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."
Rob Lilwall flies into deepest Siberia and begins to cycle back home to England. It is the ultimate cycling adventure and takes three-and-a-half years. He cycles through many countries, including Japan, China, Australia, Tibet and Afghanistan. This is a gripping book and gives a vivid account of the countries visited, the people met, the challenges and the impact of the journey on the author.
I must admit to being initially disappointed when I discovered that only the first seventy or so pages of the book are about Siberia. The title of the book and the picture on the front gave me the impression that the author was going to cycle all the way across Russia, east to west. I was looking forward to tales of incredible endurance in the face of minus temperatures, but this is only contained within the first part of the book. Rob actually cycles south in Siberia in order to take a ferry to Japan, so most of the pages are about other countries. Once I got used to that I started to enjoy this incredible account of a world-wide cycle journey.
I liked the layout of the book with its maps, statistics at the end of each section, thought-provoking quotes at the start of each chapter and the photographs. There is a particularly fun montage of portraits of the author, showing his changing appearance and facial hair through the various stages of the journey.
The Siberian experience is amazing to read about. He travels this section with Alastair Humphreys, who wrote his own books about cycling around the world. At one point they have to make a difficult choice about taking a 'winter road' or 'summer road':
"The 'summer road' was the shorter of the two, but was passable only in the warmer months, before snow blocked it. On this road there were several unbridged rivers which, although partially frozen, we would have to wade across. We had been told there was only one proper settlement on it, the village of Oymyakon. In 1919 it had been in the record books for recording -71.2 degrees celsius, the coldest temperature ever for a permanent settlement."
The two riders experience great kindness from locals with many offers of warm accommodation for the night, which saves them a number of nights in a tent in freezing conditions.
As Rob makes his way around the world he mainly experiences similar kindness from strangers. He also faces challenges, such as bad roads in Papua New Guinea which mean that he must push his bike through jungle for days and hire locals to guide him. He cycles the mountain passes of Tibet in winter and faces the dangers of Afghanistan. He also copes with being robbed and getting ill with malaria.
The book achieves a good balance between telling the story of the cycling challenge and saying something about the countries that are travelled through. Rob has a good eye for detail and includes all the little observations that form his impressions of places. It makes for strong travel writing, although I found it is at its best in the Siberian chapter and slightly weaker for the other countries. In some sections it feels a bit rushed, for example in Australia one chapter begins "It is four months later..." Of course, some things will need to be left out in order to fit such an enormous journey into the size of an average novel. The final section of the book that covers the journey across Europe has little detail about the countries, but it reflects Rob's desire to get the last few miles over with and see his family again.
I was engrossed in this book and found it very readable and exciting. Even if you have no intention of embarking on a similar journey it still makes you want to get out on your bike and explore.
Anna Hughes sets off on a 72-day, 4000 mile cycle around the coast of Britain. The journey is full of adventure, magnificent landscapes and the kindness of strangers who provide accommodation for Anna during her trip. The title of the book perfectly sums up the focus of this journey, the daily task of pedaling, eating, sleeping and then doing it all the next day.
This is a familiar story of someone who gives up their job to go on a long-distance cycling trip. Anna is clear that you do not need to travel far to find adventure:
"I hadn't wanted to travel halfway round the world to have my adventure. This was about finding the unusual hidden within the usual, about seeking adventure from the things that we take for granted."
The book is divided into five parts with a map at the start of each part showing the route. There is one chapter per day of cycling and most of the chapters are just a few pages long. It is an easy read with a mixture of short conversations, journey descriptions and the thoughts of the author.
Anna does the journey a bit differently to some of the other cyclists who have published similar books. She uses her contacts to hook up with other cyclists along the way. They accompany her for parts of the journey. Her previous job at Sustrans, who manage the National Cycle Network, provided invaluable access to Sustrans staff across the country who were happy to join Anna for sections of the ride. She also uses the website Warmshowers.org to find cyclists who are happy to provide fellow cyclists with free accommodation.
I looked forward to reading about Anna's impressions of Scotland. She cycles to Cape Wrath, something that I have always wanted to do, but she doesn't enjoy it because the road is in a terrible state. She doesn't say very much about the scenery at Cape Wrath, but you get a good impression of the raw beauty of the place:
"The wind howled across the plateau, rustling the stubby vegetation and whistling between huge bald rocks. I took a deep breath to steady myself, gripping the earth beneath my fingers, and leaned out to look down at the water. The seagulls circled far below, mere dots from this height, the deep blue punctuated with foaming ripples. The ocean stretched into the distance, powerful and beautiful."
I felt that there was generally a lack of detail about the places that are passed through on this journey. For example, in the chapter that covers Rattray Head to Elgin the author cycles 78 miles, but only uses 4 pages to describe it. This is a beautiful part of Scotland with so much to see and do, but you will not get this impression reading this chapter. This book has a lot less detail about people and places when compared to the excellent One Man and his Bike, which i also read. Once I got used to the fact that this book is more about how the journey was and the challenge of completing it than sightseeing and meeting locals I started to get into it and enjoy it.
The author writes in detail about all of the challenges she faces, including terrible weather, hills and long distances. You get the impression that the journey has changed her in a positive way and given her much confidence, which is inspirational to anybody thinking of doing a similar journey.
Book review: From the Mull to the Cape. A Gentle Bike Ride on the Edge of Wilderness by Richard Guise
This book follows the cycling journey of a retired man from Leicestershire. He travels from the Mull of Kintyre to Cape Wrath in Scotland.
I read the book to see what other cyclists have written about Scotland and to see if my own travel writing is any good compared to other authors. It was also a part of the country I am familiar with and would enjoy reading about.
The journey is done at an average of 4.5mph and covering a daily average distance of 38.5 miles, so this is not extreme cycle touring by any means. This is not for readers looking for a tale of high adventure, record distances and time pressures.
Richard Guise uses his sense of humour to take the reader on this journey through a beautiful part of Scotland. He had me laughing with his descriptions of some of the things that cyclists encounter like bad weather, the search for good coffee and the habits of sheep."Now, if they couldn't even distinguish their mother (white, wooly, four legs) from a man on a bike (yellow and black, two wheels) then I didn't much rate their chances of surviving even long enough to provide a decent Sunday lunch."
I was not so keen on his descriptions of local people. Whenever he quoted their speech it was like a bad Scottish stereotype, "Och well, Hamish, a dram on the house all the same?" He describes Lochinver as being populated by "barking dogs, wailing children and overweight mothers." He encounters many Eastern Europeans working in the hotels, restaurants and cafes along the route that he describes as 'Easties.' It comes across as ignorant and racist. He has not written about any meaningful encounter with local people where he had learned something about the area and their lives..
There are little information boxes that inform the reader about the history of the area that are easy to read and not dry, with Guise using his humour to lighten up the history. There is also a nice section in the middle of the book with colour photos.
Guise does give a great impression of the freedom, empty roads and peace and quiet on this route, "For me, among all the positive attributes of most Highland settlements I passed through, this is the most endearing: that between, say, 7.30pm and 7.30am there's almost nothing on the main road through town. There's nowhere else to go, you see, and anyone who's coming is already here. Priceless."
I found his descriptions of the scenery average and not quite capturing just how special this part of Scotland is. I do sympathise- it is difficult to describe landscapes without resorting to the clichés of 'beautiful', 'spectacular' and 'magnificent'. However, all good travel writers should be able to entrance their readers.
I am not sure how many readers will be inspired to cycle in Scotland as a result of this book. I do not feel that it does justice to the landscapes and people of the area. It might encourage people of a similar age to Mr Guise to give cycle touring a try. If you have already been to these places and fancy reading about another person's journey then you will find some interest in this book, but the sense of humour is not for everyone.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.