I’m a sucker for an autobiography, particularly one written by someone with interesting stories who can tell them well. Wheels of Steele is one of those autobiographies. Written by world championship winning cyclist, businessman, and raconteur Steele Bishop (hence the wonderful pun title), Wheels of Steele is less a book and more of a sit down with a bloke in a pub listening to a bunch of stories while you buy him beers to keep him telling them.
If you don’t know who Steele Bishop is, then you really need to go out and get this book just to fix that issue. Steele dominated Australian track cycling in the 70s and early 80s representing Australia in the Munich Olympics and picking up a world championship in the individual pursuit. He also won 6 Westrals (which is a popular wheel race in Western Australia, where he hails from) and an Austral (which is a popular national wheel race), all from scratch starts.
And now I’ve managed to turn everyone off because I mentioned track cycling too much. Let me take a step back and try to get you back in the Wheels of Steele mood. If you look at the Wheels of Steele book, you’ll see quite a few endorsements from cycling notables, like Phil Liggett, but you’ll also see comments from cricketers and football players as well. I point this out because yes, this is a book about track cycling, but it’s more so a book about a sporting hero, a tale of a young lad from Kalamunda, just outside of Perth, who made it on the world stage but didn’t lose who he was. It’s a story about training, strategy, competition, friendly rivalries (Steele doesn’t seem the type to have arch enemies) and teamwork. It’s an Australian story, and a sporting story, and just a bloody good yarn. Anyone reading it will get something from it, but if you’re a cyclist of any kind, you’ll get something more.
While Steele’s claims to fame revolve mainly around riding by himself on a track (or chasing someone on the other side of the track which, at the top levels, is the same as riding against the clock by yourself…unless you catch them, which almost never happens…almost), he very eloquently dissects his racing and joins the dots between training and racing. When he describes his races, whether alone or with others, you feel like you’re there. It’s like hearing the DVD commentary track on his life and you, the reader, get to benefit from not only years of reflection, but also his years of top level coaching experience as well.
And if you want a final pitch for why you should read the book, Steele raced his bike underwater and also almost raced a horse. Satisfied now that this is a worthy tale of cycling shenanigans?
Steele Bishop still lives a cycling life, recently getting back into the sport and winning state and masters championship. He has plans to contest the world masters championships in October this year, so if you get Wheels of Steele now, you’ll have all of the background before he once again puts the rainbow stripes on.
Wheels of Steele is published by Rockpool Publishing and is available from book stores for $29.95 RRP.