Nick Legan’s “Gravel Cycling”: Quick Book Review

Nick Legan’s “Gravel Cycling”: Quick Book Review- by Guitar Ted

Today we are looking at something a little different. It isn’t a bike, a component, nor is it an accessory item. It is a book. A book about gravel road cycling and bikepacking written by Nick Legan. While I am not a book reviewer, I am taking a stab at reviewing this book, since it is about gravel cycling, and since the Holidays are nigh. This might make someone a good gift. So, let’s take a look…..

Gravel Cycling, a book by Nick Legan, was just released this Fall.

But first- a bit of a disclaimer here. Nick actually reached out to me about two years ago and was asking questions about gravel cycling. racing, and asking some technical questions. He let me know that some of the stuff I advised him on, and the event I promote- Trans Iowa- would be used and featured in the book. So, I have been aware of the book’s coming out and was a small part of the resources Nick used to put the thing together. That said, I feel that I am able to give a straight and uncolored review of the book regardless of my level of involvement in its creation, which again- I am sure was a very small part.

What It Is: Okay, with that out of the way, just what is this? The term “gravel cycling” can mean so many different things. To Nick’s credit here, it is something he addresses right away at the beginning in the book and something he mentions several times throughout the pages of this gorgeously illustrated paperback. Well, hold on a minute! Calling this book a “paperback” is doing it a disservice. I am calling it a “coffee table paperback book“, because it resembles those bigger, nicely illustrated, oversized books that fit the name “coffee table book”.  This book certainly wouldn’t look out of place in a nicely decorated living space and would certainly help drum up interesting conversations.

It is more than that though. Nick Legan lays out the start of his attempt at covering this wide-ranging subject by going back to what he is good at- That being technical writing. Nick was a technical editor at “Velo Newsat one time. That and his stints as a race mechanic for teams here and in Europe have given Nick an edge in how to present technical knowledge in an easy to understand and digest way.  Subsequently, the way in which he covers what you need to concern yourself with in regard to prepping your bike and your gear for an event is easy to read and understand. There are even tips on maintenance and nutrition here which are useful.

The book is laden with stunning visuals.

Then the book gets into events. Nick chose many of the traditional classics, major events, and up-and-coming events to whet your appetite for gravel racing. Events are over-viewed and then the race directors/promoters are given a word along with riders who have been in these events. The riders give great little tips on racing and gear that you need to look for to gain those “secrets” that make riding on gravel easier and more fun. It’s those golden nuggets of hard won knowledge that help make this book a resource for anyone starting out on gravel riding. “But wait!“, as they say, “there is more!

Nick then opens it up to International events. More of the same stunning visuals and knowledge bombs ensue as in the previous section. This then morphs into Nick’s love for bikepacking which is manifested in his covering the “Multiday Adventures”, as Nick refers to them as, like the Tour Divide and the Colorado Trail Race, amongst others. A brief historical background to these events and the gear that defines them is also provided. Finally, the book closes out with how to choose and set up bikepacking rigs and gravel bikes. There is some nice looking eye candy in there for those who thrive on “bike porn”, if you thought when you saw the word “Porn” you were going to get to see pictures like those shown on then you’re going to be highly disappointed, if however that’s not the sort of thing your into and you absolutely love bikes then you’ve come across a real gem.

While the visuals are certainly engaging, don’t miss all the great nuggets of knowledge in “Gravel Cycling”

At The Finish: Nick’s book is subtitled, “The Complete Guide To Gravel Racing And Adventure Bikepacking”. That’s a wide target. Does Nick hit the marks? Well, he does a yeoman’s job of trying. In terms of a book, this doesn’t read like a novel, and really, it isn’t supposed to. I like to think of this as a “resource book”, a book that one grabs from time to time to bring valuable knowledge back to memory. In that vein, I think Nick’s efforts in “Gravel Cycling” are successful. It is more an encyclopedia in that way, but definitely not an unabridged one. Still, it gives you stunning visuals, enough stoke to last a lifetime, and valuable bits of knowledge from many of the best soldiers in the trenches of the gravel and bikepacking worlds.

If I can level one criticism at the book it is that it is not available in hardcover. This is a book that deserved to be issued as such, but I suppose it would have cost a lot more than the $24.95 that Velo Press is asking for it. Still, as a “coffee table paper back book” it makes for a stunning presentation of the gravel and bikepacking scenes. Combined with the technical and practical knowledge that you can access from this book, the value it presents far outweighs the asking price. The honesty with which Nick looks at the gravel and bikepacking scenes and the clear way which he navigates the reader through this book is refreshing as well.  Would it make a great gift for the aspiring or avid gravel/bikepacker? Absolutely. Unless they have already bought it for themselves!

To learn more about Nick Legan’s “Gravel Cycling” see the Velo Press site here.

Note: The book, “Gravel Cycling”, was purchased by Guitar Ted and reviewed by him unsolicited by Velo Press,, or Nick Legan, nor by anyone else associated with the publishing of the book. I was not paid nor bribed for this review, nor for the information used that I provided which was used in the book. I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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