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, it's a lot different than courier companies like Ask Absolutely which uses vehicles. 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.
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Lochs are one of most famous scenic features of Scotland. Whether it is Loch Ness, Loch Lomond or Loch Tay these mesmerising places are a must-see on any itinerary. This coffee table book will inspire your travels to these lochs with its fine photography and engaging text that explores the history, nature and outdoor pursuits that you can discover at these lochs.
This is a beautifully presented book with large photographs of breathtaking scenery on every page. It is a large book that will sit nicely on a coffee table.
The book contains over 30 lochs and explores their history, wildlife and myths and legends. It will come as no surprise that monsters get a few mentions!
Each chapter begins with a map showing the location of the loch and providing statistics about its length, depth, water volume and so on.
The author provides information about walking and cycling opportunities at each loch, so the book makes a good companion to help you to plan cycling trips to these lochs. There are also details about waters sports, angling and boat hiring.
The text is engaging and you are sure to learn lots of new things about Scotland's lochs and perhaps even discover lochs that you have never heard of.
The photography that is splashed on each page makes the book a joy to leaf through and it easily inspires you to visit these places.
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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.
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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.
There are miles and miles of old railway lines in Britain that are now walking and cycling routes. Jullian Holland explores 100 of these lines and gives practical advice about walking or cycling these routes. Disused railway lines are heaven for cycling because they are generally flat and always traffic-free. This book is a good place to start planning your adventures along these "lost railways."
The book is a handy size, small enough for you to take with you when travelling around. The contents page is easy to navigate with a map of Britain showing the locations of the lines. There are 15 routes in Scotland. Each route has a map, taken from a classic 1960s atlas, that provides a vintage feel to the book. For cyclists this book is great for providing new ideas for places to go cycling and disused railway lines are perfect because they are traffic-free.
Some of the pages have photographs to show what the railway lines look like today or in the past when it was still operational. Most of these pictures are striking and will inspire you to make a journey to the line.
There is practical information, down the left-hand column, about how much of the line is open to walkers and cyclists and which part of the National Cycle Network it is on. The text describes the history of the railway line and what you can expect to see today. There is also more detailed information about how you can get to the line and make use of it as a walker or cyclist.
Jullian Holland has written many books about Britain's railways and you can expect his usual high quality with this one. This book is not just for train lovers and the focus is on providing walkers and cyclists with practical information to access beautiful areas of countryside that were once part of the rail network.
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This crime thriller set on the Island of Lewis offers plenty of tension, drama and surprises. The Island of Lewis plays a starring role with vivid descriptions of the landscape and a unique insight into what it is like growing up on a Scottish island. If you are planning a trip to the Western Isles and want to know more about them than just the usual tourist information then this is definitely one to get your hands on.
I previously reviewed Hebridies, a beautiful photography book, that introduced me to Peter May's novels. Many of the pictures in this book are related to places that feature in his novels and I was inspired to read The Black House.
Although the crime drama of this book is very gripping it was the descriptions of the island and the story of the main character's childhood that I enjoyed the most. My main motivation for reading the book was to learn a bit more about island life. I have explored these islands by bicycle and visited many of the tourist sites, but this does not always give you much of an idea of what it is actually like to live here.
The book moves between the present day investigation of the murder and the story of Fin Macleod's childhood. This gives you a superb insight into the unique way of life on the islands. In particular, a large part of the book describes the annual guga (gannet) hunt, a strong tradition of the island community. Each year a group of men travel to a remote island, more of a rock, and spend two weeks hunting and processing thousands of gannets. The meat of the birds is a delicacy on the islands. As you can imagine it is a controversial subject and May includes a character who is an animal right's activist in the novel.
Other aspects of island life that feature in the novel include religion, Gaelic, and schooling. Although the book has a lot of dark moments there is also a bit of humour. I loved the part when the young Fin and his school friends steal a tractor tyre from a neighbouring village so that their bonfire will be better than the rival village. This inevitably goes wrong with hilarious consequences.
The book concludes in dramatic fashion and I couldn't put it down until I got to the end.
If you are heading off on a trip to Lewis then this is a great book to take with you as you travel around.
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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.
If ever there was a book to make you want to visit the Hebrides this is it. A coffee table book filled with beautiful and evocative photography. The stunning beaches of the islands are here, as are the hills, churches, fields, animals and cottages. You will feel like you are travelling these islands as you leaf through the pages.
The Hebrides are a group of islands located off the northwest coast of Scotland. Peter May produced a Gaelic-language television drama set on the islands and wrote suspense thriller books. The Lewis Trilogy, which are set on the islands. Many of the photos in the book are related to locations that inspired May in his novels and the television series. The text of the book focuses on May's relationship with the islands during his time filming and writing and there are passages quoted from his novels.
May writes passionately about the islands and it is interesting to read about the locations that feature in his novels, particularly if you have read the books. For me, it is the photography that makes this book so special. David Wilson captured these images and I could pour over them for hours and hours.
These photographs transported me to the islands. I liked that it was not all landscape photography, but that other subjects, like abandoned houses, rusting vehicles and cemeteries feature. These things are as much a part of the islands as the beautiful scenery.
If you are looking for a coffee table book to inspire journeys to the Hebrides or just to reminisce about your travels on the islands this book is perfection. You can buy it on Amazon by clicking on this image:
This is a beautiful and inspiring book. Stunning photography alongside punchy writing. This is a book that you will want on your coffee table. The best of Scotland is presented gloriously.
Peter Irvine writes the bestselling guidebook Scotland The Best and has produced many of Scotland's highest profile events, including Edinburgh's New Year festival. He has travelled all over Scotland and his opinions on the best things to see and do in the country are highly respected.
In this book he has selected his 100 best places in Scotland. Each entry is presented with a stunning photograph and some information about the place and why it is special. The photography is incredible and the writing high quality. It gives you enough information about the place to entice you to visit.
This is the kind of book that will have you pouring over it on a regular basis to plan future trips. Once you see these photographs and read about the magic of these places you will want to go to all of them.
The rear pages of the book tell you how to get to these places and where to stay and eat. This helps you to plan your adventures once you have been inspired to visit. The only criticism is that the directions are for drivers and there is no help for those using public transport or bicycle, but you can always go online for that.
I love this book and really recommend it to anyone who wants to travel in Scotland. It is beautiful and inspiring. Click on the image below to buy the book from Amazon:
Paul Theroux travels around the coast of Britain in 1982 and records his observations and meetings with local people. This includes a visit to Scotland and I was interested to see what my favourite travel writer had to say about Scotland.
It is very much a book of its time, perfectly capturing what Britain was like in the 1980s. Theroux travels at the time of the Falkland’s War and witnesses people’s reactions to it. He experiences yobs on trains, fights between mods and skinheads, grotty seaside guesthouses and a rail strike. He also finds beautiful coastal villages and dramatic scenery. It is a fascinating insight into how a visitor to the UK views the country. He noted that, although plenty of British writers produced books about travels in other countries, there were few outsiders who wrote travel books about Britain:
“…it was a mystery to me why no one had ever come to Britain and written about its discomforts and natives and entertainments and unintelligible dialets. The British, who had devised a kind of envious mockery of other cultures, and who had virtually invented the concept of funny foreigners, had never regarded themselves as fair game for the travel writer.”
Theroux shuns castles, stately homes and other traditional tourist attractions. He wants to discover the real Britain, so travels mostly by walking or using the train and talks to people he meets along the way. Cycling is discounted at a very early stage of his planning:
“A bicycle was out- too dangerous, too difficult…”
I hope that if he repeated his journey today he would find that things had changed since the 1980s and cycling would be considered viable. I think that cycling infrastructure has improved dramatically since the time of this book.
The way that Theroux travels results in a very honest and real account. He does not miss out the bad bits and tells it exactly as he experiences it. This has led to some people describing Theroux as grumpy, but he is simply recording what he sees and hears and does not sugar coat it. He is my favourite travel writer for this reason. I love that he uses the conversations he overhears in pubs, on the street and in public transport to tell the story of a place.
I was most interested in the author’s travels through Scotland, although this is a small part of the book (only 4 chapters). He takes the West Highland railway and recalls a passenger with a parcel of books that he held out the window of the train and a signalman took. The passenger explained that he heard about a signalman that liked to read, but his post was so remote that he had no access to books. Apparently it was common practice for people, on this train, to throw their finished newspapers out of the window as there would be somebody along the line to pick them up and read them.
Theroux beautifully describes getting off a train at a rural station in Scotland:
“There was something very disconcerting about leaving a train in the middle of nowhere. It was all activity and warm upholstery and then the clang of a carriage door and train pulled out and left me in a sort of pine-scented silence.”
This is something I have done many times and I love it. I have often tried to find the perfect couple of lines to sum up the mixture of joy and apprehension when you get off a train at a little used station and I think Paul Theroux has done it perfectly.
One of my favourite parts of the book was his journey on the post bus through Sutherland where he experiences rural life up close. He describes how the driver stops frequently to deliver items like milk and newspapers to isolated houses. I was pleased to read that Theroux loved Sutherland as it is also one of my favourite parts of Scotland:
“…its mountains streaming with pale scree, its black valleys of peat, its miles of moorland and bog, its narrow roads and surfy coast and its caves. It was like a world part, an unknown place in this the best-known country in the world. No sooner had I left it than I wanted to go back.”
I couldn't agree more.
I really enjoyed this book, particularly because you can compare the Britain that Theroux experienced in the 80s to what Britain is like today. Although the part about Scotland is quite small it was impossible for me to resist finding out what my favourite travel writer thought about my country.
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Some books totally inspire you to do something new. This is one of those books. As a result of reading Microadventures by Alastair Humphreys I now want to try sleeping outside in the countryside in a bivvy bag. This is something that I have never really considered before, but this book makes me want to.
Alastair Humphreys is best known for cycling around the world in an epic 4 year adventure. He wrote two amazing books about his journey. I have read them both and would thoroughly recommend them:
In the introduction to Microadventures Alastair Humphreys writes that he will have failed if you read this book and do not do at least one of the things in it. He has produced a book that captures your imagination and it is very difficult to read all of this and not want to try out his suggestions for adventure.
The concept of the Microadventure is that not all of us have time, money or the inclination to embark upon huge expeditions on the other side of the world, but we can still have an adventure right here, in Britain. We have wonderful countryside, some of it remote and as Humphreys points out, some of it very close to cities. He argues that this makes it easy to escape your daily life and go on an adventure. He proposes the idea of a "5 to 9" Microadventure where you finish work and head off into the countryside for the night and then return to work the following morning. He also writes about walking a lap of the M25 in one week to show that even in the most boring places an adventure is possible.
Humphreys gives plenty of ideas for easy and accessible adventures that involve cycling, taking to rivers and hiking. The book is a glossy, colourful format filled with great photographs of the Microadventures and the short chapters make it easy to dip in and out. The rear pages of the book give advice on equipment, how to identify trees, how to learn birdsong, how to read stars and how to navigate. Once I started reading I could not stop. The whole concept of Microadventures really captured my imagination.
If you want to be inspired to get out there and have an adventure then treat yourself to this book. I loved it and I hope you do too. Click on the box below to purchase the book from Amazon:
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.
Looking for inspiration about what to see and where to go in Scotland? Look no further than this little book. It is crammed full of stunning photographs of landscapes, castles and towns. There are plenty of ideas of where to go on your next trip. It is a joy to leaf through this book and dream about visiting all these wonderful places.
The book is all about the photography with fabulous colour shots, some of them are full spread:
There is also a paragraph of text about each of the photos. The writing has a poetic quality and provides the perfect inspirational accompaniment to the picture. The writing contains interesting historical facts, so that you will also learn something about the places.
The book is divided into chapters that group the photos into geographical areas, such as Western Isles, Northern Highlands, Inner Islands, Central Scotland and Borders.
The book is in the style of a coffee table book, but much smaller. It packs the same punch as the much larger photography books on Scotland, but the smaller size means it is much handier to store and carry around.
If you are looking for a book to inspire you to visit Scotland or to give you ideas about new places that you have not yet been to then this is perfect.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.