Gift Guide: Four books for the cycling enthusiast

Unsure what to get that friend who loves bikes and books? Combine the passions with these four cycling-related publications for all types of both riders and readers.

Pedal Stretch Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling
By Kelli Refer

This quick read is a handy guide to some of the best yoga practices and stretches that can help make cycling more comfortable and rewarding, whether it’s for fun, transportation or fitness. Refer combines both the physical and mental practices of yoga (like slowing down, calming down and becoming mindful) with a passion for cycling to provide tips, tricks and insights for both in the saddle and in the rest of life. She describes a plethora of different stretches and restorative/recovery poses to help with different physical issues that cyclists often encounter as well as those that aid in staying healthy and flexible. She also relates breathe and mindfulness to cycling. Pedal Stretch Breathe is a great little guide for anyone in your life who is interested in yoga, cycling or both.

Price: $9.95
More info and buy here

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Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures
Edited by Elly Blue

Biketopia is a collection of short sci-fi stories with a feminist bent, a pleasing combination for science fiction, feminist literature and cycling fans. Twelve different writers have twelve different takes on an uncertain future – all of which involve bikes – but are very different in their portrayal of the utopias and dystopias they imagine. From love and resistance to aliens to 1984-style governmental control, these stories will speak to everyone’s fears, hopes and dreams for the future.

Price: $9.95
Available from Microcosm Publishing

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Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling
By Carlton Reid

Bike Boom is a documentary chronicling the history of cycling’s boom and bust periods, from the late 1800s to present day. Reid examines the political, economic and cultural factors that have worked to encourage or discourage cycling, how some cities have successfully encouraged bike booms and how and why others didn’t, and why cycling is more popular with certain groups in society than others. This non-fiction piece of literature draws lessons from history to inform cycling advocacy for the future, and is a great read for anyone interested in cycling, history and advocacy.

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Price: Hardcover $60, Paperback and e-book $30
Available from Island Press

Gravel Cycling: The Complete Guide to Gravel Racing and Adventure Bikepacking
By Nick Legan

Gravel Cycling is a comprehensive guide to many aspects of the latest up-and-coming niche in cycling – gravel riding and bikepacking. It is packed with photos and covers gravel races and events and adventure touring routes, as well as tips for race prep, choosing a bike and outfitting your bike for a long ride or multi-day excursion. It’s definitely geared towards beginners and people looking to get into gravel riding, long-distance racing and riding or bikepacking and overnight trips, but it’s an interesting and bucket-list-inspiring read for gravel and adventure enthusiasts of all levels.

Price: $24.95
Available from VeloPress

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Button Up & Bike: YogaGlo online, at-home yoga

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I consider myself a yoga rookie. I have taken classes here and there, but I’ve never committed myself to a dedicated practice, despite feeling physically and mentally regenerated after a session. Increased balance, flexibility, focus, mindfulness, posture, and strength. The benefits of yoga are many, so what holds me back from allowing myself to experience the positives of a regular practice? My three primary excuses are time commitment, cost, and feeling sheepish about practicing yoga in a group setting.

On February 1 I set out to incorporate yoga into my lifestyle via YogaGlo, a website dedicated to getting individuals everywhere to practice yoga. The sites hosts over 2,500 online videos from trained professionals that specialize in different types of yoga or meditation. The classes range from 5-120 minutes, which quickly eradicates excuse #1 for not practicing yoga; I have 5 minutes.

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The website itself has a minimal layout and is easy to navigate. The number of classes seems overwhelming but there’s a convenient filter option allowing you to refine your search by body part, duration, focus, level, style, and teacher. Each of the 35 instructors has a bio so you can read about their specific credentials, if desired. The classes are very beginner friendly, without making you feel elementary, and the instructors suggest modifications throughout the asanas. I focused on those that were cycling specific and a few that were unique to my physical needs, such as neck and shoulder tension.

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Only moments into my first class I was reminded of my need to stretch and the infrequency that I do so, especially post ride. Each course has a brief description explaining the goal of the specified practice. I began with a 30 minute class, Bike Love, which addresses “all the common tight spots associated with cycling.” I had more tight spots than I knew.

The longer classes allow you to really get into a groove. My favorite class thus far is the Whole Enchilada, an hour long level 1 class, which takes you through a series of postures for increased flexibility, recovery, and circulation. The 5-15 minute classes didn’t allow much time for my mind to settle, but they did provide the space to take a deep breath and sort of “reset” for the task at hand. I’ve found myself taking a few minutes to step away from the computer to perform postures that helped me stretch.

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Quick Recovery has been a great pre-bedtime class. The last pose in the series is “legs up the wall,” or Viparita Karani. This simple inversion worked wonders on my tired legs and really did help me to relax and fall asleep.

YogaGlo strikes me as a wonderful practice for a newbie or hesitant yogi, like myself. However, I did wonder whether an in-home practice is appropriate for a beginner. I’ve been called out in yoga classes for doing a posture incorrectly. The online instructors do an excellent job at illustrating the postures and suggest alternatives for the less limber, but when I’m in my living room there’s no one around to keep me in check.

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With this in mind, I turned to a local professional for her opinion. Rebecca Rankin, of Bikram Yoga Squirrel Hill, took a few classes and provided feedback.

“In home practice is a great way to take time out of your day and refocus your energy and your self.” She recommended creating an open space at home that is free from distractions. “If you create an inviting space that you can slip away from your everyday worries, you will be more likely to stick with your home practice.”

Fortunately, YogaGlo has an app which allows you to sync your classes and access them via your phone or tablet. I did some of the classes in my living room but my ‘distraction free’ zone became my studio. A space with a lot of natural light, that is free of cats, a kitchen, and to-do’s.

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Rebecca also had some great suggestions for the beginning yogi. “Online programs like YogaGLo are nice because they do have options for beginners to well-seasoned yoga practitioners. I do think that it is important for beginners and those with injury to seek professional yoga teachers. The group classes are a great way to connect with a greater community and having a teacher assist you to be sure that you are properly executing postures as to not injure yourself. Taking even just a few classes with an instructor will help jump start someone’s yoga practice and make an ‘in-home’ practice even more rewarding.”

Winter is the perfect time to discover ways to cross train and build habits for a new season. and yoga has proven itself as a habit to continue. Between the low cost of $18 per month, range of class duration, and the mobility, YogaGlo has solved all the reasons why I don’t practice regularly. Another plus, I don’t need to purchase any special equipment. I look forward to incorporating YogaGlo into an all-around cross training practice that will help strengthen my core, increase flexibility, and promote recovery.

The brick and mortar YogaGlo studio is in Santa Monica, California. Pop in to take a class for free while they’re filming.

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