Bike books may premiere at a trendy London bike cafe, but they tend not to be sold by most IBDs. How can they get to market?

Three cycling books taking a different route to market

Some bike shops sell bike books, most don’t. In order to get in front of prospective customers, publishers of what can be very niche titles (usually too niche for book shops, too) often have to get creative to get noticed. ‘Made in England’, a book about artisan bike builders, was featured on last week and is co-published by one of the bike builders featured. It’s largely being marketed via social media (as well as the obligatory launch at Look Mum No Hands in London) and here are three other books which are taking non-traditional routes to market. One is a self-published art-book, another is an anthology e-book and, finally, there’s a self-published bike touring book that was launched on and reached its funding target in less than a week.

Andrew Smith is an artist. This is the second edition of the book, a physical record of his gallery show on the same subject. He has taken quotes from the classic roadie novel ‘The Rider’, by Tim Krabbé, and interspersed them with lo-res, blurred photos of TV coverage of professional road racing. He says his book "explores the existential and metaphysical aspects of cycling, amongst other concerns." US writer Bill Strickland, author of ‘Ten Points’ and ‘Tour de Lance’, penned an evocative essay as the book’s introduction.

Krabbé liked the first edition. He said: "Cycling was mythical, but it survived its visibility. In ‘Vélo’, it becomes a visible myth."

Perhaps the most arresting image in the book is a double-page spread featuring an ultra close up of Eddy Merckx’s head. The second edition was recently launched at you-know-where in London. It costs £24.


Jack Thurston, host of The Bike Show on Resonance FM in London, teamed up with Sunday Times ‘bike guy’ column writer Tim Dawson to create an anthology of articles and book extracts, with an emphasis on travel and everyday cycling. The pieces chosen are classic ones, some from the 19th Century, but most are modern pieces. A second edition is in production.

Thurston said: "Two thoughts inspired the Bicycle Reader. The first is that there is a great deal of brilliant article and essay-length writing about cycling that remains inaccessible to most readers. Some of it languishes out of print. Other pieces appeared in publications read by only a tiny minority of cyclists. The second is that Kindles and other eBook readers are the natural companion of cyclists. They are light enough to fit unobtrusively in the saddle bag and have a battery life capable of providing reading material on even the most sustained odyssey."

Bicycle Reader contains ten articles written at various moments over the past 130 years, from the very earliest days of the bicycle right up to today. Some are lighthearted, some demand deeper engagement. Mark Twain’s account of taming the bicycle is a classic; and Russ Roca will convince almost anybody that it’s never too late to discover the bicycle and what a life changing discovery it can be.

The first edition costs just £1.53, and is available as an eBook only, via Amazon.

Tom Allen writes a bike touring blog, Tom’s Bike Trip. The trip in question is a global bike tour, with a love story. Allen filmed his adventures and this has been turned into Janapar, a movie getting rave reviews at film festivals around the world.

The book of the film is being funded by 302 investors via the Kickstarter crowd-funding website. Allen sought funding of £6000 and has so far received pledges worth £8000, with two days still to go before Kickstarter releases the funds.

With clever use of social media – including a promise to video a naked jump into a freezing cold lake – Allen broke through the funding barrier after just six days.

He told "I can put the success of this campaign down to the community of people I’ve built around adventure-cycling and storytelling over the last five years. This is the first time I’ve reached out directly to this
community to get involved in creating something, and I was blown away by the response.

"There’s always a question when a Kickstarter campaign raises more than its target: what will the extra funds be used for? In this case, we set the target as low as we could to deliver what we promised, thinking this would increase our chances of meeting the funding goal. Having raised more means that we’re now able bring forward aspects of the project that weren’t critical, but which we really wanted to look at once the book was released and we’d raised more funds from sales."

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