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The Rider

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,718 ratings  ·  184 reviews
A literary sports classic, finally available in the U.S.
Originally published in the Netherlands in 1978, The Rider became an instant cult classic, selling over 100,000 copies. Brilliantly conceived and written at a breakneck pace, it is a loving, imaginative, and, above all, passionate tribute to the art of bicycle road racing.
Not a dry history of the sport, The Rider i
Paperback, 152 pages
Published June 12th 2003 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 1978)
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The Secret Race by Tyler HamiltonThe Rider by Tim KrabbéRacing Through the Dark by David MillarSlaying the Badger by Richard  MooreThe Death of Marco Pantani by Matt Rendell
Best Cycling Books
2nd out of 186 books — 132 voters
Moneyball by Michael LewisFriday Night Lights by H.G. BissingerSeabiscuit by Laura HillenbrandThe Blind Side by Michael LewisFever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Top reads for sports fans
99th out of 537 books — 526 voters

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Community Reviews

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Because this book has already been five-star reviewed to death (and rightly so), here's one of my favorite passages, transcribed.

"In interviews with riders that I've read and in conversations that I've had with them, the same thing always comes up: the best part was the suffering. In Amsterdam I once trained with a Canadian rider who was living in Holland. A notorious creampuff: in the sterile art of track racing he was Canadian champion in at least six disciplines, but when it came to toughing
Bob Redmond
This short, dense, gorgeously written book is the Dutch Krabbé's first-person account of a 150-kilometer bicycle race from 1977 (when it was written). The writer, who is also an accomplished chess player, started racing professionally when he turned 30. In time he became a contender in many of the shorter day-races in northern Europe.

It succeeds on so many levels: the rider's accomplishment, the true descriptions of racing, this historical depth (many seamlessly-woven accounts of great moments i
Tom Doig
The Rider is a miniature epic, one of the best books I read last year - and definitely the best book I've ever read about the experience of cycling a really long way. It's not easy to convey the visceral, adrenal, repetitive twinge-and-throb of it all, but from the first short paragraph Krabbé does exactly that:

Meyrueis, Lozère, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafés. Non-racers. The emptiness
May 12, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who's ever raced a bicycle
Recommended to John by: Mike Bené of course
Amazing, mundane and heartbreaking all at the same time...I loved it.

Anyone who's never raced a bike would be mystified as to the appeal of this book. Anyone who has will completely identify with Krabbé's stream of consciousness heading toward delirium writing style.

Sit on Krabbé's shoulder as he pedals through the 137km of the 1977 Tour de Mont Aigoual. You're going to love it.
Jan 09, 2015 Wastrel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people wanting a novel both readable and deep, EVERYONE, hobbyists, cyclists
Not recommended for: those who struggle to understand other worldviews; those who have no interest in (and no interest in understanding) sport; those who are overly defensive; those who hate monologues.

Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.

Well now, I've a little problem here. Having struggled out a great big review of this light little novella (150 pages odd) on my blog, which already felt like I was leaving things out and holding things back, I'm not really sure how to say anythin
Kristof Willaert
Het boek is een autobiografie, waarin Tim Krabbé vertelt hoe hij als wielrenner deelnam aan de Ronde van Mont Aigoual. Verder vertelt hij uitgebreid over zijn sportcarrière en over de wielrensport in zijn algemeenheid.
De start en de finish zijn in Meyrueis. De hoogste top die in de ronde voorkomt is de Mont Aigoual (1567 m). Krabbé rijdt voor de club van Anduze; zijn verzorger is Stephan. Krabbé verkent nog even enkele kilometers van het parcours, samen met Kléber, zijn trainingsmaatje voordat
A masterpiece! Tim Krabbé turns a 137 kilometer cycling race in the South of France into a veritable odyssey. He thoroughly captures the bloody-seriousness of endurence athletes and the delirious, addictive, masochistic and purifying experience it can result in. Also, the story offers true insight in the nature of stamina, ambition and the continuum between loyalty and rivalry.

I can imagine that for some the references to the history of cycling felt a bit stale (if you were already familiar with
Donald Plugge

The Rider is a play by play from inside the rider's head during the fanciful 1977 Tour de Mont Aigoual. The narrative is bestrewed with flashbacks from previous races and other related episodes in Krabbe's life. The author discusses the competition, the cooperation, the pain, the strategy and the mental head games of cycling.

Krabbe leads the reader up hills, through towns, over dale, under the weather and directly into the mind of the cyclist. "Gradually, a rhythm descends on me again. But rhyt
Tim Krabbe: Un jugador de ajedrez que en los años 70 estuvo entre los 20 primeros de Holanda... Periodista, escritor... y además ¡ciclista!
En este libro relata una prueba amateur de un día, celebrada en 1977, en Francia, describiendo kilómetro a kilómetro, todo lo que pasa por su cabeza durante la carrera y salpica la narración con muchas anécdotas del ciclismo profesional de la época, citando a Mercks, Thevenett, Bahamontes...
De vez en cuando, el dolor físico, lleva a su cerebro un poco más all
Jamie Brady
A first hand account of a single amateur bike race, told in amazingly succinct and accurate detail. A highly entertaining and funny narration from the rider himself, with musings that are umistakingly relate-able to anyone who has ever pedaled a bike in a race. No matter what country (the author is Dutch, the race was in France), nor what year. The race was from 1977, but minus some slight technology differences, the nuances hold true today or back in 1904.
Stephan Renkens
Er zijn mensen waar ik moedeloos van word. Op zich is het niet altijd een opbeurende gedachte dat voor alles wat ik graag doe en goed kan, het geldt dat er altijd iemand is die dat beter kan. Het besef dat er iemand rondloopt op deze wereld die mij overtreft in zowat alles waar ik wel eens voor ben gegaan, is ronduit deprimerend. Vele uren heb ik achter het schaakbord vertoefd, met gretigheid schrijf ik allerlei proza en fietsen heb ik ook veel gedaan. Tim Krabbé kan dat allemaal veel en veel be ...more
Hans Canters
Toen ik Ventoux van Bert Wagendorp las moest ik weer aan dit boek denken, lang geleden als eens gelezen. Na herlezen opnieuw: geweldig boek. Prachtige inkijk in het hoofd van een wielrenner in een wedstrijd. De strijd, de pijn, de concurrentie, de vriendschap, de eenzaamheid, de heroïek het landschap, de verveling ... alles wat wielrennen zo aantrekkelijk maakt om te doen, te zien en over te lullen.
ANTES DE LEER 11/9/14:
Descubriendo la web vi que mis dos primeros amigos en esta aplicación habían leído “el cicista” y la habían puntuado alto, me chocó por qué a primera vista no parece que les gusten especialmente las bicis, ya les preguntaré… Antes de empezar a leer algo me gusta ver su valoración por usuarios anónimos y veo que es una novela muy valorada, esto sumado a que me gusta mucho el ciclismo y lo práctico -no me he perdido una etapa del tour de Francia ni de la Vue
From now on I'll be watching the Tour and other road races through very different eyes. In fact, before this I never bothered. A wonderful little book I read in one sitting. My, what goes on in those riders' heads!

And I thought that coming first was the only thing that matters! No wonder he writes about chess too. Absolutely fascinating.

Thanks Tony.
The author is one of 53 riders who participate in Tour of Mont Aigoual in Southern France in 1977 (

I was never one to like stories about any sporting event, but, this book captured my attention throughout the whole read. Eventhough I only road one "classic tour", Liège-Bastogne-Liège, I could definately relate to the suffering of the "lone rider". There are references to cycling history throughout the book which made it a very entertaining read.

I would
Another five star review. Not much more to add, except:

1. Non-cyclists shouldn't be put off - although I ride I think this book could appeal to anyone.
2. Just to clarify - a lot of reviews imply this is an autobiographical account of a race by a professional rider. Not true. Although the geographical location of the race is real, and although Tim Krabbe really did ride at an amateur level, he was never a pro, and the race in question (Tour de Mont Aigoual) is semi-fictional.

Nonetheless I don't t
I found out about Tim Krabbe when a chess master friend of mine pointed me to his "Chess Curiosities" blog (, specifically: "393. 27 January 2014: New Endgame Tables record: mate in 549 moves." From his entry, I naively extrapolated that a perfectly played game of chess could take ~20-200 billion moves to mate, if the equations that extrapolate from 7-man tablebases to 10-man are hold up for the whole game.

Then I remembered that Jesse Kraai had given Tim
Tim Krabbe is a Dutch chess aficionado and amateur cyclist who wrote this first person narrative of his efforts to win an amateur one-day cycling race in the mountains of France. If you like cycling you will love this and many regard it as a classic of cycling there such a genre. I am no cyclist but know a little about physical endurance events and can relate to the obsessive thinking detailed in the stream of consciousness narration. With mile markers (actually Km) instead of ch ...more
May 17, 2013 Dave rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sports fans, non-sports fans, fans of sporting science and psychology
Recommended to Dave by:
Absolutely smashing. Cuts right to the essence of what makes people push their bodies beyond reasonable limits in the field of athletic competition. I guess I gave it the top rating because Krabbé found some of the feelings I have about my own pursuits — some days you wonder why you even bother but on the good days, whoa — while perfectly crystalizing the plight of the endurance athlete, spending so much time beating one's own head into the wall only to find that perfect day once in a great, gre ...more
Michael W.
Admittedly, this book may not resonate with readers who aren't very into bicycle racing, follow Pro racing or at least are very active or athletic. That said, this book is incredible. Most of the book is the internal ruminations and memories of 'The Rider', with a bit of interactions and dialogue with the other racers thrown in. Much of the actual dialogue is dry wit and quite entertaining. The race itself, a fictional 'Tour de Mont Aigoual', and the terrain also act as 'characters' in the story ...more
Juan Del Pino
Me gusto, debo decir que mi deporte predilecto es el ciclismo corri por cuanto me permitio la lectura transportarme a aquellas carreras en donde peleabamos los primeros lugares, realmente logro cautivarme si corriste este es un libro entretenido que te llevara a la ruta y a poner buen rollo en tu mente y plantearte qeu otras alternativas tuviste para poder haber ganado esa competencia.
Bruce Crawford
I totally LOVED "The Rider" by Tim Krabbe. Great great great!!! Conveys the different aspects of cycling incredibly well. Amazing how Krabbe captures the feelings, emotions, strategy and nuances of a road race. READ this book if you want to experience road racing from your chair. Got to go ... I think I will read this book again!!!
Aditya Shetty
To understand what this book is about, you are going to have to earn it. Only after experiencing the extremities of road racing can one begin to appreciate what is being said. But, for those who do, this will feel like a personal conversation with a fellow rider, like your own diary entry at times!
David Ball
Good but not brilliant novella on an amateur road race through the French countryside. I enjoyed learning a bit about peloton politics, but was overwhelmed by the number of names and anecdotes; I spent too much time flipping back and forth trying to figure out who was who. But I liked the characters that were developed: Krabbe (the rider), Kleber (his training partner), Lesbusque (the selfless workhorse), and Reilhan (the hotshot "wheelsucker"). And I liked the concept. It felt like you were ins ...more
This book was exactly what I hoped that it would be. I love running and swimming but I never really grokked the allure of competitive cycling. I wanted to read a first-person account that gets into the head of a bike racer. Krabbe details the drama of the climbs and sprints, the chess-like strategy of drafting, the suffering, the anxiety, and even recounts the deaths of some of his peers. You can tell that the author also comes from a chess background because of the way he strategizes in relatio ...more
Never have a read a book that captures so well the nuances of its subject; Krabbé manages to pen everything that any cyclist have ever thought about during a race into just about 150 pages of intense, real racing. Cycling is so much a mental game that few people can understand until they immerse themselves into it. Krabbé harnesses this suffering into a mental image anyone who has ever raced seriously can understand and relate to instantly. Even for non-cyclists, the terse and non-forgiving dial ...more
This book made me want to get up off the couch and go be active and compete in something more than any book I've read since Once a Runner. One of the best sports books I've read in a while. Whether or not it's autobiographical, it's a first person account of one man's experiences in a single race intercut with his thoughts on racing, his personal sporting history, and life. Well written, tense, and fast paced, it really keeps you turning the pages and caring about what happened in an amateur bic ...more
Ach, best wel een fijn boek om te lezen, zeker hier in de Cévennes, op enkele kilometers van waar de wedstrijd plaatsvond waar het over gaat in het boek. Ik krijg zelf ook weer zin om nog eens een berg op te rijden.
Alejandro Villarreal
Absolutely everything you want in a novella about cycling. Krabbé documents, in vivd detail, the thoughts that every seriously cyclist has while turing the pedals, especially in a race environment. If you consider yourself a cyclist, you need to read this. Period. You will find yourself nodding your head in confirmation the entire way though.
Spend a few hours inside the head of a professional cyclist as they race their heart out. Translated from Dutch this short book pulls you into the obsession of cycling and drags you along 150km of grueling road racing. To 'non-racers' the thoughts that swirl through the rider's mind are worrying and and frequently hilarious, but anyone that enjoys cycling or endurance sports will find themselves understanding the rider and sometimes seeing reflections of their own thoughts in the pages of the bo ...more
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