As we all know, you can find anything on the internet. Curious about the rolling resistance of your tires?—there’s a website devoted to testing different brands and models of bike tire for rolling resistance and comparing the results. Want to find good cycling movies?—there are dozens of “best” lists, from top-5 to top-100 (!). Want to learn how to service your headset?—a dozen videos want to show you how step by step.
So I won’t try to survey the universe of cycling reference materials. Instead, I’ll just list the best-known sources, places where you can get started, and sometimes my favorites.
Start by googling Cycling Weekly’s “50 Greatest Cycling Books of All Time,” to which I would add:
Ten Points, by Bill Strickland: the greatest and most distressing book ever written on why we ride our bikes
Slaying the Badger, by Richard Moore: a gripping retelling of one of the greatest Tours ever
Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, by Lennard Zinn: for good reason, the godfather of bike maintenance manuals
The Secret Race, by Tyler Hamilton: the only book you’ll ever have to read on doping in the pro peloton
The Flying Scotsman, by Graeme Obree: the autobiography of one of our sport’s most moving lives
There are 3 main cycling magazines, each with its own character:
Velonews: articles on racing, racers, and high-end tech
Road Bike Action: Mostly in-depth reviews of mostly high-end bikes, components, and accessories
Bicycling: the sociology of cycling—articles on how riding turned an ex-cons’s life around
There are others, some of them expensive coffee-table books like Rouleur.
There are six main Internet sources:
VeloNews.com, the virtual form of Velo Magazine, is first among equals. Its primary job is to report current events in the cycling world, but it also has an extensive library of videos on mechanics and maintenance (“Ask a Mechanic”) and a library on all topics cyclical—interviews with racers, mountain bike stunt riders doing their thing, and so on.
Pezcyclingnews.com is the People Magazine of cycling, a source for the latest chit chat and water cooler gossip.
Cyclingnews.com and Roadbikerider.com are more of the same.
Roadbikereview is the Internet’s best site for bike and gear reviews, but it has much more: articles on developments in the industry, videos, user forums, classified ads, and so on.
GCN, the Global Cycling Network, is a horse of a different color—three charming British ex-pros and slight nut cases discussing all things cycling. It comes in two forms, the GCN Show every Tuesday, a 15-minute review of recent events, and daily videos on all sorts of topics from bike maintenance to iconic European rides to absurd Top-Ten lists on such hot issues as the top ten cycling insults. The GCN riders will become three of your best cycling buddies, I promise.
Other useful sites include:
Bikeradar is a GCN-like source of videos on all cycling topics.
The USA Cycling website will give you any American rider’s palmares, a handy source when you’re heading for a pro race and want to remind yourself of who did what.
Weight Weenies, whose name says it all, used to publish actual weights of frames and components. The data seems to be inactive since 2010, but the site still has a useful blog featuring gear reviews and the like and a user forum.
Sheldonbrown.com is a site full of reliable, somewhat traditionalist info on all technical issues relating to bikes, begun by the beloved Sheldon Brown and now maintained in his honor.
Art’s Cyclery is a library of more than 450 videos on how to do every mechanical thing you can think of to do to a bike.
A blog is a site, typically written by one person, where cycling issues are discussed in journal form—a cross between a diary and an op-ed page. The most respected is Red Kite Prayer. If you like it and want more, there are hundreds of similar sites.
We talked about this in the chapter on Finding a Ride. I’ll review what we said there:
Good Internet ride guides tend to be highly localized, so find them by googling “cycling Your Area” or an individual road—“cycling the Seventeen-Mile Drive,” e.g. For instance, Toughascent.com covers the southern half of California, and Bestrides.org covers California, Oregon, and superficially Washington. Pjamm Cycling covers big climbs worldwide. Internet ride guides that cover large areas are relatively worthless because they have no filter—nothing is screening what’s coming in, so everything gets through.
Internet motorcycle ride guides are useful because motorcyclists love to explore curvy back roads even more than cyclists do. Google “motorcycle rides Your Area.”
Many local cycling clubs include in their websites a list of best local rides. Google “cycling club Your Area” and look for a link to local rides.
Print ride directory books are almost always next to worthless because they omit all the good rides, for reasons I can’t explain. The only exception I know are the Mountaineers guides to Washington, Oregon, and California, which are excellent.
A forum (or chat room) is an Internet site where you can take part in a conversation among users. Forums (or fora, for you Latin scholars) are invaluable when you have a specific question: can you use a SRAM force shifter with a SRAM red derailleur? Is that $230 wind breaker worth the money? Do you think Rider X is doping? What’s the best ride in the Portland area? You can get a list of the most popular ones by googling “cycling forum.” The best include the forums attached to Roadbikereview, Bicycling, and Cyclingnews.
Cycling is ill-served by the movie industry. There are few attempts to fictionalize cycling in film, and most of those get it wrong.
The overwhelming favorite among cyclists is Breaking Away, though I find its appeal limited and its representation of European cycling teams unrelated to reality.
Better, in my eyes, and by the same writer, is American Fliers, though admittedly the final mano-a-mano throw-down between our hero and his nemesis is as untrue to cycling as one can get.
The Triplets of Belleville remains the only dramatic film to get pro cycling exactly right.
Quicksilver and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure have loyal fans.
Premium Rush, the latest (2012) Hollywood attempt to sell cycling (bike messengers, precisely), got all our hopes up, then let them down.
2015’s The Program, a fictionalized version of Lance Armstrong’s doping career, seems to do better.
The Flying Scotsman, a dramatization of the book, does it about right.
While Hollywood doesn’t get cycling, documentaries thrive on it. Among the good ones are
Nine Ball Diaries (a season in the life of cyclocross rider Tim Johnson)
A Sunday in Hell and Road to Roubaix (both documenting a single running of Paris-Roubaix, the toughest of the spring classics)
Bicycle Dreams (RAAM, the Race Across America)
Half the Road (a polemic whose time may already have passed, on the lack of attention given to women’s cycling)
Rising from the Ashes (the Rwanda cycling team and the heroic westerners who worked to make it happen—unforgettable on several levels)
Stars and Water Carriers (the ’73 Giro, seen through the eyes of the stars and the riders who support them in anonymity)
Chasing Legends (the 2009 Tour)
Hell on Wheels (the 2003 Tour through the eyes of two riders)
Overcoming (a team’s progress, culminating in a Tour win)
Vive le Tour (a short but delightful capturing of the divine madness that is the Tour de France)
Slaying the Badger (documentary version of the book above)
Ride the Divide (a mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide—not road riding, but unforgettable)
And finally, there is a sacred text all cyclists must know: just go to YouTube and search for “Cycling explained.” All will be clear to you.