Book Reviews

This article was published in 1997, in Newsletter 15.

Two wonderful books with a cycling connection have caught my attention this month, and so I thought I’d take this opportunity to spread the word.

Cyclecraft, by John Franklin

[Cyclecraft cover (27k)]

I’ve heard about this book many times, but as it’s been out of print for some time, I haven’t been able to get a copy. However, a new edition has just been published, so I wanted to see if it lived up to my great expectations.

This book is rightly sub-titled ‘Skilled Cycling Techniques for Adults’. The author stresses that the techniques require an adult’s skills of judgement, and that children should be taught somewhat different technique.

A number of surveys suggest that experienced cyclists are many times less likely to be involved in a conflict than riders with less experience. The author’s assertion is that although you may encounter bad driving and many hazards whilst cycling, most of it is foreseeable and avoidable.

The book is packed with clear information on cycling confidently and skilfully in Britain. It’s well-written, and not in the sort of patronising tone I’ve seen in one or two other cycling skills books. There are plenty of clear diagrams throughout. There are sections on selecting a bike, maintaining it, and adjusting it for greatest efficiency. Also mentioned is pedalling technique – how to ride efficiently.

The author’s credentials are impressive. Amongst other things, the blurb on the back cover states that he is registered as an Expert Witness on cycling techniques and proficiency. The book is eagerly endorsed by RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).

Therefore I find the following statement particularly important:

One of the biggest mistakes a cyclist can make is to think that cycle facilities are inherently safer than using the general roads. Not all facilities will be safer, particularly for a similar level of mobility, whilst there is evidence that some facilities are both dangerous in themselves and lead to unsafe cycling practices. (page 149)

There is some overlap with the material covered on our training course last year, but there’s room in a book for much more detail.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any adult cyclist.

Cyclecraft – Skilled Cycling Techniques for Adults, John Franklin, published by The Stationery Office, ISBN 0 70205 1-6,£9.99.

The Missing Postman, by Mark Wallington

[Missing Postman cover (23k)]

This is a delightfully funny novel about Clive Peacock, Postman of the Year 1967 and 1968, who finds himself doomed to early retirement, due to the arrival of new technology – the ‘Optical Speedsort Machine’. Rather than cycling back to the depot with his last 10 o’clock collection, Clive sets off across the country to deliver all the letters himself.

He’s chased by the police, and inadvertently becomes a national hero along the way. There are some great characters, and great chases. It’s sort of a road-movie for bikes, really.

I enjoyed the book even more than the superb BBC production earlier this year. It would make a great stocking filler for this Christmas!

The Missing Postman, Mark Wallington, published by Warner Books, ISBN 0-7515-0087-9,£5.99