I really love cycle touring books. I don’t even know why I love them so much, I can’t put a finger on it. I’ve always loved travel books (and travelling) – the idea of experiencing new places, new cultures, new foods, new landscapes is something that really appeals to me, and while I can’t currently set sail and explore the whole world, reading travelogues slightly gets you there.
I love them because they are all so different – I almost think there is no such thing as the “travel writing” genre, especially when it comes to bike touring books. You have books like Mark Beaumont’s which I read last summer, which is all about the cycling, getting from one place to another and the difficulties, hassles and pleasures encountered along the way. You have books like Dervla Murphy’s, which range from being about the above, to weaving in culture, to teaching history, to making a political point through her travel books. And then you have Andrew Sykes, whose books are just really good fun.
Andrew has a great blog (he is currently about to set off on his next trip, cycling from the southern-most point of Europe to the northern-most) and I think this blogging style comes across in his books. There are two so far, Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a bike called Reggie and Along the Med on a bike called Reggie.
In the first, Andrew cycles from Reading to in southern Italy, merely because he is a teacher with long summer holidays, and watching the Olympics on one such summer holiday inspired him to do something with those six weeks off every year. By the second, he has published the first book and, looking for a sunnier trip than his first, decides to cycle along the Med from the eastern-most point of its European coastline to the western-most point – from Greece to Portugal.
Each chapter in both books is a day in Andrew’s journey, whether a rest day or a cycling day, and this gives the books that chatty, blog-post style. You really feel you get to know Andrew, suffer the rubbish roads, torrential rain and campsite music at 2am along with him…. And of course also enjoy the beautiful scenery, interesting villages, towns and people, and the joy of completing the endeavour along with him!
As I said above, cycle touring books vary greatly. In these, the physical feat of endurance is completely underplayed and it is left to the reader to appreciate how strenuous the mountain climbs are, the fact that Andrew cycles up Mont Ventoux without stopping on a rest day. The emphasis is instead on the joy of cycling and discovering new places.
These are books for people who want an honest and no-holds-barred (okay, barely-any-holds-barred) impression of what cycle touring is like, from illnesses to exhaustion, the feeling of just wanting to get it over and done with, the joy of reaching the top of an alpine pass on your own two wheels, and that smug feeling of looking down on those who have just driven up there!
They give a little insight into one visitor’s impression of out-of-the-way places through Europe, whether that be in Croatia or the Pyrenees, of camp sites, hotels and the various people Andrew meets along the way, peppered with amusing observations and comments as well as short informative sections about the history or culture – you can tell the writer is a teacher in his day-to-day life!
They are good fun and I would recommend both books.
Both of Andrew’s books are currently on sale for the next few days on the amazon kindle store for 0.99p …