Max Leonard


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Max Leonard writes books about cycling, adventure and mountains. His books under his own name include Higher Calling: road cycling’s obsession with the mountains, Bunker Research and Lanterne Rouge: the last man in the Tour de France.

He is the ghostwriter behind two Sunday Times Top 10 Bestsellers and a rock star memoir, as well as smaller things for a legendary racing driver, famous spy-film makers, a Swiss banker and others. 

His work has appeared in Esquire, Rouleur, Monocle, the Telegraph and other publications and he runs a small photobook imprint, Isola Press. 


Publication DetailsNotes

Higher Calling: Road Cycling’s Obsession with the Mountains


Yellow Jersey

Why do road cyclists go to the mountains? Many books tell you where the mountains are, or how long and how high. None of them ask ‘Why?’

After all, cycling up a mountain is hard – so hard that, to many non-cyclists, it can seem absurd. But, for some, climbing a mountain gracefully (and beating your competitors up the slope) represents the pinnacle of cycling achievement. The mountains are where legends are forged and cycling’s greats make their names.

Why are Europe’s mountain ranges professional cycling’s Wembley Stadium or its Colosseum? Why do amateurs also make a pilgrimage to these high, remote roads and what do we see and feel when we do?
Why are the roads there in the first place?

Higher Calling explores the central place of mountains in the folklore of road cycling. Blending adventure and travel writing with the rich narrative of pro racing, Max Leonard takes the reader from the battles that created the Alpine roads to the shepherds tending their flocks on the peaks, and to a Grand Tour climax on the ‘highest road in Europe’. And he tells stories of courage and sacrifice, war and love, obsession and elephants along the way.

The Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour De France


Yellow Jersey Press

Question: If you complete over 3,000 kilometers on a bike in France, overcoming mountain ranges and torrential weather conditions while enduring physical and psychological agony in the 150th fastest time, should you be branded the loser? What if the sacrifice helped a team mate win? What if others lacked the determination to finish? What if you were trying to come last? Lanterne Rouge tells the absurd and often inspirational stories of the last placed rider in the Tour de France. We learn of the former Yellow Jersey who tasted life at the other end of the bunch; the breakaway leader who stopped for a bottle of wine and then cycled the wrong way; and the day the fastest finisher of all time, Mark Cavendish, became the slowest. Lanterne Rouge flips the race on its head and examines what these stories tell us about ourselves - the other 99 per cent of the population who don't win the trophy - and forces us to re-examine the meaning of success, failure and the very nature of sport.



Thames & Hudson Ltd

A selection of 8 guides combine to create the City Cycling Europe series. Each book is devoted to a different city: London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Antwerp/Ghent, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Milan. Each compact volume features cycle-friendly neighbourhoods, itineraries, cycle maps and places to visit where cyclists are always welcome. Aimed primarily at those looking to take casual weekend breaks, there is also information for hardcore racing enthusiasts and special routes for those wishing to escape the traffic.