Reading a hundred online articles sometimes doesn’t provide the same benefit as reading one great book — at least that’s what I’ve found in my 10+ years of researching cycling topics including power-based training, nutrition, strength training and more.
On my office bookshelf alone I have upwards of 250 books. This list of ten are the ones I most frequently recommend to cyclists and triathletes who have the following four goals:
Goal #1: Understand my power meter and how it can maximize the effectiveness of my training.
This is one of my bookshelf staples. For athletes who just got a power meter and are a bit perplexed by it, Friel’s power meter handbook is what I recommend most. The language is simple and the basics of owning a power meter, like how to track your fitness changes and match your training to your race season, are covered really well.
Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 2nd Edition
By: Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan PhD
When it comes to power-based training, this book is the standard. If you want to gain a deep understanding of your power meter, its data and power-based training as a whole, I cannot recommend this book enough. There aren’t many, if any, online resources that will provide the depth you need to truly comprehend power-based training — taking the time to read a book is your best bet. In fact, I’d venture to say you’re doing yourself a disservice if you own a power meter and you haven’t done proper research on it. Strong words I know, but I stand behind them.
If you already own the first edition of Training and Racing with a Power Meter, I still recommend picking up the second edition copy of Allen and Coggan’s book. Compared to their frst edition that came out in 2006, you can tell from the sheer weight of the second edition, it’s much more comprehensive, in addition to being more up to date.
The Triathlete’s Guide to Training with Power
By: Dr. Philip Friere Skiba
The intent behind Skiba’s book was to dispel any myths surrounding triathlon and substitute those myths with science. An all-science, no-fluff approach might be intimidating to some, but Skiba’s a master of taking difficult training concepts and breaking them down into digestible, simple-to-understand words. What’s more, he likes to get to the point. At around one hundred pages, you can easily read this book in a single evening.
Goal #2: Understand the basics of cycling really well.
The Ultimate Ride: Get Fit, Get Fast and Start Winning with the World’s Top Cycling Coach
By: Chris Carmichael with Jim Rutberg
Before I really delved into power-based training, I read Carmichael’s book. Unlike the books I recommended above, it’s a more general look at cycling and training — that’s what makes it such a great read for beginner cyclists. Instead of diving into the nitty gritty of things, the prolific cycling coach dedicated his book to the basics. What you’ll get is a good rundown on energy systems, nutrition, racing strategies and training philosophies.
Goal #3: Lose weight and strengthen my muscles to perform better on the bike.
Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition
By: John Ivy, Ph.D. & Robert Portman, Ph. D.
John Ivy and Robert Portman know their stuff. As some of the world’s leading physiologists, their research has collectively pioneered the understanding of how muscles work and how nutritional supplements play a role in improving muscle performance. This is one of the many reasons when I see either of their names on a book, I pick it up. That said, Nutrient Timing is not an intro to nutrition; it’s a high-level book for riders who are really serious about improving their body’s composition. If you’re not ready to go down a rabbit hole of charts, equations and academic writing, check out my next book recommendation.
Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance
By: Matt Fitzgerald
Another author I respect is Matt Fitzgerald. He’s open minded and shares a lot of the same training beliefs that Tim Noakes advocates for. Regarding Racing Weight, it’s perfect for cyclists and triathletes who want know the best way to go about losing weight without sacrificing the quality of their training. Fitzgerald’s 8-step plan covers all you need to know. Unlike Ivy and Portman’s book, there’s a good amount of science in this one, but it doesn’t command the entire book.
The Core Advantage: Core Strength for Cycling’s Winning Edge
By: Tom Danielson and Allison Westfahl
Not too long ago I recommended Danielson’s book on The Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. I did this for two reasons: it’s actionable and appeals to cyclists who don’t necessarily want to go to the gym to get stronger. Every exercise he shares can be done at home, sans bulky equipment. So, whether you’re experiencing pain on the bike and your goal is to resolve it, or you just want to develop your endurance and balance, pick up a copy of this book. Inside you’ll get 50 core-focused strength exercises and three types of workout plans.
Goal #4: Prepare for my first triathlon.
Triathlon Science: The Ultimate Nexus of Knowledge and Performance
By: Joel Friel and Jim Vance
This is by and large my favorite triathlon book. It’s fairly advanced, i.e. get ready to geek out, but there’s plenty of general concepts, too. It’s well balanced in that way. So whether you’re a beginner or advanced triathlete, there’s something in Friel and Vance’s book for you; and because it’s laid out in a textbook fashion, you can skip around without getting too off course.
Going Long: Training for Triathlon’s Ultimate Challenge
By: Joe Friel and Gordon Byron
For triathletes getting ready for an Ironman, this book is for you. As its Amazon description notes, it’s hands down the most comprehensive guide to racing IM distance triathlons. Best of all, it’s truly suited for all levels of triathletes. This is not an extremely difficult-to-follow, science-dominated book. Sure, there’s a lot of information and research presented, but what sets it apart are the real-world anecdotes the experts share.
Scientific Training for Triathletes
By: Dr. Philip Friere Skiba
The cover design of Skiba’s book gives it away: it’s all about the science. He doesn’t make promises of a secret formula for getting faster, he simply discusses proven principles for getting faster, then backs them up with sound science. What more do you need in a book really? (Heads up: The book is extremely pricey on Amazon. We reached out to Skiba to check if there’s been a mistake with the product listing.) When his website is back up, you can also order his book directly there.
Goal #5: Be entertained.
The Way of the Cycling Discipline: The Rules
Although most cyclists are familiar with this book, I still wanted to include it on the off chance you haven’t hear of it. What makes this book shine is its wit, endless amount of cycling inside jokes and satirical realness. Most people catch themselves grinning or laughing out loud as they turn the pages of this one. I know I did.
Similar to the above book, Bike Snob brings humor to the forefront to mock the somewhat ridiculous nature of cycling culture as a whole. If you’ve got a short flight in your future and want a light read to take with you on the plane, I recommend picking up a copy.
The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France
By: Tyler Hamilton
Eye opener: that’s the best way you could describe Hamilton’s book. Intimate details of what happened behind closed doors in the Lance era are brought to light in this no-holds barred expose. Since there was so much media coverage when this book was released, I wouldn’t say it’s as shocking of a read as it once was. Nonetheless, the book is still chock full of insight.
How to Be a Pro for $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro
By: Phil Gaimon
Gaimon is a really witty guy; that’s clearly reflected in his writing. Unlike a story from a pro like Tyler Hamilton, Gaimon offers a new perspective on what it’s like to be pro cyclist in our nation. Spoiler alert: It’s not glamorous or easy — you’ve gotta be prepared for struggle in every aspect of your life. That might make the book sound like a downer, but it’s really not thanks to Gaimon’s writing style. So if you like straight talk with a big dose of humour on the side, get this book.
Do you have any must-read training books? Leave them in the comment section below and I’ll check them out.
For more answers to your cycling training questions, listen to our podcast Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.