Monday, December 20, 2010

A Dog in a Hat - Book Review

In 1986 Joe Parkin headed to Belgium to become a pro bike racer, following the advice of Bob Roll, and wound up basically living and racing there into the early '90s. This book covers his exploits and adventures during that time and beyond - racing for U.S. based teams for a few years, then finishing his career racing mountain bikes from '95 - '97. Quite the two wheeled trip.

I found this book fascinating since Joe was indeed a pro cyclist, though not at the super star level. He was a working class pro, scratching out a living racing bikes. This is not private jet Lance Armstrong stuff - much more down and gritty, what it's really like to be a Euro pro, earning a paycheck on two wheels. He did this in relative obscurity as well, at least as far as U.S. media coverage. I've read about a zillion bike magazines and books from the '80s until present, and have never heard of Joe Parkin until just a few years ago.

The insane amount of training and race mileage, the dysfunctional teams, the crazy travel between races, the drug use and selling of races - all spelled out in a real world, matter of fact, writing style. The selling of races I found interesting. Yeah - you know it occurs - but now I know how. Group of riders in a breakaway basically work out a deal, deciding who will win, then all receive some money for their effort. Fair? Debatable. But when you're riding for cash, winning some unknown race is less important then scoring some dough to eat. Welcome to the real world of bike racing.

If you have any interest in pro road racing at all, this book is a must - one of the better racing books I've ever read - if not the best. It removes the super star veneer found in many other race related books. This is the real, muddy, cobble stone deal.

Maybe some cyclists can relate to it, since in our own pipe dreams of being a pro, this would be the level of actually doing it - if you had the ability of course. This is not the uber-level of racing fame and fortune, maybe a few rungs down on the ladder, making it seem slightly more believable in our own dreams of glory.

For Joe Parkin however, this was no pipe dream - he went out and lived it - and his story is well worth reading.


  1. Hey, I also read and liked this book. In 2004 I went to Belgium with some buddies and we saw Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris Roubaix in a 10 day period, rode all over the cobbles and generally has a great time. Love your blog, thanks for the url...

  2. @clawblog - That sounds like a dream trip. I have an old bike pal who did a similar trip in Belgium.

    Thanks for nice blog comment. I enjoy your blog as well.

  3. When Bob Roll says GO, ya gotta go. Sounds like an interesting read.

  4. Hi Dan O,
    Thanks for the visit and your comments. You have a lot that interests me in your blog so I have set up a link from my blog and logged in as a follower.

    I have this book sitting on my bookshelf and have read it a couple of times -I agree with all that you have said about it.

    Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


  5. O, thanks Dan O for the information on Dirt Rag magazine and it's review of the FatBack. I couldn't find that review yet on their web sight. I think I will subscribe after reading thru some of the articles.
    Do you know what month that review was in?

  6. Sounds like a good read, I'll have to get it, thanks for posting the info. A very Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  7. @Trevor. Thanks for checking out my blog. I'll be sure to visit yours as well. Happy Holidays to you also.

    @MrDavey. Dirt Rag doesn't do monthly issues, they number 'em. The Fatback test is in the current issue, # 153.

    @mrbill. Merry Christmas to you also. Thanks.