A book like no other, 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.