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Culture

WLRN #FridayReads: Cycling Edition

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Christophe Ena
/
AP
The Tour de France is winding its way across the French countryside. The epic three-week stage race is the pinnacle of professional cycling.

It’s July and if you follow the sport of cycling, you are probably aware that this month belongs to the Tour de France — the sport’s biggest event.

In honor of the tour, we asked some local cycling enthusiasts for their favorite books about bikes.

Share yours with us — or just tell us what you’re reading — by tweeting @wlrn.

Christopher Hamilton, bicycle/pedestrian/transportation coordinator, city of Key West

I love Elly Blue’s “Bikenomics – How Bicycling Can Save the Economy.” Elly — who lives and writes from Portland, Oregon, one of the most bike-friendly cities in North America — tells the story of how investing in better bicycling facilities to get more of us on bikes is good for our health, safety and most importantly for local main street economies. She provides readers with information to push back on car-centric bias and practical information for getting started on your own biking journey. She also provides cities with advice on how to meet the growing need for better bike infrastructure.

One of my all-time favorite “bike books” is “Happy City – Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design” by Charles Montgomery. The central thesis of his well-researched book is that building dispersed, disconnected and car-dependent places, as we have since World War II, is bad for our physical health. They are less safe – in a number of ways. They cause more stress. They make us feel isolated and less connected to one another, which causes us to feel less trusting and ultimately less happy. His prescription? Building better streets and places through urban design that prioritizes people over cars. This means building walk- and bike-friendly places. He shows us the research why this is so and how to fix it. What city wouldn’t be happier if people were riding bikes side by side as a matter of course?

Mark Hedden, writer, photographer, cycling fan

It’s easy to think of the Tour de France as this crazy new event, when in reality it’s a crazy old event, as steeped in tradition as any century-old cultural institution.

Ralph Hurne’s 1973 novel “The Yellow Jersey” is pretty dated in a lot of ways (especially the narrator’s attitudes toward women) but it does a great job of illustrating the fine lines between greatness, ignominy and anonymous defeat.

Tim Krabbé’s “The Rider” is from 1978 but is a lot more universal in thought and attitude, and a great treatise on the obsessive myopia required to be a great athlete, or even a pretty good one.

Samuel Abt covered the Tour de France for the New York Times for decades. His book “Off To The Races” is a collection of the best of those stories. The strength of Abt’s coverage is that he doesn’t always focus on the bosses of the peloton, but instead often the domestiques – the guys who burn themselves out in service to other riders.

My sister-in-law gave me a copy of “Magnum Cycling,” which is basically members of the world’s greatest photography collective producing images of the world’s most epic sport. It’s a damn fine combination.