This book, by Dominic Gill, records an epic cycling journey that starts in Alaska and ends in the southernmost city in South America. There are huge distances- 18,449 miles- beautiful landscapes and physical and mental challenges. Similar adventures have been written about, but this one has a key difference- it is done on a tandem bicycle. The author sets out alone on the tandem and picks up strangers along the way, 270 of them. It is a unique twist on the familiar tale of a man fed up with his job and yearning to do something different and finds the answer in a long distance bicycle trip.
"The attractiveness of bicycle travel struck me then more than ever before. No windows blocking out life's real accompaniment. No travel-induced sleep causing you to miss the small stand selling bright, shiny mandarins or mouth-watering fruity juice. From the seat of a bicycle, everybody and everything has a voice, a smell, an influence on your immediate future."
This quote perfectly illustrates the effectiveness of Gill's writing style in capturing the beauty of travel. It also demonstrates the author's love of cycle touring, but the book doesn't start out that way.
Gill has taken a very honest approach to the first chapter of this book and recalls the sense of dread and nervousness that overcame him in the first days of his journey. He paints a rather bleak picture and nothing you will read in these first few pages will inspire you to copy this trip. I thought that it perfectly captured those feelings of loneliness and despair that an adventurer is likely to experience and this immediately made the author likable and human. It made me want to read on and discover if things got better for him.
They did get better and his morale greatly improves as the journey progresses, largely as a result of the incredible hospitality of the people that he meets along the way. It takes a bit of time before he picks up his first passenger on the tandem, but they soon become a regular feature. I had assumed that he would be picking up locals looking to travel in the same direction. There are some locals, but it is mostly other travellers with time on their hands to take a turn as "stoker", the name given to the rear cyclist on a tandem.
I was slightly disappointed that I was not going to learn very much about the local people and their way of life from the type of passengers that he was carrying. He has more interactions with locals from his daily living like eating and arranging a place to sleep and these encounters paint a vivid picture of the cultures and countries that he passes through, more so than the majority of the tandem passengers. In fact, there is perhaps a lack of detail about the people that sit on the back of his bike, considering that this is the main premise of the book.
Not all of the tandem passengers prove to be worthy companions and Gill is upfront about the annoyance that some of them cause him. For example, the passengers that do not put in their fair share of effort so that he has to do all of the work and drag them along whilst they coast in the back seat. It is another honest portrayal of the realities of adventure cycle touring.
What I liked the best about this book is that there was more of a focus on what the author was seeing and experiencing in the 15 countries that he travels through than on the fine details of cycling. This made up for any feelings that the encounters with passengers lacked some punch.
The book is incredibly well-written and the author has a talent for making you feel like you are there. He is a great observer and uses all of his senses to perfectly capture a place in words. This quote is a great example of this:
"Latin America is a happy land generally but Colombia is up there on the podium. Even construction workers leaning on their shovels and watching us go by made the happiest clowns look like mere amateurs. "
This book was a joy to read and if you fancy giving it a go you can purchase it from Amazon by clicking on the image below:
Andrew P. Sykes' third cycling travel book sees him tackle 7,700km across 8 countries, from Spain to Norway. It is a detailed account of the cycle route, the scenery, towns and people that he meets along the way. The writing style makes you feel that you are right there, doing the route with Andrew. There is plenty of humour and interesting experiences to make this book a great read.
This is the first of this author's cycling books that I have read. Most cycling travel books are one-offs where an author goes on a grand adventure, but Andrew P. Sykes has written about three different trips. If you like his writing style it means that you currently have three books to dig into. His writing is a mixture of factual details about the journey interspersed with dry wit and light humour. The jokes are not always laugh out loud, but they always brought a smile to my face. If you are planning to go on a similar trip from Spain to Norway then this book will prove invaluable for inspiration and practical tips and if you simply enjoy dreaming of taking these trips you are sure to love this book.
It is not just about the bike and the cycling, but also about the destinations. Andrew takes several rest days during his journey and uses these to explore some of the towns along the route, so the book gives a good idea of what these places are like from the author's sightseeing experiences. You also get a good impression of the differences in the countries that he passes through because he records his observations, including what the cycling infrastructure is like. This is also a book about people as Andrew meets many other cyclists and locals along the way. He stays in a mixture of campsites and hotels, the former giving more of an opportunity to engage with fellow travellers. He also uses the Warm Showers website, a resource for cyclists to find free accommodation offered by other cyclists.
I liked the honesty of the author. When he has a bad day he tells you about it, he is upfront about the fact that cycle touring is not always brilliant. That said, he does have an excellent time for most of the journey and it is hard not to want to repeat his journey when you read the descriptions of the landscapes and idyllic campsites. I thought his writing about the experience of cycling through Norwegian tunnels was excellent. He really captured how scary this can be and I could feel myself shudder at the thought of the passing trucks.
What really comes across is that Andrew is not one of these one-off around the world adventure cyclists, but someone who just loves to explore the world by bike and keep doing it. He doesn't pretend to be an adventurer and that's the kind of writing that is going to inspire the rest of us to try this because it comes across as accessible and something that we could all give a go.
You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking on the image below:
Who takes a gun on a cycling trip? Dervla Murphy lists a .25 automatic pistol as part of her kit list for travelling by bicycle to India. And she ends up having to use it! This was the 1960s and she was making her way through countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This book is a beautifully written and gripping account of a cycling adventure that paints a gorgeous portrait of the landscapes and peoples of these regions.
I have read many books about cycling adventures and I find that many tend to focus on the cycling more than the experience of travelling because the author is more a cyclist than a travel writer. Dervla Murphy is clearly a travel writer with beautiful descriptions of the places and people she encounters. For her the bike is simply the mode of transport, although she has a lot of affection for her bicycle and gives it the name of 'Roz.'
Throughout this book you get an overwhelming sense of the author's total love of travel and experiencing everything and recording it in exquisite detail. Murphy has a great sense of humour that comes across in the writing:
"This is the part of Afghanistan I was most eager to see, but in my wildest imaginings I never thought any landscape could be so magnificent. If I am murdered en route it will have been well worth while!"
There are many dramatic situations during the author's adventure, including using her gun to fire a warning shot when she awoke to find an almost-naked Kurdish man standing over her bed. In Iran she had to fire another warning shot when a group tried to steal her bicycle. I was shocked to read this and wondered if the world was a more dangerous place back then than it is now. Then again, when you read about the hospitality and the stunning landscapes that Murphy experienced in Afghanistan you cannot help feeling sad that this country is now a place that most travellers would avoid.
I should mention that some of the descriptions of people use racial words. This is probably because these terms were acceptable back in the 60s and it is very clear that there is no racist intent and that Murphy has a very deep respect and admiration for the people of these lands and their religion. She writes positively and glowingly about the cultures she comes across and she develops a love for the people of Afghanistan.
Although bus travel, truck travel and horse riding (including a horse that the author christens 'Rob') sometimes are more prominent than cycle travel there is plenty of fun and hardship that the author has with her bicycle. This includes cycling uphill in Pakistan in 102 degrees Fahrenheit and drinking 24 pints of water. Murphy survives another day with nothing other than a tiny bowl of stewed clover to sustain her.
This is classic travel writing at its best. It is thoughtful, detailed and fascinating.
You can buy this book by clicking on the Amazon image below:
This book celebrates the bicycle from its invention to Victorian trick cyclists and from BMX bandits to Le Tour de France. It is presented in an easily digestible format with plenty of photos and a well-written, chirpy text. Absolutely everything to do with bicycles is in here and it is a joy to leaf through the pages.
Just have a look at the contents of this book and you will see that nothing has been missed in the story of the bicycle. This includes the bike in art, film and books, the birth of the mountain bike, cycle racing and record attempts. There are also features on iconic bikes like The Chopper and the Dawes Galaxy. It is a chunky book, but presented beautifully with loads of interesting pictures and illustrations. There is even a guide to fixing punctures. If you love bicycles and want to know lots of interesting things about them then you will love this book.
You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking on the image below:
Lonely Planet have produced this utterly superb and inspiring collection of cycling routes around the world. For anybody who loves cycling, travel and dreaming of future adventures this book is essential reading. I devoured every single page and could not help my imagination racing with the possibilities of bike trips in numerous parts of our planet.
First off, the book is stunningly presented with breathtaking photography and a layout that makes you want to dive in. It is organised by continent with a travel writer describing their experiences on a particular cycling journey and then presenting a summary of similar journeys. The quality of the writing is exceptional. It is just the right length, not too long or too short, to grab your intention and spark your imagination. I found it impossible not to dream of going to these places.
Planning information extends to a map, distances, where to stay, how to get there and other essential tips. It may not be enough to seriously plot out your own route, but it points you in the right direction and this book is about inspiring you to do these rides, not to provide every single detail of the route.
About 30 countries and 200 route suggestions are contained within this book and I wanted to do all of them. There is something for everyone here. City cycling, mountain biking, family-friendly cycling, coast-to-coast cycling, cycling to breweries, cycling around lakes. You name it, all cycling tastes are covered.
Scotland is included in this book. There is one main feature on cycling the Outer Hebrides. It made me quite proud to see this alongside all of these other countries and that people will be inspired to come here as a result of seeing this book. There are also suggestions of some other cycle routes in Scotland, including Strathpuffer, a mountain bike endurance event.
I love this book and dipping into it whenever I want to dream of future adventures.
You can buy it from Amazon by clicking on this image:
Tom Allen cycled around the world with his two friends and wrote a fantastic and highly readable book about his experiences. This is an epic work of quality writing. Allen has a great eye for detail and magnificently describes the countries that he travels through. The book is also about relationships, with the friends he travels with, with the people he meets along the way and the woman that he falls in love with.
There are many books about people who do around the world bicycle journeys. They tend to cover similar themes and it can be difficult to pick out what is unique about each particular story. Janapar is unique for several reasons. First off, the quality of the writing is exceptional. Just a few pages into the book I came across this superb description of a road through the Sahara:
"I drag my bike and trailer back up the slope to where the new road still glistens absurdly, like a liquorice lace flopped across an orange tablecloth."
Allen's prose really captured my imagination and made it easy for me to imagine the places that his bicycle took him.
The book does not follow chronological order and goes forward and back in time at many points through the chapters. This might initially come across as muddled and confusing, but I found that it worked really well and it made the story more dramatic.
Janapar is not only about cycling it is also about people. It is an honest account of what happens to friendships on extreme journeys. The twist in this mission to cycle around the world is that Allen meets a woman that he falls in love with. This results in a complete change of plans including a period of time spent living with her in Armenia. Therefore, it is a book not just for cyclists and travellers, but for anybody interested in human drama and relationships. You get to know Tom Allen at a much deeper level than you might get from similar around the world cycling books.
I have reviewed a lot of around the world cycling books on my blog and this one has been my favourite so far. It is beautifully structured and written, dramatic and emotional.
You can buy Janapar by clicking on the Amazon link below:
Sean Conway embarks on an incredible around the world cycle journey. He covers 16,000 miles and experiences South America, Australia, U.S.A, Europe and Asia. This is an exciting read with the power to inspire you to do something adventurous.
Sean Conway opens the book with a tale of an unfulfilling career, being dumped by his girlfriend and a feeling that he was wasting his life. He tried to work out what he should do to change this situation and remembered being inspired by Mark Beaumont who broke the record for cycling around the world in 2010. He decided that this was the answer and signed up to do the around the world cycle race.
As this is a race against the clock you get fleeting impressions of the countries, rather than an in-depth exploration of culture, people and landscapes. The book lacks the finer details because there is no time for the author to pause and take it in or visit attractions. Conway must focus on mileage and how to do that mileage and also how to get enough calories. You do get a brilliant sense of adventure from this book. One example of this is when Conway had to flee tornadoes in America. His writing perfectly captures the drama of this situation:
"Signs were blowing over, windscreens cracking, leaves were getting stripped off trees as if being shredded by a huge invisible blender in the sky, and a 100 mph wind was heading in the exact wrong direction. I realised that had I not got a puncture when I did, I wouldn't have stopped in that gas station and I would probably have landed up right in the middle of the storm... One 100 mph golf-ball-sized hailstone to the face would have been the end of me."
As you would expect, Conway meets many interesting people during his adventure. Many of these encounters are brief due to the nature of the cycle race so there is not a strong human story in the book. The focus is very much on the author and his endeavor to complete this challenge. Many of the people that Conway meets are incredibly kind to him. In particular, the American doctor and nurse who treated him after he was knocked over by a pickup truck. They took him into their home during his recovery. They even bought him a replacement bike because his was destroyed in the accident. It wasn't just any bike, but an exact replacement that they shipped over. Without this kindness Conway would not have been able to continue with the journey.
There are moments of laughter in this book, such as the author't decision to play a game with the stray dogs that chase him. He would would go just fast enough to keep them at bay but interested enough to keep them chasing so that he could lead them as far away as possible from their home as revenge for the owners doing nothing.
The book is also serious in places. Conway writes openly about the lows and feeling depressed, but on the whole he loved his adventure and that really comes across.
I felt that the book could have done with a route map so that you could follow the journey as sometimes it was difficult to picture exactly where the author was unless you are really good at geography.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it inspired me to explore further and further on my bicycle.
You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking on this image:
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a cycle courier? This book provides a fascinating and highly readable insight into the life of a cycle courier.
Emily Chappell tells the story of how she became a London cycle courier and exactly what it is like to do this kind of work. On her first weeks on the job she had to get to grips with finding her way around the complicated streets of London and the equally complicated process of finding her way inside office buildings to collect and deliver packages. This was something she had to work out for herself- there was nobody to teach her and there was no training manual.
If you thought that being a bicycle courier is a dream job then you may just change your mind after reading Chappell's account of her first winter:
"The first shock of cold is the hardest, and then, as long as you keep moving, you're okay for a while. Then you start to notice how the chill has crept into your bones and muscles, slowing you down, blurring your coordination and your judgement, making you clumsy and stupid."
Chappell is completely honest about her life as a courier and although she loves the job she is upfront about the downsides. Constant exhaustion goes with the territory as does sweat, dirt and pollution. In fact, there are almost 3 pages devoted to the subject of sweating. The author tells of several shocking road rage incidents where she was subject to truly horrible aggression from drivers and pedestrians. These incidents left her feeling shaken to the point of tears.
There are also wonderful things about this job, including the courier 'scene' with its camaraderie and cast of characters that populate the pages of the book. The buzz of negotiating heavy traffic and having to take risks is a major draw for couriers. The book is also a love story to London, particularly the hidden corners that few people know of. Couriering brings Chappell into secret gardens and courtyards where she can rest between jobs in peace and quiet. It is an intimate portrait of London, as seen from a bicycle saddle.
This book is very well written, sometimes beautiful, and anybody who loves cycling will enjoy this.
You can buy it from Amazon by clicking on the image below:
This book inspired me to get out on my bike and explore Scotland. It opened up a world of cycling adventures by showing how easy it is to plan day trips using train and bicycle. This is the book that got me hooked on travelling around Scotland on a bicycle and I cannot recommend it enough.
Before I bought this book I only ventured out on the Forth and Clyde canal path as it was my nearest traffic-free cycle route. It never crossed my mind that it could be possible to take my bike on the train to access a whole raft of cycling day trips. I was nervous about doing that, but this book gave me the confidence to give it a try. I haven't looked back since.
The book has 40 routes in central Scotland. Most can be done as day trips from Glasgow or Edinburgh and all can be reached by train.
The book is pocket sized so ideal to carry with you on bike trips. Each route guide has the same simple format that opens with a great photo of something you will see along the route, information about the distance, terrain and how much time the ride will take. There is an easy to follow map and a route description that gives precise directions.
The route description also tells you what there is to see in the area. This really captured my imagination and showed me the possibilities of cycle touring- that a bicycle can let you see so much of Scotland and learn about its history, heritage and landscapes.
This is the book that inspired me to explore Scotland by bicycle and this is the book that I recommend to anybody who wants to start out on cycle trips around Scotland. Even better is that there are two more books that cover other regions of Scotland. Book Two covers the Highlands and Islands and Book Three covers the North East. Get all three of these books and you will never be stuck for inspiration for cycle routes.
Buy them from Amazon using the links below:
A 10,000 km cycling trip along the route of the Iron Curtain is brilliantly told by Tim Moore. This is a witty account of an incredible cycling journey that begins in Finnish Lapland and ends at the Black Sea in Bulgaria. Moore faces many challenges, including freezing cold weather and bicycle problems. I found this a highly readable and entertaining book.
The Iron Curtain cycle route is a newly created cycle route. Moore decides to follow using a bicycle that may seem inappropriate for the job. He chooses an East German shopping bike, a MIFA 900, that is not designed for cycle touring. The unsuitability of his bike gets commented upon by many of the people he meets along the way. However, Moore wanted to choose a bike that had a historical connection to the route and give or take a few modifications and repairs this machine made it to the end in one piece. It just goes to show that you do not need to spend a fortune on a bicycle to enjoy cycling.
Although enjoy might not be the word that springs to mind when you read this book. The section in Finland in freezing cold weather was an ordeal and must have required incredible endurance. I found this part of the book gripping and I was awed by the condtions that the author had to put up with. Despite the hardships it inspired me to dream of doing something similar.
As he travels south the weather improves, but it does not necessarily make things any easier and he tells of his trials and tribulations in a hilarious manner. There are several laugh out loud moments in this book.
Moore also writes of the fascinatiing history of the nations that he passes through, so you learn a lot of interesting things reading this book. I was particularly fascinated by the 1939 Winter War where Finland fought bravely, against the odds, to keep Russia at bay.
Moore clearly has little time to enjoy the culture and present day attractions of the various places that he passes through. The bulk of his time is spent on the bike, not visiting places, so you do not get a detailed account of what there is to see and do. Some of the places that he passes through do not sound very appealing, so I didn't find myself itching to copy his route. However, I was strangely drawn to the idea of cycling in Finland in the winter, despite the hardships.
I read this book in a few days. I could not put it down. It is very readable because of Moore's witty writing style. Click the image below to buy the book through Amazon.
Bella Bathurst examines the world of the bicycle from the invention of the machine to modern day cycling subsets. Everything is covered from cycle commuting to the Tour de France, from Indian rickshaw riders to BMX. This is a well-written and interesting exploration of cycling. If you want to know more about the story of the bicycle this book is an excellent choice.
One of the first pages of this book features some lines from the Queen song 'Bicycle Race'. This lines sums up what this book is all about, exploring the joy of riding a bike. This is done in an intelligent and thought-provoking manner. A major part of the book is the interviews with various people from the cycling world. This includes cycle commuters, racing cyclists and mountain bikers. This gives a superb insight into the lives and motivations of these types of cyclists.
My favourite part of the book was the section about cycle couriers. This is a world I knew very little about and it was fascinating to read about their lifestyle and the dangers they face on the road. I also enjoyed the chapter about cycle corps in armies, especially after seeing the film. April 9, which was about Danish bicycle infantry facing the German invasion in 1940.
The book is neatly divided into 11 chapters that concentrate on a particular theme. There is a section of colour pictures in the centre of the book and black and white prints throughout.
There is a strong Scottish element to the book as the author talks to bicycle couriers in Edinburgh, interviews Danny MacAskill, the street trials cyclists from Skye and there is a chapter about Graeme Obree, the Scot who broke the world hour record.
This book does a brilliant job of explaining the bicycle, the history of cycling and what defines cycling in the modern age.
To buy this book click on the Amazon link below. I also recommend the brilliant film. April 9th, about the Danish bicycle infantry.
Who would have thought that cycling could fill 350 pages of a large hardback book? But, yes, there really is that much to say about cycling. The Cycling Bible by Robin Barton covers absolutely everything on the subject from types of bicycle and clothing to fitness and nutrition. It is a hefty tome full of colour photos and engaging text that will inspire your interest in cycling and provide plenty of useful hints and tips along the way.
If you know nothing or very little about cycling and you want to find out more and have a source of information at your fingertips this book is ideal. Even seasoned cyclists are bound to find something of interest in this book. It will help you to become an expert on all aspects of bicycles and cycling. All types of cycling are catered for, with a focus on mountain biking and road cycling.
The final chapter on maintenance is the one I found the most useful. Being able to fix your bike is a great skill to have as it will save money on taking your bike to a shop and get you out of tricky situations if something goes wrong in the middle of nowhere. The colour photos and easy to follow text make this a usable section of the book. However, if you really want to become more of an expert on maintenance then a book that is specifically on maintenance and goes into greater detail is perhaps a better idea. The size of the book also makes it impractical to take with you.
There is a section all about racing with a potted history of the Tour de France and other famous cycling races around the world. There is even a chapter on "off-beat events" which covers some of the more quirky cycling events on the planet. One of these is a Penny Farthing race that occurs in Tasmania each year.
If you are really serious about your cycling there is plenty of information about fitness and training regimes, diet and techniques, like how to climb a hill, how to descend and how to corner.
The largest section of the book is "Cycling Destinations". This is the most inspiring part of the book as it describes the best places in the world to go cycling. Scotland gets a chapter for its renowned mountain biking trails. There is also a focus on cities that have invested heavily in cycling infrastructure, such as Portland, Copenhagen, Paris and London. It gives you information about routes and some of the background as to why these cities are considered to be so good for cycling. Reading this made me want to go these places and try out their cycling routes.
This is the type of book that is likely to be used as a reference tool. It can happily sit on your shelf and whenever something pops into your head that you need to know about you can thumb through the book to find an answer. And when you are next planning a holiday and want some inspiration you can leaf through the chapters on "cycling destinations". It would also make a good gift for the aspiring cyclist in your life.
You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking on the link below:
This is an excellent guide to cycling routes in Scotland. It has maps, route descriptions, what to see and do, how to get there and where to get refreshments. Full of colour photos in a glossy, easy to read format this is all you need to inspire you to get on your bike and explore Scotland.
This book contains 28 routes that cover many parts of Scotland. There is a concentration on the central belt and in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh, but there is good coverage of other parts of the country. If you are new to cycling this book is ideal for getting you started and giving you ideas of where to go.
Each route guide begins with an introduction that gives you an overview of the route and some information about the history and heritage of the area. It then provided practical information about the route length, the terrain, the nearest train station and where to go for refreshments. It also lists what there is to see and do, with details about museums, castles and other visitor attractions. Next there is a full page map and a route description to help you to navigate your way. The layout of the pages and the quality of the writing make this a pleasure to use.
The book is packed with beautiful photographs and you will want to look through it again and again to dream about where you can go cycling next.
Even if you have done a lot of cycling in Scotland and are familiar with many of the routes in this route there are bound to be some that you have not done yet. I discovered some new ones and I am looking forward to trying them out.
This book is superb for getting inspiration and practical help for planning cycling routes in Scotland. I would say it is one of the best cycle route guides I have come across.
Bike Snob lives in New York City. He blogs and writes books about all things to do with cycling. This book focuses on cycle commuting and is full of Bike Snob's characteristic wit and common sense. All of the trials and tribulations of commuting by bike are covered, including annoying behaviour, types of bicycles and the reason why people do not cycle.
I did not think that there could be enough material about commuting to fill an entire book, but this book shows that there is plenty to say on the subject. Just like Bike Snob's first book this one has the same quality hardback design with nice feeling paper and plenty of cartoon style pictures throughout the pages.
Much of the content is waffle, but entertaining waffle nonetheless and I found myself laughing and agreeing with what I was reading. I liked how Bike Snob examines all sides of the issues surrounding commuting. Not only does he rant about annoying-driver-on-cyclist behaviour, he also lays into cyclists for their annoying behaviour towards other cyclists and to drivers.
The book opens with Bike Snob recalling his worst ever day-he was riding his bike during the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre. He then goes on to tell how the aftermath of this resulted in an incredible sense of goodwill among New Yorkers and commuters were polite to each other, even to the extent that there were no car horns. He tries to remember that time each time something frustrates him or annoys him when commuting. This is the lesson that he wants to teach us, to encourage us to be better commuters.
The book is more about entertainment than a practical guide to cycle commuting, so people who are already using their bike to get to work are more likely to enjoy it than people thinking about taking up cycle commuting and looking for a guide.
One of the things I found fascinatingly hilarious is that Bike Snob came across some cyclists who fit their lights the wrong way. That is they put the red light on the front of the bike and the white light on the rear. I didn't believe this actually happens, so I asked some fellow cyclists if they had ever come across this and they said that they had! So there you go. You might also read about some strange commuting behaviour that you have never before come across whilst reading this book.
So, for a bit of fun and a witty take on cycle commuting this book is worth a read.
Robert Penn, journalist and round the world cyclist, decides to design and build a bespoke bicycle. He selects the best components that the world has to offer, travelling to workshops from California to Milan. The book is also the story of the bicycle, the history of this remarkable machine from the early days when there were no pedals to the modern day bicycle that we know and love today.
This is a superb book if you want to learn about the development and history of the bicycle. It is a fascinating story told in an engaging and highly readable book. I tend to take my bicycle for granted, that the way it looks and functions is how bicycles always looked and functioned. I had no idea that the bicycle went through many phases of development. It began in 1817 with the "Draisine", a machine that consisted of two wooden wheels with a wooden bench between them. The rider straddled this bench and pushed the contraption with their feet. There were no pedals.
It was not until the 1860s that the pedal was introduced. This version of the bicycle was called the "velocipede", but the pedal was attached to the front wheel, and it was not until 1885 that pedals were attached to the rear wheel when the 'safety' bicycle was launched.
I don't give my tyres a second thought, but velocipedes had iron tyres. These then evolved to solid rubber strips glued to the wheel with the safety bicycle. No wonder the word 'boneshaker' was in common use. Dunlop developed the pneumatic tyre in 1888 and this made the bicycle comfortable to ride and much more popular as a mode of transport. The book has a mixture of illustrations and black and white photographs to show what all these incarnations of the bicycle looked like.
During the process of putting together his dream bike Robert Penn discovers manufacturers with great pride and passion. He watches his bike being constructed and describes the processes in detail. I found this to be too thorough on occasions, but those who are obsessed by every inch of a bicycle will enjoy this. It was sometimes a bit too geeky for me, but on the whole I enjoyed learning about the components and manufacturers. It did make me think that it would be nice to do the same, but you need to find several thousand pounds to build your own bicycle.
The author has a great talent for expressing the sheer pleasure of cycling. There are several great quotes, but I shall leave you with this one, when he rides his new bike for the first time:
"A myriad of concerns- about the bike, about this book- dissipated completely. This is the beauty of cycling- the rhythm puts serious activity in the brain to sleep: it creates a void. Random thoughts enter that void- the chorus from a song, a verse of poetry, a detail in the countryside, a joke, the answer to something that vexed me long ago."
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle. Follow my blog on Facebook: