Gearing for climbing: An afterthought

Paul Fournel’s book Need For The Bike has perhaps the worst cover ever to grace a book on cycling. This nearly pocket-sized tome has some absolutely fantastic writing from the “avant-garde writer” (who also makes regular contributions in Rouleur magazine). One can only lament that the University of Nebraska Press, who published the book in 2003, did not see fit to update or redesign the cover to something more modern. Rouleur – or someone – should immediately acquire the publishing rights, or commission a new translation, and turn this essential read into a true pocket book with a bit of, need it be said, savoir-faire. The style of the Penguin paperback, mentioned here, would be a good place to start.

The subject of gearing for climbing has already been recently discussed here. At the 1996 Tour de France, Fournel approached one of the racers to ascertain what gearing he was using for a particular mountains stage. One might keep the reply in mind when selecting one’s gears. “I just use race gearing. If the race is in a big gear, so am I. If it’s in a small one, I’m in one too. Ask the race what gear it’ll be in on the climbs, and I’ll be in it.” Quite.

You may have noticed, dear reader, the loss of the Gazzetta dello Sport pink hue to this blog [since restored…]. Your author’s endeavours to restore the functionality of the categories and tags remains fruitless. Perhaps all will be ‘fixed’ in due course, but this may prove not to be the case. Your patience is, as always, much appreciated.

3 thoughts on “Gearing for climbing: An afterthought

  1. Need for the Bike is a standard bearer for the maxim, ‘Don’t judge a book.’ An ugly, cluttered cover for beautiful, spare prose. I have proselytized for this book since I first read it a few years ago. I am thankful for the Kindle version because I gave away my last print version and I can have it without looking at that cover.

  2. The English translation has a bad cover (and is missing a series of articles M. Fournel wrote covering the Tour de France for L’Humanit√©, almost a third of the original text).

    The original is low-key and doesn’t actively repel, unless blue-tone photos of a track rider on the sprinter’s line bug ya.

    Editions de Seuil

    It is one of my favorite cycling books.


    William M. deRosset
    Fort Collins, CO

  3. Loved Fournels book. The art of selecting gearing is gone with the 10 and 11 cog cassette. Just restored my ’70s racing Sekai 5000 Superlight and carefully selected 49/40 rings and 15/25 cogs to get 10 ratios I can use out of the 12 (no more 54/43 13/19 for this 66 year old). Used to run a 53 single ring with 13/16 four cog FW for flat time trials. I you couldn’t crank 53 & 16 you couldn’t beat an hour for 25 miles.

    Pee Oui Roubaix
    Golden Lake, WI

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