Life Cycles. A London bike courier decided to cycle around the globe. 169 days later, he came back with a world record. By Julian Sayarer
This is one of the best books I have read about cycling around the world. Julian Sayarer is a brilliant story teller. He notices details, he questions what he sees, he analyses. He creates a picture of the world that's so vivid it feels like you are right there with him.
Life Cycles is about braking the world record for a circumnavigation by bike. To do this Julian Sayarer must ride 110 miles every day for 6 months. There are a lot of books about cycling the world. I've noticed when there is a record attempt the content can be focused on times, distances and performance. A lot of readers want this, but I find that it can detract from what is also an incredible journey on planet earth. It should be an opportunity for the author to share their experience of the world. Thankfully, Sayarer has written an account that's very much about travel and people.
The opening pages struck me as a somewhat cynical introduction to world record attempts. Sayarer certainly has strong opinions and is not afraid to share them throughout the book. Once I got used to this writing style it really grew on me. It's honest, raw and beautiful and that's why I loved this book.
By describing what he sees, what he thinks about and who he meets, Sayarer creates a gripping account of world travel. The record attempt doesn't really matter as much as what he sees, who he talks to and what he experiences. I like that he tells us about the bad things as well as the good things. Even a description of the simple act of buying supplies in a Hungarian supermarket reveals so much about the world we live in.
Sayarer meets some fascinating people on his journey. The conversations and encounters are beautifully told. One of my favourites is his meeting a homeless man cycling in New Mexico. In America homeless people riding a bike, loaded with belongings, is a common sight. So much so that Sayarer is often handed money by strangers, assuming him to be homeless.
On the subject of America this book had me dreaming of visiting Oregon. The descriptions of this place are gorgeous and the author says "I want to ride through Oregon every day for the rest of my life."
Kazakhstan is the other place that I really want to visit after reading this book. Some writers don't quite manage to paint a picture of what a country looks like, but Julian Sayarer does it perfectly. This book transports you to that place as if you are on that road and seeing it with your own eyes.
There's plenty of drama in this book. The mechanical problems to contend with. The inevitable illness. Encounters with the police. Crazy weather and temperatures. Then there's the incredible physical and mental toll of this journey. It makes you wonder why anyone would want to do this. But the payoff is experiencing the world by bike and who wouldn't want to do that?
Read a review of Fifty Miles Wide. This is another great cycling book by Julian Sayarer. This time the journey is in Israel and Palestine.