I adore the psychology of cycling. I ride everywhere I can, offer a discounted rate to female pro cyclists (my tiny contribution to a massive gender imbalance in pay in the sport), write cycling psychology features for Cycling Weekly and I truly enjoy helping cyclists get the best out of themselves. So, I was excited to see The Complete Guide to Cycling Psychology book come out, especially as one of the authors is Jim Taylor who has a fantastic reputation in sport psychology and I’ve learnt from in the past.

I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. I’ll start with the positives though.

It is a lovely coffee table book. Beautifully designed, short easy sections to read, fabulous photos. I can imagine it in cycling cafes up and down the country being well thumbed and pored over. It is accessible, very accessible. There are lots of tips and questions to ask yourself. It covers the basic mental skills we would teach junior athletes starting out so you could end up with a nice range of skills to draw upon.

But as a guide to becoming a better cyclist it doesn’t hit the mark for me. I think this is for three reasons:

  1. So many of the cyclists that I work with value the research and the studies behind why we use certain techniques or trying to improve something in a certain way. They want to know what research suggests is best practice. It feels like this book is trying so hard to be accessible that suggestions and tools are backed up only by anecdote rather than research and as a result there is a lack of rigor. The theories and research concepts that usually provide credibility are missing.
  2. One of the most important pillars of success is internal insight – understanding ourselves and our psychology and how we incorporate that into our own performances. This book is a fascinating way to learn about Mark Beaumont’s psychology but in making so much of it based upon his personal experiences it takes away from the ability of a reader to adapt to their own. If you want to ride like Mark and do a ‘Round the World trip’ then you could learn tonnes – but to understand and adapt to your own challenges would be much harder. It feels like how to be like Mark rather than how to get the best out of yourself.
  3. The book feels awkwardly structured. It is split into four sections (attitudes, mental muscles, tools and using mind to get the most out of your training) and all the elements seem to be here but somehow not in a way that gives clarity. That isn’t to say I have a solution – I know from experience trying to categorise sport psychology techniques, approaches, tools and strategies is incredibly difficult with no easy solution.

Even with this critique it is not to say it isn’t a good book. As a marketing tool for GCN (rather than a standalone book) it is an excellent PR tool and there are some lovely techniques and lessons to pick up and use and some important overarching messages:

  • We need autonomy (a choice and a voice) over our riding
  • We do best when we focusing on process over outcome
  • If we can translate nerves not as threats but as challenges we can perform well
  • We need a long-term perspective
  • We risk feeling under threat when we have too narrow an identity.

So, if you are a fan of Mark Beaumont and aspire to follow his wheels this would be a brilliant purchase. If you want something easy to read with some nice tips to follow then again go for this. If you want more of the academic rigor or the understanding of why techniques might work and how they feed into each other, you might be better off with a more generic sport psychology book.