The Bike List

Cycling for Dummies by Gavin Wright and Ben Williams £16

Tested by Neil Watterson, tester for The Bike List

I'm a great fan of the Dummies series of books. They're written clearly and, unlike other guides, explain the jargon as you get to it, rather than leaving you to hunt down a glossary at the end of the book.

Cycling for Dummies is the latest in the series and covers pretty much everything you'd want to know about cycling in the UK, from picking a bike to adventures to go on with it.

It's the sort of book you can dip in and out of, rather than reading from cover to cover, and the clear, friendly, writing style means you tend to read a bit more than you were actually intending to.

As it's a 'for Dummies' book, no knowledge is assumed, so everything is explained, without making you feel like you're stupid for not knowing it in the first place. It includes basic sections like how to choose a bike and even how to get onto a bike. The inclusion of this may seem a bit too basic, but though getting onto a bike and pedalling away may be second nature to you, to people new to the scene it isn't. And the book is about encouraging people to get into and enjoy cycling. Anyway, the section is a handy aide-memoire if you are training your kids to ride.

The book is littered with tips to help you get that little extra out of cycling or encouraging you to think of new routes. If you're looking at starting to commute by bike, for example, it doesn't push you into riding the full way at warp-factor 9 from the off. Instead, the authors inspire you to do whatever distance you feel comfortable with and at the speed of your choice. The whole point of the book is to be inclusive and it achieves that well.

Important stuff is flagged up with icons. These both help reinforce the points made, but also draw you in - in a sort of 'I wonder what they're saying on this subject' way - and anecdotes are included to add a bit of real-life into what could otherwise be a very fact-heavy writing.

Kit to buy is included, as is how to maintain your bike. With very few illustrations and no pictures, it doesn't delve into the full strip-down of components, concentrating instead on the sort of stuff you'll come across on regular riding. It tells you what problems to look out for, and suggests getting more complicated stuff resolved by bike shops - all designed to make getting into cycling less daunting.

And once you've got into it, there's the inspiration to take your bike further from Coast-to-Coast rides to ultra-adventures across Australia's Simpson Desert. I'm not sure that a non-rider picking up the book would actually decide to compete in the five-day, 375 mile challenge across sand dunes in searing heat, but they may feel empowered to cycle to the seaside - and that's almost the same thing.

There are loads of cycling magazines that touch on the subjects in this book, but you'll never see it all in one issue - and it can't be repeated month after month, so this book is a good foundation to build upon. And even if you feel you know everything, the chances are you'll stumble across a couple of gems of advice that you'll have forgotten over the years.

At a glance

Verdict A great introduction to cycling and a great foundation to build your knowledge on.

For Dummies says:


Whether you're looking to hit the open road, scream down the side of a mountain, or simply take the kids out for a ride, Cycling For Dummies, UK Edition, covers all your needs. Topics include choosing the right bike and accessories, staying safe - around town and on the trails - training to improve speed and endurance, making adjustments and repairs, and much more (including answering the basic questions you may be too embarrassed to ask in your local shop).

Cycling For Dummies, UK Edition is the perfect place to start when you want to take up this great sport.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I: Getting Started with Cycling 7

Chapter 1: Getting into Cycling 9

Chapter 2: Picking the Right Bike 25

Chapter 3: Choosing the Right Gear 57

Chapter 4: Making Sure Your Bike Feels Good 81

Chapter 5: Finding the Time to Ride 93

Part II: Freewheeling Away: The Fundamentals 105

Chapter 6: Ticket to Ride: Your First Lesson 107

Chapter 7: Knowing the Rules 121

Chapter 8: Thinking Ahead for Safety 129

Chapter 9: Planning Your Trip and Tips for Safe Riding 141

Chapter 10: Toughening Up for Off-Road Riding 165

Part III: Rolling beyond the Basics 175

Chapter 11: Riding Faster, Tougher, and Longer: Training and Improving 177

Chapter 12: Touring and Exploring 195

Chapter 13: Cycling with Other People 221

Chapter 14: Riding with Babies, Toddlers and Children 239

Part IV: Maintaining Your Bike and Yourself 257

Chapter 15: Easing Ailments 259

Chapter 16: Fuelling Your Cycling 275

Chapter 17: Troubleshooting: Can You Fix It? Yes, You Can! 285

Chapter 18: Making Checks and Adjustments: The Next Step 303

Part V: The Part of Tens 315

Chapter 19: Ten Bicycling Do's and Don'ts 317

Chapter 20: Ten Great Rides in the United Kingdom 323

Chapter 21: Ten Great Tours and Races around the World 333

Index 345

Author Information

Gavin Wright is a cycling journalist and activist. He has led several high-profile cycling expeditions, including a crossing of the Andes and an attempt to set the world record for cycling from sea level to high altitude. Ben Williams is a broadcaster, journalist, lifelong cycling enthusiast and a veteran London cycling commuter.

  • ISBN: 978-1-118-36435-2
  • Paperback
  • 368 pages
  • April 2013