The book traces a young man's upbringing in a working class part of Sheffield. Like most school leavers of his era, he enters into the steel industry, and a heavy beer-drinking culture. In an attempt to lose weight and return to a reasonable level of fitness he resorts to his childhood love of cycling. His enthusiasm for his passion soon turns to obsession. His life changes, his job and family are sacrificed in pursuit of his goal. Eventually, he realises he isn't destined for greatness and rediscovers how to ride a bike just for enjoyment.