Need for the Bike


Need for the Bike

Paul Fournel
Translated and with an introduction by Allan Stoekl

150 pages


September 2003


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January 2021


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About the Book

A book like no other, Frenchman Paul Fournel’s Need for the Bike conducts readers into a very personal world of communication and connection whose center is the bicycle, and where all people and things pass by way of the bike. In compact and suggestive prose, Fournel conveys the experience of cycling—from the initial charm of early outings to the dramas of the devoted cyclist.
An extended meditation on cycling as a practice of life, the book recalls a country doctor who will not anesthetize the young Fournel after he impales himself on a downtube shifter, speculates about the difference between animals that would like to ride bikes (dogs, for instance) and those that would prefer to watch (cows, marmots), and reflects on the fundamental absurdity of turning over the pedals mile after excruciating mile. At the same time, Fournel captures the sound, smell, feel, and language of the reality and history of cycling, in the mountains, in the city, escaping the city, in groups, alone, suffering, exhausted, exhilarated.
In his attention to the pleasures of cycling, to the specific “grain” of different cycling experiences, and to the inscription of these experiences in the body’s cycling memory, Fournel portrays cycling as a descriptive universe, colorful, lyrical, inclusive, exclusive, complete.

Author Bio

Paul Fournel is a member of Oulipo, a collective of avant-garde writers whose works focus on the problems and puzzles of language. He is presently the cultural attaché at the French Embassy in Cairo. Allan Stoekl is a professor of French at Pennsylvania State University, the author and editor of a number of books, and the translator of Maurice Blanchot’s The Most High (Nebraska 1996).


"Few sportswriters fancy themselves members of the literary avant-garde, but Frenchman Paul Fournel is the real deal. In his carefully cadenced prose poem Need for the Bike, translated by Allan Stoekl, he shares a passion for the sport matched only by his love of language."—Bicycling

"An eloquent, whimsical and amusing account of a lifetime's cycling moments and feelings. . . . This is a great book, and a happy celebration of cycling."—Velo Vision

“To review this hugely rewarding book is to attempt the impossible. So I urge you to buy it and discover for yourself how French author Paul Fournel has expressed so beautifully and with such humour what many of us struggle to articulate when attempting to explain our love of cycling. The title, Need for the Bike, is so apt.”—Cycling Weekly

"For those of you struggling to explain to others what it is about cycling that so fires your fuse, Need For The Bike is one of a handful of books which you should consider gifting to those who just don't get what it is you get out of life on two-wheels. But make sure to read it yourself first. You'll be well rewarded for the time you give it."—Podium Cafe

"Mr. Fournel takes us inside his helmet for a passionate tour of his knowledge and emotions from more than 40 years as a French cyclist. . . . This book does a wonderful job of covering a big subject, from the emotion of his first ride to the soul searching of a weekend warrior who realizes his strongest miles are behind him. . . . This is the perfect book for either accomplished cyclists or their significant others who could never quite figure out the bike thing."—The Dallas Morning News

"A fascinating mix of bicycling memories, observations, and experiences the author has gathered during a lifetime of cycling. . . . This very personal book, doled in short, easily digestible doses, packs a meal that ultimately satisfies deeply."—ForeWord

“Fournal is a philosopher of the mentalité and physiology of biking. . . . This French work is vital to the literate cyclist’s library.”—Omaha Pedalers Bicycle Club Newsletter

"A nice mix and match of memories and insights gathered by the author in a lifetime on the bike."—Harvey Frommer,


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