getting started in road cycling by guy andrews. illustrations by laura quick. rapha editions/blue train publishing softback. 144pp illus. £12

"This book is dedicated to happy memories of Charlotte Easton, the toughest and most inspirational cyclist I ever met." guy andrews.

getting started in road cycling - guy andrews

in an episode of monty python's flying circus, john cleese, primly dressed as an elderly female paleontologist, expounds her theory of dinosaurs, succinctly put as "they're quite thin at one end, get much, much bigger in the middle and then thin again at the other end." or words to that effect. when queried on the veracity of this theory, cleese is keen to underline that it is entirely his/her theory/idea. that, to place not too heavy an emphasis on it, is the situation i find myself in with this review.

well sort of, but not really.

many moons ago, having received the occasional e-mail asking for a more thorough explanation of a term or concept that i had apparently used in the course of a review or article, i thought it would be an excellent idea to compile a separate, yet permanent section of the post that would deal with the very subject matter that is the raison de être of the publication under review. all i can say is that thank goodness i took the idea no further and that messrs andrews and quick subsequently took up the baton, even if a few years later.

road cycling is a very complex sport, even if we pretend that it isn't. there are incredibly basic questions still being asked on a daily basis, to which ready answers are either hard to find or embarrassing to ask. for instance, should you remove your underwear prior to inhabiting a pair of lycra bibshorts? i think it likely that the majority of us already know the answer to that one, a question answered by mr andrews on the partial dustcover, but if you've just joined a cycle club peopled by hardened cyclists, would you be brave enough to pipe up come coffee time?

getting started in road cycling - guy andrews

in the early 2000s, i met guy andrews for the first time as he brought us the early and much-celebrated editions of rouleur magazine. he showed me a copy of stephan vanfleteren's flandrien, a compact and bijou publication i immediately purchased on returning home, one that not only altered my perception of photography, but also that of cycle sport. rather obviously, even well over a decade ago, mr andrews was well versed in the way of the road-going velocipede. as such, i can think of few others better qualified to bring us an introduction to the genre.

'Getting Started in Road Cycling' is laid out very informally, making the most of combining the author's text with laura quick's superb and apposite illustrations. in the manner of the very best introductions to what i surmise will be a new activity for the great majority of readers, it doesn't preach. and to put the aspirational roadie even more at ease, the pages are peppered with soundbites from those who still recall their own early steps.

"Find someone to ride with so you can chat to them or at least listen to them chatting. Someone with relationship problems is ideal, as they'll be able to keep going for ages." laura bower.

getting started in road cycling - guy andrews

however, prior to reaching the stage where the new cyclist swallows the embarrassment of appearing in public clad in often bright polyester and lycra, there is the not insignificant matter of acquiring a suitable bicycle and preferably one that fits properly. i seriously doubt there is one amongst our ranks who hasn't suffered being witheringly patronised by a bike shop staff member. they may well delight in discussing the minutiae of cassette ratios and whether a 14 tooth jump between chainrings is preferable to 16, but when you have yet to figure out just what a chainring is, being asked as to one's preference is probably a sweatable situation.

"Think about what type of riding you do most of the time: for example, do you want a bike to ride a challenge event, commute to work and to collect the shopping on? Or all three? Or are you riding simply for fun and fitness?

if i know people who bought a road bike when a 'cross bike would have been a better choice (or vice versa), i'm sure guy andrews knows a lot more. the open secret, as clearly expounded by the author, is to undertake a modicum of research. some less than reputable bike shops will imply that you need a particular type and size of bicycle because that's what happens to be in stock. forearmed means you'll be in a better position to discriminate between advice and salesmanship. and on the latter point, guy asks the question new or secondhand?, before offering the benefit of his expertise in such matters and perhaps more to the point, how much you should consider spending?

getting started in road cycling - guy andrews

"It's better to buy a better value bike and set something aside for running costs and regular maintenance. Don't be fooled into expecting expensive kit to last forever. It doesn't." sam humpheson.

of course, getting hold of a bicycle is quite possibly the easy part; then you've got to ride it, ultimately in company and dressed not only for comfort, but in a manner that won't mark you out as someone who bought their first road bike the day before. thus the book continues wending its way through much of what we probably take for granted offering words of sage advice and accompanied by delightfully observed illustrations that are as intrinsic to the situation as mr andrews' words.

however, if i may once again refer to the book's title Getting Started in Road Cycling, with the emphasis on the word cycling, it would be a poor introduction that failed to point out as many of the basics as possible, including the potentially embarrassing clipping in or perhaps more poignantly unclipping.

"...When you are starting out, mountain bike-style pedals are so much easier to get in and out of (they are double-sided) and better for beginners to learn. Plus, you don't waddle like a penguin when walking into a coffee shop." helen wyman.

but not only do you need to know the difference between road and mountain bike pedals, if you're going to change them during the season, you need to know how that's accomplished. and there are other mechanical aspects of your new machinery that should be considered as pre-requisites. for instance, can you mend a puncture? and if one occurs miles from home when it's raining, should you mend or replace? on drop bars, which bit should you hang onto for grim death? and while you're figuring that out, which of those ten or eleven gears is the right one to ride in? and how the heck do you change the little blighters?

getting started in road cycling - guy andrews

i've read through this slim, informative volume at least twice, desperately trying to think of a question i could ask that either guy failed to answer, or laura hadn't illustrated. at the point of writing this review, i've failed to come up with a single one. and i've probably been riding road bikes for slightly longer (but undoubtedly slower) than the author. that this exists as a part of the rapha editions series is not only a brave move by imperial works, but further indication that the folks at tileyard road clearly understand their customer base, one that has undoubtedly changed somewhat since they opened their doors in 2004.

though i think it very unlikely that the unitiated are reading features on a website named after consumer whitegoods, if you've happened by as a result of the impending three weeks in july, nab yourself a copy of this superb introduction to road cycling and keep it in one of those three rear pockets about which you'll soon be familiar. at least until you become insufferably blasé like the rest of us.

getting started in road cycling

friday 6 july 2018

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................