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Cycling Novels – Beyond HG Wells and Tim Krabbé

Read, ride. A life complete.
Read. Ride. A life complete.
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Respected commentators on cycling would like you to believe that cycling novels begin with HG Wells and end with Tim Krabbé, with the only books in between coming from Jerome K Jerome, Alfred Jarry, Ralph Hurne, and Freya North. Reality, needless to say, is a little bit different.

Below you’ll find two lists: the handful of cycling novels and poetry you really should make an effort to read, and a more comprehensive list of cycling novels and poems that have either been added to the Café Bookshelf over the last few years, or haven’t yet made it as far as my desk.

Both lists will be updated as new novels get added to the Bookshelf so do check back if you ever find yourself looking for a little bit of fiction with a cycling focus.

The Short List

Ocaña, by Carlos Arribas

A novel telling of the life and times of Luis Ocaña, the champion cyclist whose entire career constantly veered between heroism and tragedy, always missing out the middle way. Written by Carlos Arribas, cycling correspondent of the newspaper El País and Spain’s foremost cycling author, this is more than a conventional biography. Arribas defines it as a ‘fictionalised life story’, or a ‘biographical novel’. All the duly documented facts are there, but to that solid skeleton has been added the flesh and blood of imagined (but totally plausible) conversations, meetings and encounters. These are are not mere decoration; they serve perfectly to recreate the emotions and recollections of those who knew Ocaña, encountered him, loved him, or coped with him. And to provide a compelling entry into exploring the complex personality of Ocaña himself.

Ocaña, by Carlos Arribas
Ocaña, by Carlos Arribas
Mousehold Press

Piglettes, by Clémentine Beauvais

A YA novel telling the story of Mireille, Astrid, and Hakima, who have just been voted the three ugliest girls in school by their classmates on Facebook. But does that mean they’re going to sit around crying about it? Climbing onto their bikes, the friends set off on a summer roadtrip to Paris, along the way finding fame, friendship and happiness. But will they really be able to leave all their troubles behind? A funny, beautiful and uplifting story of three girls who are determined not to let online bullying get them down.

Piglettes, by Clémentine Beauvais
Piglettes, by Clémentine Beauvais
Pushkin Press

Legends of the Tour, by Jan Cleijne

The history of the Tour de France as you’ve never seen it before.

The Great Boffo, by Frank Dickens

A British kid lit cycling classic from the creator of the Bristow and Albert Herbert Hawkins comic strips.

The Third Book About Achim, by Uwe Johnson

A slice of modernist meta-ficton: a novel about a failed attempt to write a biography of an East German cycling star, Joachim T.

Alfonsina, by Ilona Kamps

A photo novel evoking the life of Alfonsina Strada, the only woman to start the Giro d’Italia.

The Rider, by Tim Krabbé

The cycling novel that puts the cult into classic.

Short Ride on a Fast Machine, by Magnus McGrandle

A London cycle courier goes to Norway to pick up a stuffed owl.

Cat, by Freya North

The definitive Tour de France bonk-buster.

Vault, by David Rose

A novel that questions novelists and the realities they build their fictions upon, asking whose life is it anyway?

The Velocipede Races, by Emily June Street

A steampunk cycling romance.

Ten Poems About Bicycles, edited by Jenny Swann

A poetry pamphlet cum greetings card, consisting of - as it says on the tin - ten poems about bikes.

The Misfortunates, by Dimitri Verhulst

A semi-autobiographical novel that confounds expectations of the misery memoir genre and serves up a slice of low life that’s a thing of beauty,

George’s Grand Tour, by Caroline Vermalle

Neighbours George and Charles take on the task of driving the route of the 2008 Tour de France despite their combined age of 159 years.

The Cycling Cartoonist, by Dave Walker

Cartoons with a cycling twist.


The Long List

Bosstown, by Adam Abramowitz
A Town Called Malice, by Adam Abramowitz

The first two titles in a Boston-set crime series featuring bike messenger and would-be stand-up comic Zesty Meyers.

Ocaña, by Carlos Arribas

A novel telling of the life and times of Luis Ocaña, the champion cyclist whose entire career constantly veered between heroism and tragedy, always missing out the middle way. Written by Carlos Arribas, cycling correspondent of the newspaper El País and Spain’s foremost cycling author, this is more than a conventional biography. Arribas defines it as a ‘fictionalised life story’, or a ‘biographical novel’. All the duly documented facts are there, but to that solid skeleton has been added the flesh and blood of imagined (but totally plausible) conversations, meetings and encounters. These are are not mere decoration; they serve perfectly to recreate the emotions and recollections of those who knew Ocaña, encountered him, loved him, or coped with him. And to provide a compelling entry into exploring the complex personality of Ocaña himself.

Ocaña, by Carlos Arribas
Ocaña, by Carlos Arribas
Mousehold Press

Piglettes, by Clémentine Beauvais

A YA novel telling the story of Mireille, Astrid, and Hakima, who have just been voted the three ugliest girls in school by their classmates on Facebook. But does that mean they’re going to sit around crying about it? Climbing onto their bikes, the friends set off on a summer roadtrip to Paris, along the way finding fame, friendship and happiness. But will they really be able to leave all their troubles behind? A funny, beautiful and uplifting story of three girls who are determined not to let online bullying get them down.

Piglettes, by Clémentine Beauvais
Piglettes, by Clémentine Beauvais
Pushkin Press

Bikes in Space, edited by Elly Blue

Two volumes of feminist cycling science fiction short stories.

The Road to Glory, by Lawrence Brooks

American Tour de France fan-fic.

Unchained, by Lawrence Brooks
Zoncolan: The Climber, by Lawrence Brooks

More fan fiction from Lawrence Brooks, this time straight-to-Kindle short stories.

Consumed, by Jonathan Budds

A modern horror story set in a cycling milieu.

We Rode All Day, by Gareth Cartman

A cycling novel, telling a story of the 1919 Tour de France, through the voices of riders and organisers.

Devil Take the Hindmost, by Martin Cathcart Froden

London-set noir telling the story of a 1920s track racer and the criminal underworld he falls in with.

High Road, by David Chauner

A cycling novel that rights the wrongs of the Armstrong era.

Legends of the Tour, by Jan Cleijne

The history of the Tour de France as you’ve never seen it before.

The Invisible Mile, by David Coventry

An ambitious literary novel from debutant Kiwi novelist David Coventry set in and around the 1928 Tour de France.

You & A Bike & A Road, by Eleanor Davis

An American road-trip retold as a graphic novel.

The Man and His Bike, by Wilfried de Jong

A collection of short stories and essays from the respected Dutch journalist Wilfried de Jong.

The Great Boffo, by Frank Dickens

A British kid lit cycling classic from the creator of the Bristow and Albert Herbert Hawkins comic strips.

Three Cheers for the Good Guys, by Frank Dickens

A cycling novel from the creator of the Great Boffo.

A Curl Up and Die Day, by Frank Dickens

A cycling novel set against the backdrop of the 1965 World Championships.

Vélo, by Paul Fournel

Memoir and fiction from Paul Fournel.

Anquetil, Alone, by Paul Fournel

Jacques Anquetil - the man, the myth, the model.

Chain Reaction, by Ross E Goldstein

A father-son boy-meets-girl American-in-Italy cycling novel.

The Cyclist’s Tale and Other Short Cycling Stories, by Kevin Haylett

A dozen interlinked short stories featuring a group of riders from the same cycling club.

The Big Loop, by Claire Huchet Bishop

1950s’ kid-lit featuring the Tour de France.

The Yellow Jersey, by Ralph Hurne

A 1970s cycling novel that hasn’t aged gracefully.

The Supermale, by Alfred Jarry

One those books so loaded with the weight of expectation that it cannot but fail to disappoint.

Three Men on the Bummel, by Jerome K Jerome

Jerome’s not very good sequel to Three Men in a Boat.

The Third Book About Achim, by Uwe Johnson

A slice of modernist meta-ficton: a novel about a failed attempt to write a biography of an East German cycling star, Joachim T.

Alfonsina, by Ilona Kamps

A photo novel evoking the life of Alfonsina Strada, the only woman to start the Giro d’Italia.

The Rider, by Tim Krabbé

The cycling novel that puts the cult into classic.

Valley with a Bright Cloud, by Gareth Lovett Jones

A YA novel from the 1980s.

Short Ride on a Fast Machine, by Magnus McGrandle

A London cycle courier goes to Norway to pick up a stuffed owl.

27 Stages, by Kimberly Menozzi

A cycling novel that tells a boy-meets-woman lycra-and-love story.

Dead Air, by Greg Moody
Deadroll, by Greg Moody
Derailleur, by Greg Moody
Perfect Circles, by Greg Moody
Two Wheels, by Greg Moody

An Armstrong-era American noir series

We Begin Our Ascent, by Joe Mungo Reed

An ambitious attempt at a literary cycling novel from a debutant British writer recently graduated from George Saunders’s creative writing MFA at Syracuse University.

Cat, by Freya North

The definitive Tour de France bonk-buster.

The Srampagmano Tales, by Scarlett Parker

A long-form poem about a group of riders on the road form London to Brighton.

Vault, by David Rose

A novel that questions novelists and the realities they build their fictions upon, asking whose life is it anyway?

Murder at the Bayswater Bicycle Club, by Linda Stratmann

A slice of detective fiction featuring high-wheeled bicycles and a crime-solving heroine.

The Velocipede Races, by Emily June Street

A steampunk cycling romance.

Ten Poems About Bicycles, edited by Jenny Swann

A poetry pamphlet cum greetings card, consisting of - as it says on the tin - ten poems about bikes.

The Great Loop, by Dave Thomas
An atmospheric cycling novel set in the era of the first giants of the road.

The Night Stages, by Jane Urquhart

A novel that features the Rás from a Booker-nominated author.

The Misfortunates, by Dimitri Verhulst

A semi-autobiographical novel that confounds expectations of the misery memoir genre and serves up a slice of low life that’s a thing of beauty.

George’s Grand Tour, by Caroline Vermalle

Neighbours George and Charles take on the task of driving the route of the 2008 Tour de France despite their combined age of 159 years.

Ventoux, by Bert Wagendorp

A cycling novel featuring middle-aged men, bicycles, lashings of Lycra and Mont Ventoux - what could possibly go wrong?

Bad To The Bone, by James Waddington

Faust as retold by Alfred Jarry - a cycling novel about doping and death and the lengths some will go to in order to achieve sporting immortality.

The Cycling Cartoonist, by Dave Walker

Cartoons with a cycling twist.

It’s All Downhill, by David Ward

A cycling novel set on an end-to-end ride in the UK.

The Wheels of Chance, by HG Wells

One of Wells’s novels that not even his army of ardent admirers think has aged well.

Wheeler, by Sara Zalesky

A novel set it in the world of women’s cycling.

The Black Jersey, by Jorge Zepeda Patterson

A Tour-set whodunnit.