The Beautiful Machine: A Life in Cycling, from Tour de France to Cinder Hill Paperback – 1 May 2008
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Graeme Fife has been riding a bike since he discovered, aged five, that escaping from home on two wheels was a lot faster and took him a lot farther than he could go on foot. He soon allied love of what was, admittedly, quite a humble version of the beautiful machine with a tenacious grip on independence. A French girlfriend introduced Fife to raclette, a broader perspective on life and thinking and the Tour de France and French cycling journalism. Since then, this passion has seeded books, articles, epic rides, acquaintance with some of the most illustrious men in cycling and many staunch friendships. This is bare-knuckle writing at its most punchy, rippling with wit and energy. It is a celebration of the bicycle and the joy, wonder, adventure, the good and bad times associated with it, and of the people who ride and with whom Fife has ridden. Here are explorations of all dimensions of the experience, on, round, with, via and about the beautiful machine.
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The author takes perhaps my favourite subject and distorts it out of enjoyable recognition. Instead of the inspiring book artfully describing the sport I love so much I found myself reading an autobiography of a very tedious show off who happens to like bikes.
Despite his faux modesty of never paying attention to the distances he cycles - you know because he's like a force of nature or something - we're then treated to exactly these distances, clearly so you know just what a terrific force of nature Mr Fife is.
Whenever he rides with friends, his young daughter or more or less anyone come to that, he always makes sure he arrives first.
He points this out again and again just in case you are ever in any confusion as to who is the fastest and obviously therefore best rider. So, he wins EVERY ride he goes on to the point where I began wondering why he goes cycling with anyone else at all as he seems to spend 50% of every ride waiting for the puny mortals to catch him up.
Mr Fife's hardships and misfortunes seems to be almost manufactured as a device purely show that whatever curveballs life throws at him, he can rise above it. He would mention being fatally mauled by a crocodile only to point out with studied nonchalance that he went on to conquer Mt Ventoux later that afternoon no handed.
Intersped this slow motion mid life crisis with appalling name dropping of his other books, projects, radio programs etc (point being, he's constantly busy and much in demand) and add a layer of genuinely toe curling home spun cod philosophy and you've got a tome that's truely outstanding in the field of really awful literature. Books like this should remain firmly in the vangard of the self published and his editor could do with a forceful explanation as to what their job description actually entails.
its not the best book ive ever read but not as bad as all that.Its more an autobiography of the author,for whom bikes have played a big part in his life.He conveys his love for them,cycling and its cameraderie reasonably well.some of his experiences and stories are interesting,some less so.
to make out hes some namedropping egomaniac,as some reviewers have done,is unfair and just plain wrong.
Ive read better books that have cycling at their heart but ive read much,much worse also-not a ringing endorsement,i realise,but i feel some of the other reviews have been real hatchet jobs
I personally found it inspiring with regards to getting on my bike and his ability to describe the highs and lows of tacking the mountains makes you want to be there.
If you're tempted by a cycling holiday then read this...it shows you how and why people who love the sport do everything to keep the wheels turning....escapism without the saddle sores
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