Bill Strickland is the editor-at-large for Bicycling magazine, the largest cycling magazine in the world. If it wasn’t for Twitter, I would not know that. His feed, @TrueBS, popped up in the “Who To Follow” section on my profile. And now, @Quickdirt is a follower of @TrueBS.
What I also learned from Twitter that fine December day was that Bill Strickland wrote a book called Ten Points.
I know this stuff, but let’s face it. I don’t really know Bill Strickland.
But now that I’ve read Ten Points, I feel like I kinda know him. It’s almost like Bill and I got drunk one night and he started blabbing about all that shit he had bottled inside. Then when we woke up the next morning it felt a little awkward and we never mentioned it again.
Bill likes to race his bike, but that’s not the deep dark secret that he confessed that night. That’s just the reason why this is a good book to talk about on Quickdirt.
He races his bike in criteriums and many years ago he made a promise to his young daughter that he would try to win ten points at his weekly Thursday Night Crit.
It was a story about bike racing and it got four and a half stars on Amazon. That was enough to inspire me to hit the checkout button.
Was it my environmentalism or my frugality that led me to a used copy? When I pulled the hardcover out of the envelope, I was intrigued to see that it was a former library book. This copy of the book had history. It was copyrighted in 2007 and was checked out of the Winnetka-Northfield Public Library in Winnetka, Illinois a total of three times – Oct 15, 2007, Oct 28, 2008 and June 28, 2009. Sometime after that date in June, the book was sold or given to a used bookstore where it waited for it’s new home – my bookshelf.
This lightly-worn copy had a backstory – just like Bill Strickland.
I was drawn into this 241-page memoir because I wanted to know whether Bill achieved his goal of earning 10 racing points, but I was equally intrigued to learn about the tumultuous childhood that shaped him.
This man suffered through a lot of nightmares that I can’t even dream of. His father abused him both verbally and physically. But, there are two events in the book that really made me squirm. On one occasion his father stuck a gun in his mouth and played Russian Roulette. His dad was also fond of my making his son eat dog shit. Why would someone even think to do that? It was a horrible scene and I couldn’t imagine living with a father like that or treating my own children in such a horrendous way.
Strickland had built a solid career as the executive editor of Bicycling magazine but he had a reckless streak in him. He pursued an affair with one of his colleagues that nearly cost him his job and his marriage at the same time.
Did these experiences toughen Bill up and motivate him to ride his bike harder? Or, was riding his bike a way to escape his past? Since his father didn’t set a good example, he had to figure out how to be a good husband and loving father on his own.
The book follows Bill’s struggle one season as he goes head to head with some of the best cyclists in the world and tries to eek out a few points in his local race series. He has made a promise to his daughter that he will get ten points, but has a hard time scoring any. As the season progresses, he flashes back to his relationship with his father in an effort to figure out who he is as a person – a dad, a husband and a cyclist.
I was worried when I saw the book had only been checked out of the library 3 times. Was this book going to suck? Or, maybe there just weren’t very many literate cyclists in Winnetka, Illinois? Was this information foreshadowing a disappointing story?
The racing scenes are heart-pounding and and suspenseful. You can imagine yourself in that same situation, pushing yourself right up to the limit of your physical potential and then trying to find a way to push some more. You want Bill to score so badly and your heart breaks every time his competitors fly past him at the finish.
It’s fun getting into the mind of a racer in the heat of competition. Even though I focus on cross country mountain biking, which is a much different version of the sport, I could relate to what he was going through during a race – the drive that pushes you forward battling with the doubt that holds you back – the small celebrations of victory balanced by the disappointment when you come up short.
His personal life is a mess and you’re never sure he can pull it together. Can he be the good man that his father never was?
This book is a million emotions. You should read it. You probably don’t have to love bikes to read it – but it doesn’t hurt. Bill does a good job of explaining how racing in a criterium works and brings the races alive with his prose.
You can’t ride your bike all the time. Sometimes you have to stop and rest. So why not pick up this book and sit by a warm fire for a good read?
Find out whether Bill scores ten points – or whether he scores any at all.
You can find Bill Strickland on Twitter – @TrueBS. You can also read more of his writing at truebs.com.
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Have a great ride!