Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Need For The Bike by Paul Fournel



Effectively a paperback version of Vélo, which should help this classic book reach a new audience

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

Need for the Bike takes Paul Fournel's highly rated work in Vélo and makes it available in a paperback version; the lower price and better availability should allow many more to appreciate Fournel's 'encapsulation of why we all need the bike'.

  • Pros: New format for a classic work
  • Cons: Not updated with any of Fournel's more recent writing

Here we have a book that shares its title (but not content) with one book – and shares its content (but not title) with another. Let me explain...

Back in 2001 Fournel wrote Besoin de vélo in French; a couple of years later this appeared as Need for the Bike from Bison Books, with the English translation undertaken by Allan Stoekl. That gives us the title of this new book. Since the original edition is still available, you might question the 'Need for this Book'? More explanation required.

When Rouleur magazine appeared in 2006, Fournel started contributing articles in the style of his earlier book, and eventually Rouleur decided to combine both book and articles into one publication; so it was that Vélo appeared in 2012. Stoekl's original translation was reviewed by Claire Read, who provided 'revisions, extra translations, and proofreading', all of which gave us the text that is also used in this new book.

You can expect some difference of opinion between translators, especially when colloquialisms are present, but for the most part it results in only minor changes to the English. Occasionally there are more major changes, but nothing that changes the meaning: for example, 'that wasn't my first test' becomes 'I wasn't new to this game', either of which suit the context.

Vélo was rightly lauded by numerous reviewers at launch, including on this website where Dan Kenyon said it was 'destined to become a classic'. Despite that, no second edition was forthcoming when the first had sold out, meaning that the 'extended text' has been unavailable for a few years – until now.

Apart from the lack of a hard cover, the new Need for the Bike also lacks the beautiful presentation of Vélo, which is understandable because it is under half the price. It also lacks the idiosyncratic illustrations that complemented the text so well, and were provided by our own Jo Burt. On the plus side, it does provide a completely new introduction by Ned Boulting.

So much has been written about the previous incarnations of the book that further praise is probably superfluous: Need for the Bike is delightful, with Fournel's writing often held up as a shining example of well-crafted prose. This is a book for all those who can appreciate the simple pleasures that cycling brings to them, and welcome the opportunity to read the work of someone who can express that joy better than most of us will ever manage.

> Essential reading: 33 of the best books about cycling

If your cycling experience is now dominated by spinning, home trainers, Zwift or similar, then this might be the book to remind you of the cycling that we would all like to enjoy.

If you are a fan of the writing in Rouleur magazine then you will enjoy Need for the Bike; the only similar book I have come across recently is The wind at my back, and it is no surprise that Vélo is included in its bibliography.

If you have a copy of the original Need for the Bike then you will understandably be reluctant to pay for those chapters again, and I doubt the new material will be sufficient to tempt you. If you have a copy of Vélo then you definitely won't be interested in this paperback version – and you should look after your 'classic in the making'. For those new to the work, this is the best version available today, as it provides the extended text of Vélo at a lower price than the original Need for the Bike.


Effectively a paperback version of Vélo, which should help this classic book reach a new audience test report

Make and model: Need For The Bike by Paul Fournel

Size tested: 224 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?

From Pursuit:

A cycling classic: witty and insightful truths of bikes and riding

Starting with the childhood joy of learning to ride a bike, Need for the Bike goes on to explore the agony of climbing, the angst of crashing, and puts into words all those other universal moments and feelings which all cyclists will recognise.

From the sounds, smells, pains and joys of riding with friends or alone, finding things on the road, getting lost, and "re-reading" familiar routes, Paul Fournel's classic comes as close as any book has to an encapsulation of why we all need the bike ...

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

Title: Need for the Bike

Author: Paul Fournel

Publisher: Pursuit

Date: 4/7/19

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

ISBN: 9781788162692

Price: £9.99

Rate the product for value:

As you would expect from a paperback, it provides (most of) the hardback contents at a lower price.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

A reason to read an old favourite again.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Just not as satisfying as the hardback version...

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? I would – but I already have the previous versions.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

Delighted to see this seminal work available at a lower price, albeit without the unusual illustrations.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 59  Height:   Weight:

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

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

Latest Comments