Higher Calling, a recent book: Why cycle up mountains?

Reading about an interest is a powerful way to pursue that interest. Over 2017, while trying to instil a habit of regular bike riding, I tried to read as many cycling books as I could absorb.

Higher Calling: Road Cycling’s Obsession with the Mountains, written by troubadour writer Max Leonard, is my final cycling book of 2017 (and next year I’m switching topics), so I was disappointed to get little out of it. Leonard is an energetic, adept writer, but after an intro dealing with “Everesting,” which I do find fascinating because I know people involved in it, the book loses narrative coherence, at least in my view. The cover blurb describes Higher Calling as “blending adventure and travel writing with the rich narrative of pro racing,” and to me that’s what it felt like, an unholy mix of stories from all over the shop, stories told well but to me, a beginner cyclist, somewhat baffling. In the end, it’s a stylish read but it certainly doesn’t answer its opening question: “why do we have this obsession with cycling up mountains?”

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