THIS week I have been chatting with writer Suze Clemitson about her new book, A History Of Cycling In 100 Objects.

Matt: Tell me a little about your love of cycling and where it comes from?

Suze: From Channel 4’s Tour de France highlights in the 1980s. For 30 minutes every evening for those three weeks in July I’d be glued to the screen, living and dying with the exploits of Hinault, Fignon and Roche. I was well and truly hooked and started reading everything I could, including the rare copies of Equipe that landed in my local WH Smiths. I still speak fluent cycling French and the theme music still gives me chills.

Matt: How did you get the idea for the book?

Suze: I’d been lucky enough to work with Bloomsbury on two previous books - P is for Peloton (and A-Z of cycling) and Ride the Revolution (stories of women in cycling) - and was looking for another project. This one just seemed to click. I loved the original Radio 4 series ‘History of the World in 100 objects’ and to try to do the same with cycling was instantly intriguing. Especially since there are so many facets to cycling - it’s a means of transport, a child’s pastime and a professional sport.

Matt: You gave yourself 100 objects, but it must still have been hard narrowing subjects down?

Suze: Absolutely. As a subject there are so many ways to approach it. For example, the sewing machine didn’t make the cut but it’s arguable that without the treadle mechanism operated with two feet, there wouldn’t have been the bicycle pedal. It was also a challenge not to get too hooked on one particular area of research and I often found myself turning to Twitter’s wide and knowledgeable cycling community for clues - which is why the Tour de France’s cuddly lion made the cut. It’s both absolutely iconic, but behind the stuffed toy there’s the history of sponsorship in the world’s biggest cycling race.

Matt: Was this a journey of discovery for yourself as much as it will be for the reader?

Suze: Definitely. I learned a huge amount about the hows and whys of the evolution of the bicycle and the massive impact cycling had and continues to have on society. From the hidden social history of the emancipation of women through pioneers like Annie Londonderry and Frances Willard to the discovery that shaving your legs really does make you go faster it was a continual process of discovery. My father-in-law actually phoned me up to tell me he couldn’t put it down and he has no interest in cycling or the sport at all so I’m hoping other readers get as much pleasure out of the journey.

Matt: Which of the objects in the book was the most memorable for you?

Suze: That’s a difficult one. I love the story of Rustines, the little French puncture repair kits that are still in use today. But I also love the inclusion of the marriage certificate as a demonstration of the bicycles impact on our social history as people began to marry outside their immediate locale for the first time and strengthened the gene pool. There are so many little surprises, it’s hard to choose but I hope readers enjoy discovering something new about the bicycle in all its many guises.

Matt: How much is the book and where is it available from?

Suze: Direct from Bloomsbury and all good booksellers, priced £20