Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Bespoke: A Guide to Cycle-Speak and Saddle Slang



An enjoyable de-mystification of the jargon of cycling with plenty of classic anecdotes to light the way
An entertaining read with cheerful illustrations
More for the cycle-curious than the hardened enthusiast

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

What the scores mean

Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.

  • Exceptional
  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Quite good
  • Average
  • Not so good
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • Appalling

Bespoke aims to de-mystify the language of professional road racing for readers still feeling their way into the sport. All the key elements are there, along with a good helping of key stories from cycling history.

If you're looking for something to keep you amused during the endless commercial breaks during this summer's Grand Tours, Tom Bromley's book is an ideal companion. It's a very dip-in-able volume of short reflections on the words, buzz-phrases and jargon surrounding cycling (in this case mainly men's professional road racing).

It's rather more than a dictionary of cycling terminology, though. In the introduction, Bromley says the book is 'intended to serve as an introduction to the sport for the new cycling fan', and as an example of the genre it's a readable and engaging attempt. Bromley takes the opportunity to illustrate each subject with history, anecdotes, biography and humour.

2021 Bespoke A Guide to Cycle-Speak and Saddle Slang by Tom Bromley - pages 2.jpg

Rather than an alphabetical list of entries, the book is organised into themed chapters – title headings such as 'The Season', 'The Riders', 'Nicknames' and, of course, 'Cheating' give you an idea of the areas covered.

If any of the following phrases or expressions are new to you then you will learn something from this book: "Coup de Chacal", "Poisson Pilote", "Succhia Ruota", "Laughing Group". Bromley gives a little insight into the origins of such terms, some alternatives in other languages where they exist and anecdotes from the history books to bring each entry to life.

> 42 of the best cycling books – do you agree?

Long-term fans, and anyone who's read a few cycling biographies or histories, may well find some of the entries and the well-worn tales from Le Tour or Il Giro familiar territory, but there's still plenty you probably won't know (or leastways, I didn't) and who ever tires of hearing tales from the great annals of cycling history?

2021 Bespoke A Guide to Cycle-Speak and Saddle Slang by Tom Bromley - pages 1.jpg

The classy and humorous illustrations, by Neil Stevens, bring a splash of colour to the production, and a scattering of black-and-white period photographs from the pages of L'Equipe add historical flavour, though given the source they are inevitably all from the Tour, the Giro and a Classic or two.

2021 Bespoke A Guide to Cycle-Speak and Saddle Slang by Tom Bromley - pages 3.jpg


An enjoyable de-mystification of the jargon of cycling with plenty of classic anecdotes to light the way

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website test report

Make and model: Bespoke: A Guide to Cycle-Speak and Saddle Slang by Tom Bromley

Size tested: 192 pages

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?

Here's what the back of the book says:

Some sports lend themselves to language: cycling is one of them. With its rich history and culture, and its professional roots across the continent and beyond, cycling has developed a terminology that goes well beyond borders, producing a lexicon all of its own.

This book guides the reader through a land where the road to hell is paved not with good intentions, but with cobbles. This is a place where all the world is a stage, unless you are a one-day specialist. Where its inhabitants come with a litany of arresting nicknames - Badgers, Cannibals, Eagles, Pirates - each with a wonderful story of their own.

Lavishly illustrated with specially commissioned artworks by acclaimed cycling illustrator Neil Stevens and historical photography from both the British Library collections and L'Équipe, this is a book that takes the reader from the tête de la course to the gruppetto, from the caravane following the race to the tifosi cheering on the mountainside. Insightful and irreverent, Bespoke, is the book for anyone who wants to be able to speak cycling.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Publication date: 03/05/21

Author: Tom Bromley

Brand: British Library Publishing

Number of pages: 192 pages, with 70+ colour illustrations

Binding: Hardback

Dimensions: 198 x 130 mm

Rate the product for quality of construction:

Well produced on good quality paper, the illustration reproduction is sharp.

Rate the product for value:

A good price for a well-produced hardback book.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

It's an entertaining read, up-to-date, and the artwork is cool.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

A few typos and mistakes.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

A useful addition to the shelf of cycling books. New fans should find it enhances their enjoyment and understanding, but even if you already know your way around the sport, there's plenty of entertainment value.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 54  Height: 6'2  Weight: 73kg and holding steady

I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10   My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,

Latest Comments