Who knew that a Pashley Princess and a word processor could be such a killer combination? Part memoir, part guide, Back in the Frame is a thought-provoking and down-to-earth book to inspire not only the would-be-cyclist, but any reader who has felt the fear about anything and not yet done it anyway.
In her debut book, award-winning blogger Jools Walker (aka Lady Vélo) takes us back to her green trike days and the origins of her relationship with cycling, along with the barriers that contributed to her stepping away from the saddle – including getting the message that it's a boy's game, to being on the receiving end of creepy cat calls.
But when she combines her first word processor with her first bike as an adult, Walker finds the strength to face her fears and get back in the frame. At first, her gaze is firmly fixed on the chic, city side of cycling rather than road and Lycra – in her blog from 2010 she muses 'Lycra outfits (no thanks)' – but in dedicating herself to pedalling and writing about it, an unexpected journey begins to unfold.
Eventually, cycling facilitates not only Walker's personal and professional growth but, joyfully, also gives her a platform far beyond the blog to address the issue of 'you can't be what you can't see' – so long as she can be brave enough to accept the extraordinary opportunities as they present themselves to her.
Since we follow Walker from cycling hiatus to getting to grips with fears of the open road and beyond, it's no surprise that wannabe or new cyclists will likely get the most from reading Back in the Frame. But well-versed roadies who already know all this stuff, listen up. As well as encouraging the cycling novice to get in the saddle, reading Back in the Frame can't help but invite the seasoned rider to revisit their own journey and reignite latent memories as pages are turned.
The established cyclist can enjoy a trip down memory lane as Walker's bike collection grows, and pause to consider why they started cycling and what it means to be a 'proper' cyclist in the first place. In this way, Back in the Frame offers a breath of fresh air in an industry obsessed with data and aesthetics.
The real beauty in this book, though, is not simply the process of discovery, but the way Walker handles the big stuff: from the lack of women of colour in the cycling industry to struggles with mental health. Back in the Frame's hopeful and inspiring nature shines through with Walker's willingness to square her shoulders when life throws curveballs – and is further strengthened by her accounts of female trailblazers from whom we hilariously learn the term 'flap mash', and hear that it's perfectly possible to cycle solo across the Middle East and return in one piece despite society's fears of women travelling alone.
Admittedly, it's all too easy to throw the word inspiring around these days, but this is no flash-in-the-pan Insta-scrolling moment where you fleetingly find yourself wanting to own a kaftan or do a headstand on Machu Picchu. In Back in the Frame, inspiration catches you unawares because it's subtly reflected back at you through Walker's determination, honesty and passion in the face of nagging self doubt.
In the end, this book serves as a reminder that resonates far beyond cycling – that fear of criticism or not belonging can stop us dead in our tracks, and that we must look right at it and keep pedalling anyway.
A joyful dose of inspiration that every cyclist, from rookie to randonneur, can take something valuable from
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Back in the Frame by Jools Walker
Size tested: Paperback, Ebook
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This part memoir, part guide is likely aimed at anyone who has ever thought about cycling, or just started cycling. But the nice surprise is that for seasoned- or non-cyclists, there's a lot to be taken from it too.
From Sphere/Little, Brown the publisher: A memoir of bikes, blogs and riding through depression from award-winning blogger, Lady Vélo.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Back in the Frame
Author: Jools Walker
A nice bonus at the back – a handy list of resources: a list of inspiring women in cycling and bike-related organisations she wrote about.
The book cover graphics began to peel within just a week in the sunshine (although admittedly there was a lot of suncream abuse).
The font is quite large, which makes for a large book. Personally I like this, but it's preference.
It's near the top end of paperback cost in my experience, but at £14.99 it's not outrageous.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The inspiration and warm feeling it leaves you with.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Reading information that I already knew as a seasoned cyclist, but a new cyclist will benefit from this!
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, especially for friends who want to get into cycling.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Walker deals with big issues with refreshing honesty, making Back in the Frame a relatable read. What's more, her passion is contagious – this book delivers a message that will resonate beyond the bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: My Scott Foil My best bike is: Oldie but the goldie, CAAD 8
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Novice
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, general fitness riding, triathlon, audax