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the Complete Review
the complete review - cycling

Need for the Bike

Paul Fournel

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To purchase Need for the Bike

Title: Need for the Bike
Author: Paul Fournel
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2003)
Length: 150 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Need for the Bike - US
Need for the Bike - UK
Need for the Bike - Canada
Besoin de vélo - Canada
Need for the Bike - India
Besoin de vélo - France
  • French title: Besoin de vélo
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Allan Stoekl
  • Note: "The appendix, 'Sur le Tour de France 1996' (pp. 161-236 of the French original), has been omitted from this English-language edition."

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Our Assessment:

B+ : entertaining little book of cycling experiences and observations

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Dallas Morning News . 22/10/2003 Joe Simnacher
World Lit. Today . Spring/2002 Adma d'Heurle

  From the Reviews:
  • "This is the perfect book for either accomplished cyclists or their significant others who could never quite figure out the bike thing. Now all we need is an Oulipo work on NASCAR to fully explain its appeal." - Joe Simnacher, Dallas Morning News

  • "The author's passion for this sport is communicated with an ingenuity that makes it difficult to resist the book's spell, even for readers who have no particular interest in cycling. (...) The author's contagious passion is expressed without a trace of melodrama or sentimentality. It is manifest in his ability to immerse himself in the concrete and, through the specific detail, to suggest a broader meaning." - Adma d'Heurle, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Need for the Bike is a book by a true cycling enthusiast. Paul Fournel never raced professionally, but is about as obsessed with the sport and activity as an amateur can be. The first short piece describes him in hospital with an arm he mangled in a cycling accident, where he won't let them wheel him into the operating room until he's had a chance to watch the sprint-finish of the Paris-Roubaix race. On other occasions he jumps into actual races, going along, side by side, with the world's best for a few kilometres.
       There are several European countries where bicycle racing is a premier sport, France among them. This is Fournel's culture -- though it also set him apart from, for example, his school classmates, for whom all physical exercise was something to be avoided at all costs. Fournel's father was a bicycling enthusiast, and his son cycled along from an early age. It's not leisurely excursions that he enjoys, but rather long expeditions, covering great distances, and conquering climbs and descents. Fournel is also an accomplished writer, and he conveys his delight (and his pain) so that even those who have never ridden a ten- (or twenty-four-) speed get a good feel for what the experiences means.
       Fournel also lovingly describes his various bikes, mainly machines stripped down to be as light as possible, made to cover long distances on -- bicycles so valuable that he takes them into his hotel room with him, or holds onto them aboard a train, not trusting them to be stored safely.
       Need for the Bike consists of short chapters describing various aspects of bicycling, as well as recounting Fournel's own experiences. From eating to hitting the wall to doping to the lives of professional bicycle racers, he gives a good introduction to this world. It's an entertaining book, nicely presented, a breezy read -- and written engagingly enough to hold the interest of readers who know little about cycling.
       (Note: While Fournel is longtime member of Oulipo, Need for the Bike is not a book that relies heavily on Oulipian trickery and games.)

       Note: the English translation of this book does not include over 70 pages from the original, a section which was a report on the 1996 Tour de France. It's a shame.

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Need for the Bike: Reviews: Paul Fournel: OuLiPo: Other books by Paul Fournel under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Paul Fournel was born in 1947. He is a member of Oulipo.

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