Bicycle History: A Book Review

Every bathroom needs at least one cycling volume. Back when I had roommates I used to leave a history of Mont Ventoux, in French, on the tank of the toilet, just to mess with them. When I was younger, my volume of the Rolling Stone Record Guide occupied the coveted tank spot.

I’ve got a new book to occupy those trips to the reading room. Title rather simply, Bicycle History the first book from Bill and Carol McGann’s new venture, McGann Publishing, is a year-by-year assemblage of bicycle trivia, spanning 1860 to the present.

For the suspiciously minded: Frequent readers of RKP will recall that Bill McGann has contributed to RKP. Anyone who purchases a copy of the book will find a cover blurb I wrote for it. In neither case did any money change hand. I like what he does and he seems to have some regard for RKP. That’s as far as this goes. End of full disclosure.

Imagine a perfect world. In Utopia, I expect there would be a game show devoted to bicycle trivia. Who won the 1952 edition of Paris-Roubaix? When was the toe clip invented? And by whom? This volume could serve as the perfect source material.

Bicycle History is a compendium of facts unbridled from the constraint of a narrative in which the author might seek to impress upon the reader a larger truth. As a result, it’s an easy, if compelling read. You can sit down with 1951; maybe you’ll make it through the whole year before you’ve finished your business. What sense there is to be made of the facts is left up to the reader to decide.

Frankly, the disparate details the book includes are a bit like Lay’s potato chips. You won’t stop at one. Or two.

Each year’s chapter is a bit like a time capsule encompassing racing results, the births of future stars as well as the deaths of former greats, technological developments and sometimes business transactions as well.

Interested? You can order it here.



  1. wvcycling

    Damn you. Another book which to fill my bookshelf. I need to stop reading your suggestive selling examples (aka blog).

    Pretty excited for it’s arrival~ Thanks for the revealing of one more read-worthy book.

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