Of the hundreds of bicycle books published this year (the category is booming) two stand out. Each, in their own way, will remain important long after 2014.
Written by cycling author Peter Cossins and Welcome to Yorkshire’s Andrew Denton, Two Days in Yorkshire is the official record of July’s Grand Départ. It’s one of this year’s top selling bike books and is sure to be in many Christmas stockings. Brimming with heart-tugging photographs by Simon Wilkinson and his team at SWPix.com this coffee-table book is expensive at £35 yet also cheap considering the memories it will evoke. On Amazon (where, unusually, the price has not been reduced) “Yorkshire Lass” wrote: “My children are unimpressed at my request to be buried with the book- I think they wanted to inherit it.”
The book’s cover features the long-lens photograph that first went viral on Twitter and soon became the weekend’s most iconic image – a river of riders merging with a sea of fans on the “Côte de Buttertubs”. As the book relates, this now-famous shot was no fluke – it was crafted by James Maloney, a staff photographer on the Liverpool Echo and one of the partners on Spin Cycle magazine.
While Two Days in Yorkshire is a fitting record of a historic event Bicycle Design is a book on bicycle history that will last the test of time. Historians Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing have produced the definitive history of one of the world’s best inventions (and I’m not just saying that, the bicycle is often in best-ever invention lists because it beautifully, and efficiently, translates human power into meaningful propulsion – such as ascending Buttertubs).
Fittingly published by the imprint connected with one of the world’s most prestigious technical universities (the MIT Press is affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Bicycle Design is, as you’d expect, dripping with facts, but it’s far from boring. Hadland, author of a biography of Raleigh, and Lessing, formerly Professor of Physics at the University of Ulm, have produced a condensed encyclopaedia that’s as entertaining as it is readable. Lessing is the bike boffin who proved that Leonardo da Vinci didn’t create the world’s first bicycle – this and other myths are shot out of the water in Bicycle Design. Think the bicycle was “invented” in Scotland or that Messrs Sturmey and Archer designed the first Sturmey-Archer gear? Read this book, and think again.
Showing the breadth of history covered in the book Bicycle Design’s cover features an 1817 Draisine (a balance bike with two wheels in line, and front wheel steering) next to the Lotus 108, as used by Chris Boardman to win the 4,000-metre sprint in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
Bicycle Design is the authoritative one-volume reference on cycling history and cannot be recommended highly enough.