book review

bikie - a love affair with the racing bicycle by charlie woods. mainstream publishing £9.99

this is great. this is nostalgia. this is great nostalgia. i figure from the text that the author of this book is probably in his sixties at least, and is now looking back on the heyday of the cycle club(s) around the london area in the fifties.
in them days, eurosport wasn't even thought of, terrestrial television (well, the only television service available) pretty much ignored cycling (no change there) and the only real way to acquire knowledge about european cycling was to learn french and buy copies of french newspapers in some of the more enlightened newsagents in the area. cycle clubs were, according the the ethos of this book, far more invidious in the nation's youth's psyche than they are nowadays. there are doubtless many reasons for this, not least the unfortunate increase in the number of cars on the increased number of roads. it only takes a leafing through current issues of 'the comic' to find out how many daily cyclists - and not just in the competitive field - are being unceremoniously mown down by motorists. small wonder that large groups of cyclists on the best that the modern frame builder has to offer, have largely disappeared from view, both physically and metaphorically. then there's those mountain bikes and playstation.
charlie woods obviously loves cycle racing and loves the type of bicycles on which such cycle sport takes place. he is not alone in his less than enthusiastic welcome for the ubiquitous mountain bike (notwithstanding its single handed saving of the cycle industry) and probably not alone in his excitement over lugged steel frames and campagnolo components. he is almost alone in his use of rather over florid language to describe same (apart from one or two issues of the washing machine post) but then nostalgia wouldn't be nostalgia without a bit of decoration here and there.
if you're like me, it's an era of the bicycle that i would have loved to have experienced first hand. mr woods' book is probably the nearest i'll ever get to that, aside from watching black and white videos and les woodland's articles in procycling. i'm not sure i share mr woods' views on the wearing of lycra (while pedalling the colnago) but we each have our opinion, and the chapter on drugs in cycling, from mr tom up to the present is a bit mysterious and almost metaphysical to say the least. however, i think we can take it as read that he has the same views as most of us on that score.
maybe it's because i have no-one with which to cycle regularly on islay, that i am greatly envious of charlie woods' involvement with well supported cycle clubs - lots of members and plenty of long club rides - that i enjoyed this book so much. the only thing i didn't like was the rather unnecessary printing of the word 'bikie' white on black in the outer margin of every page. who's idea was that?
the latter aside, if you have any interest in cycle racing whatsoever, at whatever level, buy a copy of this book or get someone to buy it for you. awaits your browser.