The Cyclist's Tale and other short cycling stories
by Kevin R. Haylett
published by: self-published, rrp £unknown, in the UK
reviewed by Dave Land
The Cyclist’s Tale is a commendable effort to fictionalise the ins and outs of an everyday commitment to riding a road bike. This kind of description-led story telling represents a reality for many thousands of committed cyclists up and down the country.
But there is more to it than just a narrative. There are very strong hints – right from the opening chapter – of darker tales relating to mental health. The idea of voices, even if it might the man with the hammer described by Frank Strack and The Rules, will be familiar to all of us. Kevin Haylett goes further.
It is a fantasy bike racing tale. But it is not always a comfortable read. It feels like a eulogy for the British cycling scene’s glory days of (secret) time trails, flasks of tea in windswept laybys, crowded hill climbs and ‘training’ camps to Mallorca. Then on the other hand, a craving for new technology and keeping up with the crowd of our current cycling obsession.
Sadly, I'm not sure it quite does them justice. Each story feels like it is a real situation, with some names changed, but it lacks the punch or bite to bind it all together. It is an interesting provocative read, but leaves too many questions. One criticism is that Haylett assumes the you know as much as he does about cycling. If you are extremely well-versed in road cycling vernacular; the correct turn-of-phrase, what cycling clubs do, the motivation to hurt yourself, the love of bad weather, and personal statistics, then this book might be for you.
Where the stories fell down, for me, was partly the attention to detail. Whilst I could appreciate the technical correctness of the GPS systems, or how a hill climb is organised, these things did not translate into a gripping narrative for each short story.
But, anyone that rides a bike needs books like this. As an independent publication, it should be championed – much like an unsupported Audax ride over 100s of windswept miles. It’s that kind of read. A minor cycling cult classic in the making.