The Big Store Of Bike Books

Cy­clist? Big reader? This way to heaven.

Bicycling (South Africa) - - Inside - WORDS & PIC­TURES: TELFORD VICE

If you like to read as much as you like to ride, this may be the best book­shop in the world.

IIf you have a thing for bi­cy­cles – and if you’re read­ing this, clearly you do – you could spend a lot of money in a par­tic­u­lar book­shop in Lon­don. Not just any book­shop. Foyle’s at 107 Char­ing Cross Road is, as they like telling you, world fa­mous. It’s four spa­cious floors of books, books and more books, with a lar­ney café perched on the fifth. And so to the third floor; where if you turn left at the land­ing, you will find – ac­cord­ing to a sign – works on ‘busi­ness, com­put­ing, law, mind, body and spirit, psy­chol­ogy and tech­ni­cal’. What if you turn left? ‘Gar­den­ing, med­i­cal, nat­u­ral his­tory, pop­u­lar science, sport, trans­port’. Sport? Does that in­clude cy­cling? Hell yes. Pages and pages and yet more pages on ped­alling fill two just about floor-to-ceil­ing book­shelves. I counted 259 dif­fer­ent ti­tles. They were di­vided into sec­tions la­belled ‘de­sign’, ‘main­te­nance’, ‘tech­nique’, ‘bi­ogra­phies’, ‘the Tour de France’… and ‘writ­ing’. In other, lesser book­shops, this last is code for ‘Rub­bish we dunno what to do with and which should never have been pub­lished’. But not at Foyles, where the cy­cling writ­ing sec­tion fea­tures real writ­ing; gems such as Jon Day’s Cy­clo­geog­ra­phy: Jour­neys of a Lon­don Bi­cy­cle Courier, which is billed as “an es­say about the bi­cy­cle in the cul­tural imag­i­na­tion, and a por­trait of Lon­don seen from the sad­dle”. It’s about how “the bi­cy­cle en­ables us to feel a land­scape, rather than just see it, and in the great tra­di­tion of the psy­cho­geog­ra­phers, Day at­tempts to de­part from the map and re­claim the streets of the city. “Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of the lit­er­ary walk­ers, Day ex­plores the con­nec­tion be­tween cy­cling and writ­ing, and in the his­tory of the bi­cy­cle he re­veals also the his­tory of the land­scape. The great bi­cy­cle road races – the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a Es­paña – are ex­er­cises in ap­plied to­pog­ra­phy.” Psy­cho­geog­ra­pher? What the hell is a psy­cho­geog­ra­pher? Never mind. Just know that which­ever road your cy­cling read­ing rolls down, an en­trance to it can be found at No. 107 Char­ing Cross Road, Lon­don, WC2H 0DT, from 9.30am to 9pm Mon­day to Sat­ur­day, and 11.30am to 6pm on Sun­days. Cu­ri­ously, 11.30am to noon on Sun­days is re­served for ‘brows­ing only’. Why? “I can’t talk about that. Phone Ted. He’s in to­mor­row.” Even by the stan­dards of the mis­er­able

“Pages and pages and yet more pages on ped­alling fill two just about floorto-ceil­ing book­shelves. I counted 259 dif­fer­ent ti­tles.”

Poms, this bloke was ex­cep­tional. The way he waved away a re­quest for what was ob­vi­ously go­ing to be a warm and fuzzy in­ter­view – hey, I’m a fan – made me won­der if he thought Bri­tan­nia still rules the waves they stole from the rest of us. Stuff you, china. Who needs you and your weedy, pal­lid, chin­less, combedover, slope-shoul­dered, beige-cardi­ganed ex­cuse for ex­is­tence? Prob­a­bly never even been on a tri­cy­cle, much less a bike. So here’s what I found out on my own. In­clud­ing the vol­umes on the shelves, Foyles can sell you 842 dif­fer­ent books on bikes and bik­ing, priced from a pound (R18.65 – to­day, any­way) to £169 (R3 150). They in­clude the kind of thing the cy­cling un­cle in your life gets for Christ­mas from neph­ews and nieces who can­not fathom why some peo­ple pre­fer not to be in cars – books like Chris Hoy’s How to Ride a Bike. Next year, stick to socks. There’s also hack­neyed hip­ster hy­per­bole: My Cool Bike: An In­spi­ra­tional Guide to Bikes and Bike Cul­ture. It’a a bike, you id­iot. It’s cool by def­i­ni­tion. And if you need to be in­spired to ride it, you should sell it. Schol­arly stuff like Bi­cy­cle Ur­ban­ism: Reimag­in­ing Bi­cy­cle-Friendly Cities sounds like bed­time read­ing for the strictly tragic. By which I mean me. Not that even I would at­tempt Hel­met Use of Ado­les­cents at In­de­pen­dent Schools. But clearly some peo­ple do, even at £71.99 (R1 343) a pop. But there are ex­po­nen­tially more where those came from that are well up to the stan­dards of read­abil­ity set by Day be­tween the su­perbly pink cov­ers of his Cy­clo­geog­ra­phy. And some are even bet­ter. Books like The Rider, for ex­am­ple, Tim Krabbé’s 1978 Dutch mas­ter­piece that went un­pub­lished in English un­til 2002, and which was de­scribed last year by Tom Van­der­bilt in the very mag­a­zine you’re hold­ing as a “cy­cling mem­oir mas­querad­ing as a novel”. What Van­der­bilt calls “al­most cer­tainly the most fa­mous words ever writ­ten in any book about cy­cling” hit you on page one like an eye­lid-curl­ing head­wind: “Meyrueis, Lozère, June 26, 1977. Hot and over­cast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike to­gether. Tourists and lo­cals are watch­ing from side­walk cafés. Non-rac­ers. The empti­ness of those lives shocks me.” How do cy­cling’s two book­shelves com­pare with the al­lo­ca­tion for other sports? There are four for foot­ball, but only one each for rugby and cricket. But be­fore you cel­e­brate, know that six shelves are de­voted to all things car. Six! For peo­ple who prob­a­bly don’t read! Oh well. Velo aluta con­tinua…

EV­ERY CON­CEIV­ABLE CY­CLING TI­TLE, FROM THE SUB­LIME TO THE RIDICU­LOUS.

PAGES AND PAGES OF RID­ING AND RID­ING.

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