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The Rider

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  2,365 Ratings  ·  221 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 MillarThe Death of Marco Pantani by Matt RendellSlaying the Badger by Richard  Moore
Best Cycling Books
2nd out of 219 books — 165 voters
Moneyball by Michael LewisFriday Night Lights by H.G. BissingerSeabiscuit by Laura HillenbrandThe Blind Side by Michael LewisOpen by Andre Agassi
Top reads for sports fans
76th out of 610 books — 602 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 13, 2012 Katherine rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2009 Bob Redmond rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2015 Wastrel rated it it was amazing
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
Lou Robinson
Nov 08, 2015 Lou Robinson rated it really liked it
James's choice for book club this month, and I was a little dubious going in. Given how much cycling we watch on TV during the year, did I really want to spend precious reading time on it too? Particularly with the enormous pile of books on my to read list at the moment. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that I really enjoyed it, a fictional account of a climbers race with Tim Krabbe as a contender. Zipped through the 150 pages to reach the exciting finish line in time to discuss on Wednesda ...more
Caed Scott
Please don't mistake this for a book that will only be interesting, relatable or understandable to cyclists, or even sportspeople - as a person who has not been on a bike or seriously played sport since I was 9, I fell back into my bed from finishing this novel literally short of breath with the tension and the beauty of it all. Its implications reach far beyond sport. Read to understand competition, obsession, honor, suffering, the human limits, and how we measure ourselves.
Tom Doig
May 01, 2013 Tom Doig rated it it was amazing
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 it was amazing
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.
Whoa! Jeg tror dette må bli biosirkelboka mi.
Til tross for... at den er tidsbegrenset, crossoversk, litterær
og sansynligvis vil få meg disket.
Mike Harmon
Jan 15, 2016 Mike Harmon rated it really liked it
Tim Krabbe, Dutch championship chess player and cycling enthusiast uncloaks the mind of the race cyclist as you follow a fictional recantation of the 1977 Tour de Mont Aigoual and his prospect as a competitor. Cycling is a strategic battle demanding and depleting both body and mind. Will you pull a wheel-sucker into contention or settle for mutual defeat? What alliances may be found on the road? When do I sprint?...Was it too soon? The strongest rider doesn't always win, but the purity of cyclin ...more
Kristof Willaert
Nov 08, 2013 Kristof Willaert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2013 Anton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2013 Donald Plugge rated it really liked it

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
May 11, 2012 Raúl rated it really liked it
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
Lolo S.
May 30, 2009 Lolo S. rated it it was ok
cycling and narcissism.

james told me that this book would tell me more about racing. fair enough. i did learn a bit about the techniques and some of the history, anecdotal as it was. more though, this book reminded me why i dislike organized and competitive sports: the people who enjoy them are self-centered, probably mean, and almost certainly not people with whom i'd enjoy spending time:

“Road racing imitates life, the way it would be without the corruptive influence of civilization. When you s
Jamie Brady
Oct 01, 2014 Jamie Brady rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 28, 2013 Will rated it it was amazing
Lovingly written, but sometimes cold account of a race in late 70s, with some context about the author's journey into competitive cycling and cycling history. It made me want to get on my bike, ride everyday and maybe enter some small race somewhere. Even more impressive, though, was how well it chronicles the obsessiveness required to become really good at anything. Truly a gem of a book; I'll definitely be picking this up again and again.
Hans Canters
Jun 29, 2014 Hans Canters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 22, 2014 Leo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 22, 2011 Badger rated it it was amazing
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.
May 25, 2015 Francis rated it really liked it
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
Martin Roberts
Jun 05, 2016 Martin Roberts rated it it was amazing
Simply brilliant. The sheer physical effort entailed in cycling of any form, let alone racing, sets apart its participants and this book has met the challenge of conveying that in mere words. The book rings so true and sets the scene in the very first paragraph by saying, "Non racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me."
Outsiders may consider bike riders to be marginalised eccentrics, some of whom get to be heroes in those few countries where the sport is mainstream, although most don't. Bik
Aug 12, 2014 Andreas rated it liked it
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.
Feb 10, 2014 Malcy rated it it was amazing
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
Carlo Hagemann
Jul 31, 2015 Carlo Hagemann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've Read this book again. I remembered it as a race in hot temperatures, but it turns out to be a race theough rain, mist and cold weather in general. However, my memory was partly right. The race is HOT.
A marvellous book about thoughts that occur to this older cyclist in the race of his life. Thoughts and observations are accompanied by thoughts about his colleages: Merckx, Anquetil, Kléber, Kuiper, De Vlaeminck and so many others.
I did not understand why this book was not on the reading list
Dead John Williams
Apr 18, 2016 Dead John Williams rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This was The Peregrine all over again except it was about cycling, competition cycling. Throughout the whole of the book you are on that bicycle sweating, pumping, calculating and grinding your way up those hills. To say this book is intense is a complete understatement, it is more like a mind swap. I could feel the rain on my face and feel the spray from the bicycles in front of me every step of the way. Even if, like me, you have no interest in cycling or indeed any other sport, this book shou ...more
Apr 11, 2015 Randy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
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
Harrison Devine
Nov 18, 2015 Harrison Devine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a bicycle racer myself I began reading this with the assumption it would be interesting. My expectations were far exceeded. This is the most engaging book that I have read in a long time. The way Krabbe creates the race is so vivid that I could see myself in it. I found myself wondering how the other riders where feeling, just as I would in a real race. Each time Krabbe attacks I wondered if he would actually get away. As each breakaway, and chase of breakaway, progressed I tensed as I wonder ...more
Jul 05, 2011 Jogle rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Peter Blom
Jul 23, 2016 Peter Blom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fictie, sport
May 17, 2013 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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“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 it out on the road he didn't have the character.
The sky turned black, the water in the ditch rippled, a heavy storm broke loose. The Canadian sat up straight, raised his arms to heaven and shouted: 'Rain! Soak me! Ooh, rain, soak me, make me wet!'
How can that be: suffering is suffering, isn't it?
In 1910, Milan—San Remo was won by a rider who spent half an hour in a mountain hut, hiding from a snowstorm. Man, did he suffer!
In 1919, Brussels—Amiens was won by a rider who rode the last forty kilometers with a flat front tire. Talk about suffering! He arrived at 11.30 at night, with a ninety-minute lead on the only other two riders who finished the race. The day had been like night, trees had whipped back and forth, farmers were blown back into their barns, there were hailstones, bomb craters from the war, crossroads where the gendarmes had run away, and riders had to climb onto one another's shoulders to wipe clean the muddied road signs.
Oh, to have been a rider then. Because after the finish all the suffering turns into memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is Nature's payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses: people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. 'Good for you.' Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lay with few suitors these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms she rewards passionately.
That's why there are riders.
Suffering you need; literature is baloney.”
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