Between logging miles on the road, scoring serious trail time, and keeping up with the Tour de France, even the most hardcore bikers will likely find themselves with some downtime this summer. Whether relaxing on the beach, kicking back on the deck, or planted in front of the air conditioner, riders can keep their cycling stoke high with these five great books about biking.

Credit: Tim Peck

Gironimo: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore

Part travel story, part history, and part quixotic adventure, Tim Moore’s Girinomo highlights the shift in bike racing from the “age of blood, sweat, and tears” to the Lance Armstrong era of doping, high-tech bicycles, and professional pelotons. Moore does this by recreating the 1914 route of the Giro d’Italia—often thought of as the hardest grand tour ever—in which only eight out of 81 riders completed the 1,964-mile, eight-stage race.

Harkening back to a simpler time in cycling, Moore rides the route on a period-correct gearless, wooden-wheeled bike that uses wine corks for brakes, while wearing the woolen kit, stiff leather shoes, and blue-glassed goggles of the era. Moore takes the reader through the highs and lows of his ride, provides a history of the event, and paints a picture of Italy’s landscape, culture, and cuisine, all while eliciting laughs and inspiring readers to dream up their own crazy adventures.

Team 7-Eleven: How an Unsung Band of American Cyclists Took On the World—And Won by Geoff Drake

If you enjoy stories about underdogs, Team 7-Eleven is for you—it details the history of the groundbreaking U.S. cycling team that would go on to become the first American team to race on the world stage and launch the careers of cycling superstars such as Andy Hampsten, Davis Phinney, and Bob Roll.

The book follows the team from its inception at a time when there were just four professional bike racers in the U.S. to wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour de France to winning the Giro d’Italia to its dissolution after a decade of racing. Along the way, readers are treated to fast-paced storytelling introducing the riders, highlighting the successes and failures of the team, and anecdotes about racing in Europe.

The book is a must-read for fans of cycling history (the team paved the way for U.S. pros to dominate racing in Europe) and spotlights a unique piece of Americana—the 7-Eleven kit is iconic and the team makes an appearance in the Kevin Costner cycling movie American Fliers.

Bicycling with Butterflies: My 10,201-Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration by Sara Dykman

Cycling enthusiasts will love Sara Dykman’s Bicycling with Butterflies—winner of the 2021 National Outdoor Book Award—an inspiring story about her bike trips following the migration of monarch butterflies from Mexico to Canada and back.

Part travelog, Dykman details the challenges and adventures of a 10,000-plus-mile bike trip, from dealing with weather to food to where to camp. She also highlights her interactions with the people she meets along the way—good and bad—and her effort to use her journey to raise awareness of the threat to monarchs at schools, garden clubs, and even with strangers on her adventure.

More than a book about biking, Dykman’s story is a contemplation on the delicate balance humans have on the natural world, a meditation on the mystery of the monarch migration, and the importance of preserving the planet for future generations.

Road to Valor: A True Story of World War II Italy, The Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation by Aili and Andres McConnon

Road to Valor shares the story of famed Italian cyclist Gino Bartali, three-time winner of the Giro d’Italia and winner of the 1938 and 1948 Tour de France—the largest span between tour wins of any rider. While five grand tour wins would be the crowning achievement of most bike racers, Bartali’s actions off the bike proved him an even greater humanitarian than an athlete.

Road to Valor provides an abundance of cycling history as it details Bartali’s career both before and after World War II, but it’s the story of the courage he displayed in the intervening years that will have you struggling to put the book down. During World War II, Bartali used his status as a famous cyclist to distribute false identity documents to Italian Jews trying to escape the Italian holocaust and German occupation while also helping to shelter a Jewish family, the Goldbergs.

Not only did Bartali put himself at risk of great personal sacrifice, he never spoke about his actions, with the exception of sharing a few vague details with his son. It wasn’t until after Bartlai’s death that the world learned about his true heroism.

It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn

If you’re the type of person who researches intently before buying a bike, frame, or components, you’re sure to love It’s All About the Bike—it’s both the story of the bicycle itself and the tale of a rider’s journey to build the perfect bike. Or, as the author, Robert Penn—a journalist and someone who has cycled in 50 countries over five continents—writes, a bike to “grow old with.”

The author, who cycled around the world himself in his 20s, takes the reader around the globe in search of his ideal bike—acquiring a frame and saddle in England, a drivetrain in Italy, tires from Germany, wheels from Switzerland, and Belgian spokes, while getting a headset and having his wheels built in the U.S. As much as Penn explores the parts of a bike, he also discusses the craftspeople and pioneers who shaped (and continue to shape) the bicycle.

While the book can get a little cycle-geeky at times, Penn’s passion for the bicycle makes the book stand out and is sure to delight all types of bike riders—whether they’ve ever heard of a velocipede or know what a derailleur is.

Do you have a favorite book about bicycling? If so, let us know in the comments below so we can add it to our summer reading list!