James Daley: The Cycling Column

Crap lanes – and other biking book oddities
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Indy Lifestyle Online

An array of cycling books has landed on my desk in the past few months, some more useful than others. Either way, if you've got a cycling fanatic in your family, most of them would make half-decent stocking fillers – and some (such as my favourite, Crap Cycle Lanes) are perfect for the bike fanatic's coffee table.

Crap Cycle Lanes (Eye Books, £4.99) does what it says – showing pictures of 50 of Britain's most pathetic cycle routes – giving each a difficulty rating (from "cyclable" to "chemical assistance needed") and a danger rating (from "just about safe" to "Fuck me!!!"). The best part is that the anger and frustration of the author leaps off every page – awarding virtual Asbos and custodial sentences to the local authorities involved.

Sadly, most of the ridiculous examples in this book will come as little surprise to the urban cyclist. Although these are 50 of the worst, I could add another 50 from my own experiences in London – and I imagine that other readers may feel the same. Every mayor and local authority should be forced to read a copy!

If you're looking for something a bit more practical, you might like City Cycling by Richard Ballantine (Snowbooks, £9.99), a pretty comprehensive guide that would be useful to most cyclists, not just those of us who live in the urban jungle. The book looks at everything from posture to maintenance and road safety, and is written in nice, easy-to-understand language with lots of pictures and illustrations to bring the text to life.

If you're looking for a pocket-sized equivalent, you might be tempted to pick up Cycling to Work: A beginner's guide by Rory McMullen (Green Books, £4.95), which contains much of the same content as City Cycling, but in less depth. It's more of a pamphlet than a book, but runs through a bunch of useful points for those thinking about commuting to work for the first time.

After Crap Cycle Lanes, the next must-have cycling book is The Cyclist's Companion (Think Books, £9.99), which is 150 pages of interesting – and some not-so-interesting – facts about biking. If you want to know where the bike-theft hotspots are (London, predictably, is still the worst) or what proportion of all journeys are made by bike in Britain (2 per cent, against 27 per cent in the Netherlands), then this is the book for you.

My favourite part was its account of the many contradictory studies about cycling and sex. While some studies have shown that cyclists are more likely to suffer from impotence, others have suggested that, in the case of a man, it can increase the size of your penis. Quoting a report by US magazine Bicycling, the Companion says: "Cycling can reduce the fat that builds up around the base of a man's penis. Since this fat reduces penis size, cycling can make the penis look as large as possible."

So there you have it – men who cycle have bigger dicks. Fantastic!

I've also been sent a handful of cycle route guides, but I feel it would be unfair to review them until I've tried out some of their suggestions. Having said that, I can recommend a book called South-west Mountain Biking (www. rockfax.com, free), which my friend and I tried out on a weekend down on Dartmoor earlier this month. Nice, clear maps and directions, and some decent and technical descents.

If you've got any other good books to suggest, let me know. And don't forget to keep an eye on The Independent's new cycling blog, Cyclotherapy, which you can find at www.independent.co.uk/blogs.

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