A Dog in a Hat

An American Bike Racer's Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium

Joe Parkin

A Dog in a Hat is the remarkable story of Joe Parkin. In 1987, Parkin left the comforts of home to become a bike racer in Belgium, the hardest place in the world to be a bike racer. As one of the first American pros in Europe, Parkin was what the Belgians call “a dog with a hat on” — something familiar, yet decidedly out of place.

Parkin’s memoir reads like a novel. In plainspoken and fast-paced prose, Parkin describes the true life of the professional bike racer, putting the reader into the whirlwind of this hardest of athletic educations. A Dog in a Hat begins with Parkin’s terrifying first visit to his team doctor, where he is strapped to a table and monitored by humming electrodes as men in white lab coats coldly divine his future as a pro.

Parkin’s story is honest. A Dog in a Hat celebrates the glory of bike racing, but Parkin thrillingly tells the hard reality of the life—the drugs, the payoffs, the betrayals by teammates, the battles with team owners for contracts and money, the endless promises that keep you going, and the rider’s sheer physical agony of racing day after day.

Despite the pain, despite the suffering, A Dog in a Hat is a beautiful book. It is one American’s story of his love affair with professional cycling, set in the hardest place in the world to be a bike racer. It is a story untold until now, and one that Parkin’s readers will never forget.

Paperback with color photosection.
Foreword by Bob Roll
6″ x 9″, 232 pp., $21.95, 9781934030264


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Praise for this book 

A Dog in a Hat is the most authentic book ever written on making a living as a pro cyclist in Europe.” —Bob Roll, Versus TV cycling commentator
””I loved A Dog in a Hat. Joe’s stories bring back many memories of racing in Belgium, where I learned how to fight for position in the echelon, to suffer in the gutter while jumping curbs and dodging potholes, and to pound out my guts when it really mattered. Belgium is a hard place to learn bicycle racing and Joe’s story proves how tough he was.”” —Ron Kiefel
”This plain, self-deprecating memoir has the ring of authenticity at the other end of the sport where—even today—not all the riders are being paid, the hotels are still bad, and the races are just as hard.” TinDonkey.com
A Dog in a Hat is a page turner. Anyone who has raced in Europe or who wonders what it’s like to jump the ocean on your own should pick up this book. Joe captures the struggle and the intensity to succeed, and the fact that he did it on his own is all the more impressive. Cycling in Europe is tough; doing it Joe’s way is even tougher!” —Frankie Andreu
”Joe Parkin is a beautiful piece of work, and he turns out to be a better writer than I am a bike racer.” Bill Strickland, Bicycling magazine

”[Readers] have a seat in the middle of the peloton as we see what Joe sees, breathe what he smells, watch as his peers juice up and we struggle with him as he strives to get out in front of it all. Parkin’s words weave a colorful tapestry about living life on the bicycle racing circuit in Europe. Yet that tapestry is soiled and tattered because of the true cutthroat nature of bicycle racing and the absolute grit in the stories Joe relives for us.” — Dirt Rag magazine
“Is A Dog in a Hat the best book we’ve ever read about bike racing? Undeniably yes. The essential truths you’ll learn about Belgian bike racing are timeless. And the self-effacing (and often hilarious) way Joe narrates the absurdity of these traditions will make you laugh out loud. Of everything written about bike racing throughout the history of mankind, Chapter 3, ”Kermis Don’t Play Fair,” is the most important 20 pages ever penned. No one should be permitted to own a USA Cycling license without being able to recite this chapter from heart. You’ll be fascinated by Joe’s humility, his determination, and by the warped way domestiques set their goals and weigh success.” —CompetitiveCyclist.com
“An honest, well-written insight into what it’s like to move to Europe and try to make it as a pro racer. A Dog in a Hat is funny, touching, brave, and honest in its look at the complicated world of the European pro cycling scene.” The Independent newspaper
”Parkin has written an eloquent and historic volume. In the very uniqueness of his story, Parkin realizes a universality that gives his recollections a resonance with any cyclist. Do not miss this book.” BelgiumKneeWarmers.com
A Dog in a Hat reads like Joe Parkin was just telling you these epic stories on a ride, up a climb, or at a coffee shop. That’s the beauty of this book. It’s not a hero’s journey, but instead a racer’s tale.” BikeHugger.com
”There’s something very approachable about the underdog, the guy who works as hard as anyone, but never achieves the stardom we all chase. I peeled through A Dog in a Hat in a few nights, always wanting to know what was coming next. Joe’s candor is refreshing to read and entertaining as hell.” —Richard Pestes, PezCyclingNews.com
A Dog in a Hat reads like a novel and serves up an inspiring, compelling and captivating racer’s tale.” The Oregonian
”I loved A Dog in a Hat. Once in, I couldn’t put it down. The book rings of truth, youth, and passion.” —Andreas Hestler
”Sordid, funny, and engrossing.” Bike Snob NYC
”Joe tells his story straight. It’s not pretty but it’s not bitter.” BikeRadar.com
A Dog in a Hat is a terrific fish-out-of-water story, with a little coming-of-age thrown in as well. But don’t expect one of those noble-athletes-striving-for-perfection stories. There’s far too much gritty reality here for that.” — Booklist
”A slice of literary badassness. I’ve had a lifelong struggle maintaining an attention span for reading books, but this is a page turner that’s been hard for me to put down. A Dog in a Hat is truly captivating.” —HowtoAvoidtheBummerLife.com
”Impossible to put down.” Mountain Bike Action magazine
”Parkin went native in an era when Americans were still exotic creatures, and not in a good way. This unglamorized insider’s view is what makes A Dog in a Hat well worth reading. Parkin shows you life on the edge of the peloton. We know the great champions’ stories, but Parkin’s experience is far more illustrative of what a ”pro cyclist” really is.” PodiumCafe.com
“Parkin’s commentary is riveting, offering an insider look into the sport that few get to see, let alone experience.” — Mountain Bike magazine
“Joe Parkin’s heart was in racing on the road in Belgium and it is eloquently stated in his book. You should read A Dog in a Hat if you looking for a few small glimpses of the life experiences of a guy that lived the hard life.” — Steve Tilford
A Dog in a Hat is not the idealised notion most of us have of the life of a professional cyclist, but it’s all the more gutsy and enjoyable for its self-effacing honesty. I could read it all over again right now.” — TheWashingMachinePost.net
”In his new book, A Dog in a Hat, Joe Parkin gives us a window into the life of someone who was born to be a professional bike racer. It’s not pretty, it’s not glamorous, some of it is a bit of inside baseball, but it’s a great read. I picked up a copy at Interbike, brought it home and read the 232 pages over the course of two evenings. I literally could not put it down.” Smithers Minneapolis
”The April 17, 2000 issue of VeloNews closed with a typically fervent Bob Roll screed entitled “51 Things To Do Before You Die”. ”#36. Learn from Joe Parkin’s life story.” Parkin’s prose fills in all the cracks. Quite simply, the man is tough as nails and chose the absolute hardest way to break into European professional cycling: just showing up in Ghent with a bike, a duffel bag of clothes, three months worth of cash, and a phone number to call scrawled on a scrap of paper. You can truly appreciate Parkin’s re-living of the squalid truth of late ’80s Euro pro cycling.” —BobkeStrut.com
”Written as if you were riding alongside him, Parkin’s A Dog in a Hat is a quick, highly addictive read. You can feel the cobbles under the pen” — Cog Magazine
A Dog in a Hat is a wild, gritty, page-turning ride: Grab the book, rub some embrocation into your quads and calves, and settle into your couch for a great read as you plot your own future bike exploits.” Cyclo-club.com
A Dog in a Hat is a fast-paced, revealing read, and any cyclist who enjoys racing will be equally inspired and shocked at some of the stuff that goes on inside the peloton. It’s a rare glimpse into a world often concealed, and Parkin’s struggle to gain acceptance makes the book a truly inspiring read.” RoadCyclingUK.com
“Joe Parkin did what few other Americans dared do…A Dog in a Hat fills a void in cycling literature. Since so few Americans have accomplished what Joe Parkin has, his book stands on its own as an original account of European bike racing, presented from a racing cyclist’s perspective.” —USCyclingReport.com