Book Review: The Bluffer's Guide to Cycling

The Bluffer's Guide to Cycling
Rob Ainsley

Just back, Lycra-clad, from a three-hour 100km spin on your ultra-everything road bike? Then don't read The Bluffers Guide to Cycling. It's like getting a puncture — this book is the great blow-out of two-wheeled pretensions. But if you like 'Go Dutch' and its lack of pretentiousness, then this is for you.

It's an easy-to-read mix of fact and fancy, allowing anyone to bluff their way past cyclists who know the top 100 finishing places for the last 20 Tours de France off by heart. It deflates the myth that Alpe d'Huez is the toughest Tour climb. It isn't — it just normally comes at the end of a stage when riders are knackered. 

Bluffers should learn classic climbs such as Mont Ventoux and Galibier, but if they can't remember others, just try French authors. Mont Musset, Col de Corneille, Route de Racine sound plausible don't they? Talking authors, did you know Tolstoy took up cycling in 1896 when he was 67? I was just as surprised as the peasants on his estate must have been. 

Author Rob Ainsley is entertaining on 'hot topics', giving both sides on helmet compulsion but producing the statistic that you are better off with a blonde wig, giving the ammunition to shoot down motorists who want us to buy compulsory insurance and road tax, and is brutally honest on 'cycling facilities' which are 'always substandard'.

London and the London Cycling Campaign get their a good slice of attention too. The blue paint used for the Cycle Superhighways might better be used “to spruce up 100 municipal swimming pools”, while “helmets are very common in London usually so people can fix cameras to them to use in evidence later.”

On LCC, itself Ainsley's recognises the often forgotten work of borough campaigning groups, but his suggestion that it is “fashionable now to diss” the campaign itself “as having become mainstream since its radical 1980s youth” is either plain wrong or plain contrariness. Who else deals with City Hall? Which other organisation has 12,000 members in the capital?

But does he mean it? He treats everything with a big slice of humour, so readers are final arbiters.

So read it and you'll never see your bike (or yourself) in the same light again. And talking lights, did you know that all bikes sold after 1985 must, by law, have pedal reflectors. Try those on your clipless pair! 

Review: Tony Levene