A book worth cheering: Jean Bobet’s Tomorrow, we ride…


Tomorrow, we ride…
By Jean Bobet
Translated from the French by Adam Berry
English edition reprinted 2010 by Mousehold Press and Sport and Publicity

What makes people different from animals and robots? Perhaps our endless hunt for superlatives.

The fastest, the loudest, the oldest; pi memorized to 100 digits, to 1,000 digits, to 70,000 digits. The most accomplished eater of hot dogs.

Nature has its superlatives—the tallest tree, the longest river—but only if people observe them. (Though I can imagine an unknown sentient crab with an excellent internet connection at the bottom of the Marianas trench reading that and thinking “typical human hubris.”)

The problem with superlatives in nature is they don’t change all that often. The tallest tree stays tall for a long time; the longest river keeps meandering to the sea, despite our challenges in accurately measuring its length.

Enter spectator sports. Whee. Superlatives galore and always changing.

You get a winner! You get a winner! You get a winner!

Until, that is, the spring of 2020.

If you’re a spectator, you now have nothing to do, which, face it, isn’t much less than you were doing.

However, if you aren’t a spectator, this particular aspect of life—looking at the people actually achieving all those superlatives—has barely changed. You go for a walk if you can. You ride a bicycle if you’re lucky. And there are always books and other diversions.

Because that’s what people do in addition to hunting superlatives. They seek diversions.

Which is a good thing because Tomorrow, we ride… is not a book about superlatives, though it includes more than a few words about Louison Bobet, the first bicycle racer to win the Tour de France three years in a row.

It’s a book, like most books, about the past. In this case, about racing a bicycle in Europe in the 1950s. And, later, about not racing a bicycle but still riding with a sibling who had, at times, ridden faster than anyone else in a past they shared, a past that only the younger of them now remembers.

We are lucky he chose to share that past with us. But to get back to the world’s greatest spectator sport and those oh-so-delectable superlatives…

Is this a great book?

Well, it’s not one of a long string of tree-killing political books well past their sell-by date on the remainders heap. (Totally unrelated note to self: Need to read Eleanor Roosevelt’s This I Remember.) It’s not another book of pseudoscience aimed at the gullible and sold by the mighty.  And it’s not the book of haikus based on a blog of haikus that I keep thinking about. (Rejected title: Vanity thy name/In combination with mine/Is too long by far.)

If you can judge a book by what it isn’t, and you can’t, this is a book that’s better than most. But there’s no need to bring overweening superlatives into the discussion.

Tomorrow, we ride… is a good book about something we all care about: a life lived outdoors, riding a bicycle. When times are good, with other people.

That’s more than enough to commend it. Read it if you want to live.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
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1 Response to A book worth cheering: Jean Bobet’s Tomorrow, we ride…

  1. Julian says:

    Bizarrely this very book is on my reading table today. (I emailed you a photo, since i can’t attach it here).
    It’s a good one. Lots of good reading time these days.

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