I was on vacation at the beach last week, so I didn’t get a chance to post any new content on the blog. I did get a chance to finish reading a good book while I was lounging in the sand though- Come and Gone: A True Story of Blue-Collar Bike Racing in America by Joe Parkin. Come and Gone is the sequel to A Dog in a Hat, Parkin’s previous book about his five years racing as a domestique in Europe. The new book picks up in 1991, the year that Parkin returned to the U.S. after his contract with the Belgium based Tulip Computers team expired. I really enjoyed his stories of domestic racing in the 90s, partially because I personally have so many good memories of racing during that time. I was certainly not a pro, but Parkin’s stories about some of the road and mountain bike races that I remember fondly certainly transported me back in time.
Joe Parkin was not the fastest or best-known pro cyclist of his day, but his passion for bike racing is what comes across in this book. His struggles to make a living as a pro racer season after season (both on the road and in the dirt) definitely kept me interested and made the book difficult to put down. The conversational, almost rambling style in which he tells those stories makes it feel at times like he is recounting them just for you. As he tells of the ups and downs of the second half of his pro racing career, you definitely get a sense of the excitement, as well as the disappointment and frustration, that goes along with struggling to follow a true passion. Come and Gone is an honest and authentic account of the not always glamorous life of an average pro bike racer, and I think that is what differentiates it from many of the other cycling books I have read. The story is not building up to some major turning point or career pinnacle that is already widely known. Instead, it provides a real, and sometimes unflattering, glimpse into a lifestyle that many cycling fans and amateur racers are a bit curious about.
The book features a nice color photo section in the middle that I enjoyed almost as much as the stories (nothing transports me back to the late 80s/ early 90s more than garish team kits, lugged steel frames, and Euro racing mullets). As I read the chapters about different seasons, teams, and races, I found myself flipping to the photo section to look at the corresponding pictures.
These days, in addition to writing books and blogging at 6 Years in a Rain Cape, Joe Parkin is the editor of Bike magazine. Bike is the only mountain bike focused magazine that I subscribe to (for now at least), so I am pretty excited about the new sister publication, Paved. I haven’t seen the first issue yet, but if Paved has the same great photography and occasional offbeat attitude as Bike, I am sure it will be one of my new favorite bike magazines.