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The Rider

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  5,249 ratings  ·  441 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 June 1978)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  5,249 ratings  ·  441 reviews

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Dec 13, 2012 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 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 (also the year of the book's publication). 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, historical depth (many seamlessly-woven accounts of
Aug 12, 2014 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
Alfred Haplo
In every race, there is a winner and a loser. I started The Rider * with minuscule knowledge on all things road racing and a strategy to assimilate jargon along the way. Will work, not ideal. Far better to have help. As I learnt, neither reading this book nor competing in professional cycling is a solitary activity. Teamwork gets the job done, and done better than going at it alone. An intense read, the book had me riding high throughout and I finished the race depleted. We have a winner.

Race 3
Tom Doig
May 01, 2013 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
Lou Robinson
Nov 03, 2015 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
Lolo S.
Apr 28, 2009 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
Rightly called a classic of sports writing.
Written in the 70s, the author tells his experience in a fictional 137km amateur cycling road race. He takes the reader into sidetracks of great riders and rides, his own race experiences, his competitors' experiences and various other meanderings.
He does not flinch with the pain of competition, the agony of losing and the reason why the rare win is so emotionally celebrated.
May 08, 2008 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.
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Really good. Incredible, elegant, precise prose. Encapsulates so much of the joy and suffering that I consider myself lucky enough to have felt this year through riding my road bike 1,000+ miles. COVID cancelled the first bike race I’d ever registered for out here in Brevard, but it’ll happen soon!
There are so many excellent quotes, as Krabbé has an excellent sense of humor too. Here’s just a couple regarding the immense amount of physical effort that’s needed in races:
• “The best I could h
Quinn Rhodes
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow what a book... Makes me want to break through some sort of invisible threshold and try racing for myself. The way Krabbe writes this is familiar to anyone who suffers on a bike, but it clearly takes it to a level far beyond what I have ever experienced.
Jul 11, 2013 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
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it
the kind of book you should definitely read if you race bikes but definitely not read if you don't ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Out ... stand ... ing!!!

Wow ... I really enjoyed that!... now I'm kicking myself for not having read it years ago. What a short, but oh-so-captivating-and-compelling ride! (No pun intended....)

A cult classic, written decades ago, and subsequently translated, but ... probably ... the most entertaining book I've read about cycling (and, specifically, competitive cycling). A slender volume with two additional factors in its favor: (1) Krabbe is no dummy - he's a professional writer (both journalist
May 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed this short ride with Mr Krabbé and did gain some insight into the mindset of people who give pride of place to road racing in their lives. Krabbé was a 30 year old chess grand master when he decided to take up cycling and seems to have embraced it with the same pugnacity as his other passion. "The Rider" deals as much with the volatile emotions the author feels towards his fellow competitors as with his training and the physical challenges involved in the sport. Yet although there may ...more
Jun 10, 2011 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.
Sherwood Plant
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Delightful and fun read. Insightful and relatable, I felt like I was pedaling with Tim the entire time. The book was captivating and unrelenting, drawing me all the way to the finish.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best way to describe this fictional story of a cyclist is that it tells what can go on in a cyclist’s head while he is racing down the mountain, trying to break away from the pack, or working on being the best sprinter he can be. The author, Tim Krabbe, took up the sport at age 30 as an amateur, giving credibility to the context of the protagonist’s thoughts and actions as he attempts to win a grueling tour race.

The story takes place in 1977 as the rider is competing in a race in southern F
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netherlands
I'm a keen cyclist, but I've always said that I don't get the point of competitive cycling. Putting yourself through the harshest training regimen of any elite sport, just to cycle past some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet too fast and too focused to even take the time to appreciate them.

Reading Krabbé, a chess player who suddenly decided to switch to amateur cycle championships at 30 years old, I'm still not convinced it's for me, but I get it. Much like Murakami's What I Talk Ab
Ramon van Dam
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though I am a big fan of the sport of cycling, somehow I had never read this classic semi-autobiographical novel by Tim Krabbé. It it often hailed as the best Dutch book about sports in general, now I see why.

The author takes us back to a specific bike race he participated in and tells us every tiny detail, regularly interrupted shortly for another small anecdote that is often relevant to the bigger story. The writing style is very personal and takes you into the head of the protagonist, Kr
Arlo Johnson
Jan 20, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was very short, and I feel that the ending came up short. This structure and syntax may have been because of its translation from Dutch, or perhaps it just followed Krabbe's style. As somewhat of a rider myself (not competitively, but recreationally) I felt very engaged in Krabbe's writng and vivid descriptions of the momentum of cycling, and this book would definitely speak similarly to anyone with biking who is looking for a fervent story. ...more
David Johnston
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great. If you love cycling. Which I do. So it’s great.
Daniel Gold
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Poorly translated maybe. Hard to understand.
Charles Collard
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports
one of my favorite books (a short story really) on cycling. the translation leaves it sounding endearingly kooky, but still authentic. does the best job of capturing the experience of road riding and racing of anything i have ever read. recommended reading for anyone who has ever hopped on a bike.
Kobe Bryant
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Good for him for doing the race
Paul Lemcke
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I'm a rider, not a racer, but I appreciated the very detailed thought process that went into the race. It is fascinating to hear the wheels turning in his head as he experiences the range of feelings from self-doubt to elation at so many spots in the race. The ability of a racer to push himself way beyond what he considered possible offered a great insight into what makes a great athlete. ...more
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book! Way better than Once A Runner, but other than being cult classics about racing maybe they just aren't comparable ...more
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Four stars, but really for MAMILs only ...
Will Hoyer
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
5 stars if you've raced a bike on the roads. 2 or 3 otherwise so I'll round to 4. Definitely a different sort of book and captures the beauty-in-pain of bike racing better than anything else I've read. ...more
Donald Plugge
Feb 20, 2013 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
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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.”
“Do I clap along with them?
No. By applauding I would be saying: Hell, Reilhan, it wasn't that important, it was just good fun. I would be saying: You only beat a part of me, and the rest, what does it care, it applauds you.
But Reilhan has beaten all of me.
He who applauds his victor denies that, and belittles him.
Being a good loser is a despicable evasion, an insult to the sporting spirit. All good losers should be barred from practicing a sport.”
More quotes…