Saturday 27 February 2021

Cycling library

My library

I haven't had to dedicate a whole room to my collection just yet. The total stands at five. They are about people riding long distance. The common themes are: how they coped, why they did it, and what they got out of it.

The first book, North to Alaska, written by Trevor Lund. I read it in March last year. I think I'll read it again.

It hooked me straight away. The pace, level of detail and writing style is just about right for me. Each day as I got comfy to read it I found myself wanting to complete one more page before having to stop.

He started in the cold, went through everything nature could throw at him, and ended in the cold. Starting with a companion, who wasn't as sure about the journey as Trevor. These rides seems to need a determination that is often not contagious amongst family and friends.

The many constants across these books that I think kept me reading were how they were able to dig a little deeper when faced with adversity, and the kindness of strangers; forgive the cliche. It is encouraging to read we are capable of more than we know, and the world isn't as hostile a place as we are lead to believe.

Quondam Travels in a Once World by John Devoy. About an epic ride he did in 1985. It covers the story of the Cairo to Nairobi part of his journey from above the arctic circle to Cape Town in South Africa. It really opens up the mental as well as the physical challenge. A great twist is that he also mentions how the areas have changed during the intervening years. Many of the countries went on to be blighted by civil wars.  Buy direct from John.

Where There's a Will by Emily Chappell. First thing to note; I bought it direct from Emily. Very fast delivery, and it's signed. Buy direct from Emily. It's another page turner about her participation in the transcontinental race, and much more. After days or weeks focused on one goal it would be a jolt to not have that single target in front of you. I've never been in a race, but have had longer, multiple day challenges. It took a couple of days to get use to a normal daily routine.

Mike Carter's One Man and His Bike. I can understand his desire to just keep cycling. I have on occasion turned away from home to ride a little further. Never to circumnavigate the British Isles though. He makes connections with many people as he travels. It's funny and educational; giving a little info about some of the places he pedals through. You can follow the path of his bike around the pages of the book. It took me until chapter eight to see it.

Endless Perfect Circles by Ian Walker. Ian became a record breaking ultra long distance rider in his forties. I can sympathise with Tom about sport at school. Although it wasn't the quality of the teachers as much as I have never been good at team sports. I looked forward to the cross country run during the winter. I wasn't very fast but at least it meant I could avoid demonstrating my lack of sporting prowess. I'd jog out of the grounds, up the road, across some fields and be back in time to shower before everyone else. The rest of the year was being picked last for teams, and trying to avoid responsibility for attack or defence.

Ian wrote about finding a competitiveness that he didn't know he had, of realising that racing was a task that had an ending.

It's the reason I started to use Strava, not to compare myself with others or to compete with anyone. I use it to set tasks to complete each month.

I haven't cycled any distances to rival these epic rides, or had to sleep rough; but it does resonate with me. A few years ago two friends and I rode to Paris - unsupported - we carried all we needed on the bikes. 

On the way to cycling to Paris. Fully loaded.
Fully loaded, on the way to Paris

The South Downs Way was the following year: two days of mostly off road. I think it was a greater challenge than Paris. We were often reduced to pushing our laden bikes, the mud was so think the wheels became choked with it.

South Downs Way, deep mud.
South Downs Way, deep mud.

I felt a little guilt as I read these books, sat on my couch, hot drink at hand. If I got hungry it was just a few steps to the kitchen. 

I recommend all of them; insightful, helpful, entertaining, and thought provoking. I eagerly turned the pages, wanting to know what happened next. Tempered by the realisation that the quicker I read, the sooner I would finish. 

What other books should I buy now?