What's your name and where do you come from?
I’m Max, and aside from a lot of time working and living in France, and some spells in Oxford and Brighton, I’ve lived in north/east London all my life.
Favourite hill in London
Muswell! It’s near where my mum used to live and is a little bit of a brute. I like the ones that go straight up.
Worst experience on a hill…
Probably on the Col du Galibier once, when I was running on empty and there was a storm coming. I climbed higher and higher and as the world grew bigger I grew smaller. Then I popped and there was a spectacular implosion, and my vision darkened and the world sort of folded in on itself like an empty cardboard box. And then it began to hail. I was listening to free jazz, which probably didn’t help. One of the worst experiences but also one of the best…
Higher Calling: Road Cycling’s Obsession with the Mountains by Max Leonard, cover illustration by the Handmade Cyclist.
We hear your mum likes the book!
I shit you not but she texted me to say, and I quote: “Just finished your book, Max, which I absolutely LOVED. So elegantly and beautifully written, with a lovely end x x x”
I mean, that’s a legit opinion, right? And she was only reading the uncorrected proof – imagine how good the finished one is!
WHY did you write the book?
I guess the question ‘Why?’ is the important one. There are loads of books that tell you where mountains are (obvious, no?), or how high they are, or that give you the history of what happened in the Tour in a certain year. But nobody really asks, why? Why have they become so important to pro racing, why do amateurs follow them up, and what do we see and feel when we do? I think that’s important, because if you’re not taking an interest in the life happening around you, asking why there are villages, forts, shepherds, forests, why are there even roads in the first place, then you may as well be on an exercise bike in a gym. Plus I’ve done a lot of riding uphill and it gives you time to think. I like to complicate things…
OH! and tell us about this...
Ha! I’ve always loved the Paris-Nice race, it’s one of my favourites. I love the way it signals the change from winter to spring. I was talking once with a friend about doing all the stages of that a couple of days before the pros – but logistically that’s very difficult what with the transfers and things. This June my family is going on holiday in Corsica, so I’m cycling down to join them (via the ferry from Nice). That's two birds with one stone, I figure. I’m heading from Paris as quickly as possible to Annecy, then winding around the Vercors and the Chartreuse, some parts of the Alps I don’t really know. With a little help from the LMNH workshop and Pannier.cc, I should get there safe and sound and with all my possessions intact!
Pictured: Left, Handmade Cyclist (Book cover illustrator) Right Max Leonard, (author).
Thanks Max. See you on Thursday. Please join us. There will be FREE BEER.
Higher Calling Book Launch
Thursday 25th May
Look mum no hands!
49 Old St. EC1V 9HX