I’m starting with books, and I’m pretty sure there’s something here to suit every taste. I’m roughly dividing this into books by women cyclists, about women and cycling, and books about cycling written by women, but it includes everything from autobiography to poetry, chicklit, history, science fiction, economics, books about men’s races and more. My big thanks to Feargal McKay, whose reviews have introduced me to a lot of these (I’ll link to the reviews, to give you more of an idea about the books). The link to each book title takes you to the publisher’s page where possible, which usually has information on how to buy. Update! I don’t get any financial benefit from sharing these books, BUT I’ve just set up an Amazon Associates account, so if you buy though my links, I get a little cut of Amazon’s costs (don’t worry, this doesn’t affect the writers’ royalties, it just helps me!)
Of course there are tons more books out there, so if you have any recommendations of womensy-cyclingy books, please get in touch, and I’ll put together an second post.
Books by women cyclists
Nicole Cooke: The Breakaway (Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1471130335)
If you’re interested at all in women’s cycling in the UK, you have to read this one. Cooke was the first cyclist to win the Olympic and World Championships road race in the same year, in 2008, and she fought all the way, on and off the road. She wrote this without a ghost-writer, so it’s very much her own voice, and if you know anything about Cooke, you’ll know she doesn’t pull her punches. Read the reviews by Feargal on Podium Café (part 1 and part 2) and on the Guardian.
My Amazon Associates link: The Breakaway
From one World and Olympic champion to the next – this is the story of Vos’ 2012, where author Rick Booltink followed her around for the year. It’s very honest, talking about how she became anorexic in the push to win the Olympics, and then came back from that to win, and she talks about all the pressure and doubts. Vos is this incredible character, and this is very honest… but! it’s only available in Dutch! It’s available on Dutch book-seller Bol.com, and my Amazon Associates link is here: Op de troon: Marianne Vos fietsmalle wielerkoningin
Leontien van Moorsel/Marjolein Hurkmans: De rit van mijn leven (House of Knowledge, ISBN 9789085105893)
Another multiple champion, and again in Dutch. De rit van muj leven – the ride of my life – covers not only Van Moorsel’s many, many successes, on road and track, including winning Olympic medals on the track and road in the same year, but also the dark times of her life, including her battles with eating disorders, and how she overcame them. You can find out more and buy it on Leontien’s webshop or on Bol.com, or via my Amazon Associates link: Leontine van Moorsel, de rit van mijn leven
Victoria Pendleton and Donald McRae: Between the lines (Harper Collins)
If you are a track fan, you might have seen Victoria Pendleton’s Between the Lines already – her autobiography came out in 2012, and while I haven’t read it myself, it sounds fascinating from fmk’s Podium Café review – very personal, and with an interesting view behind the scenes at British Cycling. Read the review and see what you think – and if you want to buy a copy, here’s my Amazon Associates link: Between the Lines: My Autobiography
Beryl Burton was a superstar of women’s cycling in the 1950s to 1970s, becoming World Champion seven times, and famously setting the record for the 12-hour time trial, beating the fastest man, offering him a sweet as she passed – you might have listened to the BBC Radio 4 docudrama about her life, or seen about the play based on that, Beryl. It’s out of print right now, probably because of all that interest, but there are second-hand copies available via my Amazon Associates link: Personal Best: The Autobiography of Beryl Burton. And if you want more Beryl, there’s this DVD on Amazon – no idea what it’s like at all, but it’s narrated by Phil Liggett….
UPDATE! You can also buy the script of Maxine Peake’s play Beryl via my Amazon Associates link as well: Beryl (Modern Plays)
Rebecca Rusch with Selene Yeager: Rusch to Glory (Velopress, ISBN 9781937715250)
From road and track to something more extreme – three-time World 24-hour MTB Champion Rebecca Rusch, who was also a Masters skiing World Champion, and has tons and tons of adventures in mountains, jungles and white water all over the world. She went from “scrawny Chicago kid” ” joining the high school track team to score a free tracksuit” to not just chasing her own dreams to also working to get more women into MTB – and this book, due out in October, will tell us all about it and much more.
My Amazon Associates link: Rusch to Glory: Adventure, Risk & Triumph on the Path Less Traveled
It’s not all World and Olympic Champions!
If you’ve listened to our podcast or read anything on this site, you’ll probably know that Dan and I are big fans of Dutch pro cyclist Marijn de Vries. We love her blog (in English and in Dutch), and I’m sure if we could read Dutch, we’d love her book, too.
Vrouw & Fiets (women & bike) is “a handbook for cycling women”, by Marijn and her friend Nynke de Jong. It gives an introduction to all things bike, aimed at women who just want to ride – and I am never going to describe it as well as google translate does, so click through and read that! You can order it online from bol.com or buy it via my Amazon Associates link: Vrouw & fiets: handboek voor de fietsende vrouw
Kathryn Bertine: The road less taken (Triumph Books, ISBN 9781629370125)
You might remember Kathryn Bertine from the Le Tour Entier campaign for a women’s Tour de France, and from making her film Half the Road about women’s cycling and equality . She’s published three books – All the Sundays yet to come (2003, ISBN 978-0316099011) on her ice skating career; As good as gold (2010, ISBN 978-1933060538) on trying out a ton of sports trying to get to the Olympics; and now her brand-new book, The Road Less Taken, a series of essays about her cycling life. You can buy this one via my Amazon Associates link: The Road Less Taken: Lessons from a Life Spent Cycling
– but if you’re in the USA DVD region, you can also buy a copy of the book and the Half the Road DVD together for $29.33.
Christiane Soeder and Stefanie Mollnahuer: Frauen Radsport
If German’s your language, how about Christiane Soeder and Stefanie Mollnhauer’s Frauen Radsport – women’s cycle-sport. Soeder raced in the 2000s, winning the women’s Tour de France equivalent, the Grand Boucle, coming second in the Road World Championships and fourth in the Olympic road race in 2008. This book is all about women’s racing, from a physiological and technical point of view, and looks packed full of useful advice. It’s available on Amazon.de for €16.90 or buy it via my Amazon Associates link: Frauenradsport: Der perfekte Ratgeber für Einsteigerinnen und Fortgeschrittene
– and read more about it here.
Karen Darke: Boundless and If you fall…
Karen Darke is a British handcyclist who raced in the 2012 Paralympics, winning a silver in the time trial, and crossing the line in the road race hand-in-hand with fellow-Brit Rachel Morris – they wanted to share the bronze medal, but the judges gave it to Morris, and Darke the fourth place. Darke was paralysed from the chest down after a rock climbing accident at age 21, and her books, Boundless and If you fall... tell the story of how she came to terms with the accident, and went on to incredible climbing, chair-skiing and hand cycling adventures, and more. Click through those links to find out more, and buy the books.
Elizabeth Robins Pennell: Over the Alps on a Bicycle (The British Library, ISBN: 9781241598587)
Written in 1898, it’s the story of adventures, as the title suggests, of Alpine cycling, with illustrations from the time. It’s fascinating, if you want to know how cycling, or the Alps have changed, as well as what was possible for (well-off) Victorian British women. I recommend Willj’s review on Podium Café – and you can read this one online for free, or buy a copy via my Amazon Associates link: Over the Alps on a Bicycle. Illustrated by J. Pennell.
Books about women and cycling
These are books I’ve not read at all, bar one, which you MUST READ!!! – but they’re ones Feargal has reviewed on Podium Café, and I always love reading those reviews , they’re really interesting – and the first one is one of his most controversial…
Emma O’Reilly: The race to the truth (Transworld, ISBN 9780593074060)
If you’ve followed the Lance Armstrong saga, you’ll know about Emma O’Reilly, the soigneur who blew the whistle on his doping, and faced an absolute shitstorm, with terrible behaviour both from Armstrong, but also from the anti-Armstrongs – she was hung out to dry from every side. This is her story about the whole affair, and Feargal’s review makes me want to read it, despite Armstrong.
My Amazon Associateslink: The Race to Truth: Blowing the whistle on Lance Armstrong and cycling’s doping culture
Now, I don’t, but if you want more takes of Lance Armstrong, Juliet Macur wrote Cycle of Lies (William Collins, ISBN 9780007520626) – Feargal’s review of that here, and my Amazon Associates link
, and there’s also Wheelman by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell (Gotham/Headline, ISBN 9781592408481) – Feargal’s review and my Amazon Associates link
Speaking of ‘controversial’… surprise, it’s not! But I LOVE this as an idea for a book, and I’ve read it myself, it’s super-useful, and something a soigneur would know all about….
Hurford’s a cycling journalist who wrote this book because there’s nothing else out there – a guide to bike issues specifically for women, including saddle sores, intimate shaving, periods and everything else to do with women’s bodies and bikes. What I like about this is she has input from professional riders, physios and medical experts, so there’s a range of advice, from crunchy-hippy to straight-up medical. It’s available in print and an e-book, and yes, it is a little bit expensive for the size, but damn, she’s self-publishing, and tons of work went into this, so I’m fine with that. I found this really readable, and super-useful – and you can read Clara Beard’s interview with Hurford about the book – and if you have more questions, Hurford’s built a website with tons more advice.
Cycling and women from a different angle – two looks back at history
Sue Macy: Wheels of Change (Random House, ISBN 978-1-4263-0761-4)
It’s a history of the early years of women’s cycling in the USA and how cycling intersected with female emancipation, with tons of colourful illustrations. It’s a short book, only 96 pages, so it’s accessible, easy to flick through and find interesting snippets. Here’s Feargal’s review, it’ll tell you more about it, and buy it via my Amazon Associates link
Miss FJ Erskine: Lady Cycling – What to wear and how to ride (British Library, ISBN 9780712357272)
This is another British Library reprint, this time of an 1897 guide to cycling for ladies. If the book above looks back at the impact of cycling for women, this shows what a woman was telling other women at the time when bicycles were becoming mainstream, so you can read it as a historical document, as well as for laughing at what now seems hilarious, especially the clothing guides. Feargal’s review has extensive quotes, so you can see if you want a copy, but it’s relatively cheap, so I can see this turning up as ironic presents for women who love cycling everywhere! Buy it via my Amazon Associates link.
Bálint Hamvas: Cyclocross 2013/14 (Cyclephotos)
Now this isn’t exclusively about women, but one thing I love about Bálint’s books is that they include tons about the women’s races. Bálint’s a photographer, and I adore his work, he has a beautiful eye, and if you ever watch top-level CX and see this tall man crawling in the mud, or contorting his body into weird positions for that shot, that’s Bálint! For the past few years he’s been self-publishing books of the season, with gorgeous photos and words my my good friend Caro Cardinaels – and given Caro is the person responsible for making me fall in love with the sport, I can’t praise these highly enough, she really knows how to write about it for both fans and newbies. I’m flicking through it in between typing, and it’s gorgeous – but for a less biased opinion, here’s Feargal’s review and his interview with Bálint from last winter.
If you want to see his photos to see if you’d like this, or buy previous years’ books, head to his site – and keep an eye on it throughout the season, his work is very special.
Cycling fiction and poetry by women
Freya North: Cat (Random House, ISBN 978-0099278351)
I tell this story every now and again, but I first understood the Tour de France thanks to chicklit – picking up a copy of Cat from my work swap-shelf. I’d tried to watch it on tv but it seemed so complicated, but North explained the competitions-within-the-race so well, and so I tried again and loved road cycling.
I re-read this book once a year, and it’s awesome, managing to make the complicated world of the Tour de France clear and simple, and despite the chick-lit-y sex scenes (YMMV with them) it’s absolutely charming, and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. Freya North did this deliberately, she wanted to share her love of the Tour as far as she could, and I’m proof! So what would a guy, for example, think? Find out in Feargal’s review, and you can also read his interview with North about the book too. BUY THIS BOOK!!!! I genuinely love it! (Here’s my Amazon Associates linke )
Kimberly Menozzi: 27 Stages (Good to Go Press, ISBN 9780615816012)
It’s another lycra-and-love story, and I’ve not read it, because I don’t think anything could be as good as Cat was for me, but read Feargal’s review, and you can read the first chapter for free too via the title link. If you decide to buy it (eg via my Amazon Associates link
) or have read it, tell me what you think!
Elly Blue: Bikes in Space and Bikes in Space 2 (Microocosm Publishing)
‘Zines rather than books, they’re described on the website as “feminist bicycle science fiction anthology. Started as a zine (and a bit of a joke), it ended up being ridiculously fun and popular, filled with great pulp-esque stories” and as someone who baby-sat for second-hand book money as a teenager, and read a lot of Women’s Press science fiction, I really want to read this! I’ve genuinely no idea what they’d be like, but they’re nice and cheap, so I say take a risk, they look lots of fun!
Jenny Swann (ed): Ten poems about bicycles (Candlestick Press, ISBN 978 0 9558944 5 9)
Feargal describes it in his review as “A poetry pamphlet cum greetings card, consisting of – as it says on the tin – ten poems about bikes“, which sounds like a really interesting small present (stocking filler? Postal gift?), and as it’s poems by multiple authors, there’s likely to be something for everyone. Swann is the founder of Candlestick Press, and Feargal also interviewed her, about the book, poetry in general, running a publishing house and more. This seems like such a simple, perfect idea, and Feargal says it’s very well-done to boot, I think I’ll buy one this year (my Amazon Associate link
Books about cycling by women
Bella Bathurst: The Bicycle Book (Harper Press, ISBN 9780007305889)
This is another one that I’d be really interested to read myself – Bathurst wrote it because it’s the kind of book she wanted to see, but couldn’t find. It covers a whole range of cycling topics, a pot pourri, says Feargal in his review, with as much of a mix of styles in the separate pieces, as subjects. He’s also interviewed Bathurst, so you can read her own take on the philosophy behind it. Here’s my Amazon Associates link
As Feargal says, there’s bits about racing in Bathurst’s book, but what if you want more about the big races?
Suze Clemitson: 100 Tours, 100 Tales (Velocast)
You might know Suze from her twitter account, FestinaGirl, and her daily Velocast news podcasts – that’s how I know her, and I always love her wit and her passion for making cycling become the best it can be – she can be outraged, enraptured, or funny as hell. She started this e-book as a series of blog posts, and the thing that makes this different from the many, many other books about the Tour de France, is it’s a fan’s-eye view of Le Tour, with Suze’s personality all the way through it. It was number 1 in the Guardian Sports ‘Our Favourite Things This Week’ section, and of course Feargal reviewed it too! It’s only a fiver (Five pounds, in British), so if you have a way of e-reading, I recommend it!
Lucy Fallon & Adrian Bell: Viva la Vuelta! The History of Spain’s Great Cycle Race, 1935-2013 (Mousehold Press, ISBN 978-1-874739-67-8)
Feargal described it as “The first and only English-language history of the Spanish Grand Tour, telling the story of each edition of the race from 1935 through to 2013” – read his review, to see if you’d like that or not, if you’re unsure, and you can buy it via my Amazon Associates link
Aili & Andres McConnon: Road to Valour (Orion Books, ISBN 9780753828144)
It’s a the story of cycling legend Gino Bartoli, focusing on his two Tour de France wins, and his life during the Second World War, including his work rescuing Jewish people from the Fascists, which is not what you usually get in the usual cycling biographies by any stretch. Feargal’s review talks about that story, and the structure of this book, the positives and the negativesand Road to Valour: Gino Bartali – Tour de France Legend and World War Two Hero
And for the last book in this section, something different – bikes and economics:
Elly Blue: Bikenomics (Microcosm Publishing, ISBN 9781621060031)
It’s looking at the North American bicycling movement from a politic-economic perspective, and if you’ve read Elly Blue’s blogs, you’ll know this is something that she’s genuinely interested in, whether she’s delighted and excited, or passionate and fighting, but always interesting. She seems to be coming at the topic as an activist rather than an economist, and it doesn’t just put an argument for cycling, it refutes arguments against. There are videos through the book link, and Feargal has reviewed it already, and you can buy it via my Amazon Associates link
UPDATE! Elly also had a kickstarter to write a book, Our bodies, our bikes, “Essays, resources, and personal stories at the intersection of bicycling and women’s health“. which has achieved it’s goal, so keep an eye on her site for that coming out in the next few months!
So you’ll probably have seen, I’ve mentioned Feargal McKay’s reviews a lot in this, so it’s only fair I also mention his book, The Complete Guide to the Tour de France (Aurum Press, ISBN 978-1781312650). Feargal has read, and had an opinion on, a ton of TdF books , so I’m really interested in how he’d structure his own book – and if you want to know more, Chris Fonteccio reviewed it.
Feargal has reviewed pretty much all the big cycling books over on Podium Café, so if by some chance you’re interested in reading about men’s cycling (yes, it’s surprising, but men ride bikes too!), head over to the Podium Café Bookshelf section and browse around. I sometimes like to describe his reviews as “he reads the terrible cycling books so you don’t have to”, and there are some great scathing reviews, especially of the men’s autobiographies, but I love his nuance, and the way he crafts the pieces.
And if you want to read a book that both he and I have got pieces in, we both contributed to Bike! A Tribute to the World’s Greatest Cycling Designers, edited by Richard Moore and Daniel Benson (Aurum Press, ISBN 9781781310113). Neither Feargal nor I will get royalties if you buy it (though I’d get a small cut if you bought it via my Amazon Associates link
), but if you want the history of bike brands, and some really weird and wonderful stories, this is the one for you.
If you’ve got thoughts on any of these books, please do share them in the comments – and if you have any recommendations for books about women’s cycling, or books about cycling by women authors, please do share them, either in the comments, on twitter or at prowomenscycling at gmail dot com.
UPDATE! Part 2 of my 2014 Gift Guide is up, which is mostly full of art, jewellery and more things by creative people, perfect for women’s cycling fans and women who love cycling, and Part 3 is presents and things you can buy that are made by pro women cyclists/teams. And don’t forget, you can help support this blog and our podcast by buying a selection of things with some of our favourite catchphrases on.