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How to Ride a Bike by Sir Chris Hoy book review

2 Oct 2018

Accessible, yet info laden manual from British Cycling’s original golden boy, that deserves to be on every aspiring cyclist’s list

Cyclist Rating: 
In-depth yet easy to flick through
No section on in-race tactics (but that's not enough to mark it down)

Absorbing the expertise of those around him like a sponge, Sir Chris Hoy was at the heart of British Cycling's transformation of the nation’s competitive fortunes. Not one to get involved with any nonsense, he’s famed for having a solid grasp of both the science and mechanics behind cycling, along with an absolutely grounded mentality

It’s a pairing that helped deliver him to the line ahead of his rivals time after time.

Combined with eleven World Championship golds and six Olympic golds, these facets also make excellent credentials for a cycling tutor.

Buy How to Ride a Bike by Chris Hoy from Amazon here

Hoy’s new book, authored with help from Chris Sidwells, takes readers all the way from buying their first bike, right up to elite level competition.

Spread over in excess of 200 pages it aims to be both a comprehensive primer and a toolbox that riders can dip into as and when needed.

Split into three sections on the technical, the physical, and the mental, the outcomes for the rider are further divided into five categories, covering maximal and submaximal sprinting, short efforts, threshold, and endurance efforts.

With information on everything from diet to dealing with pain and the different theories regarding how our bodies manage it, there’s a significant amount of depth given to each topic.

Throughout Hoy’s own voice and expertise permeate the text. For instance, here he is on the experience of creating it: 'In writing this book I’ve relived parts of my cycling career by having to reflect on what I did in various situations and how I trained and thought about cycling.

'It’s interesting looking back, how I’m able to use some things I did then in my everyday life now, even if it’s a simple as trying in vain to react calmly and logically when the autosave failed while working on this book!'

We get insight into how Hoy rebuilt his entire approach to training after a disastrous season early in his career. We see how he learned to control his nerves, and we gain insight into how he eats and recuperates.

Still, this is no biography, and there’s no time wasted reminiscing. Every example is utilised to illustrate a point. This trait is clearest in the section on mental toughness where Hoy gives insight into how he built his own bulletproof approach to racing and dealing with the pressure of performing on the world stage.

Similarly, sections on different training regimes are carefully explained, while the details of specific sessions are outlined in easy to follow diagrams.

There’s also the option to scan a QR to access further videos online, useful for details like how to conduct certain stretches or exercises that would be difficult to communicate using still images alone.

Getting into the nuts and bolts of the topics, the utility of each is made clear. Listing every one here would take up too much space, but with sections on the role of hormones, muscles, and the circulatory system the book gives a solid grounding in the science behind fitness and training.

There’s also enough on the theory involved to help the reader have confidence in the work they're undertaking too. With an emphasis on mixing up your training, rather than using strict periodisation, all the thinking is up to date.

Still, there’s not a hint of faddiness to any of the advice on offer.

Other than that which emanates from Hoy himself, much of the thinking comes directly from people associated with British Cycling, for instance, noted sports psychiatrist Steve Peters, or via other respected figures, like German sports scientist Sebastian Weber.

Usable as a complete programme, there are training schedules to follow for particular goals if that’s your thing. And plenty of sessions targeting the five different different efforts levels described earlier.

Still, I reckon the book is most useful purely in terms of the volume of information it contains. Taken either way, I can’t think of another manual that comes close in terms of readability or expertise.

There’s also the fact it’s endorsed by Hoy, a man notorious for his attention to detail, although having a co-writer who’s also a dedicated cyclist in the form of Chris Sidwells probably helps too.

Despite its size, the book is both easy to navigate and pleasingly readable.

If I was forced to nitpick I’d say that although very clear, some of the illustrations and photos could be slightly better looking.

Still, physically the hardcover book is a nice object, and something serious cyclists will appreciate having to hand.

Buy How to Ride a Bike by Chris Hoy from Amazon here

There’s also not much on the tactics needed to make the most of your performance gains. Plenty of the information could also be gathered together piecemeal from the internet or magazines, but having everything consistently presented and thought through is of real value.

Accessible for the beginner, or engaged junior, there’s enough depth that all but the most practised of racers will find plenty that’s new.

It’s a book that deserves to be a reference text on every aspiring cyclist’s reading list.

Cyclist caught up with Sir Chris recently so look out for the interview online soon