Taking a glance at my book collection, it’s not hard to understand why I feel compelled to travel all over the world with my bike. My reading material transports me to far flung places, and it’s usually around this time of year, when the evenings are dark that I bury my nose deep into the next epic cycling adventure.
The book that started me off was by Anne Mustoe. She was a Headmistress of an independent girls school who with no previous cycling experience, gave up her career to embark on a ride around the world. It was a glimpse of a European cyclist peddling through the desert in Rajashthan that prompted her decision to do the same. The book she wrote A Bike Ride – 12,000 miles around the world started my passion for following such intrepid adventurers and helped me realize that age, and current ability was no barrier to getting out and exploring the world by bike.
Alastair Humphries has been another cycle adventurer who has massively inspired my wanderlust. His around the world ride became two books, which are worth a read. He was young and enthusiastic, and took around 4 years to complete his trip. The writing is colourful, and you feel transported into his adventure so that the books are difficult to put down. Part one is The Moods of Future Joys, and part two is Thunder and Sunshine
Rides undertaken on a whim I always find an entertaining holiday read. One such book has been written by George Mahood. It’s not your traditional Land’s End to John O’Groats tale. George and Ben set themselves a challenge to cycle the route but with a twist. They started at Land’s End with no bikes, no food, no money and wearing nothing but their Union Jack Boxer shorts. They believed that the British public were mostly generous and that they would find a way. The situations are often ridiculous, but for anyone who has ever toured underprepared, or got caught out on an Audax, you will recognise some of their predicaments, and cry with laughter at how some were solved. A Free Country – a penniless adventure the length of Britain introduces you to some of the strangest, kindest, generous people in Britain.
I am currently reading another ‘adventure on a whim’ book, on a journey very close to my heart. Mike Carter’s One man and his bike is a personal story of a man who was simply fed up, and wondered what would happen if he just left the office and kept on pedaling. So, with the assumption that as long as he kept the sea on his right, he couldn’t go wrong, he sets off, without a map or any navigation on a 5,000 mile trip around the British Coastline. Since I have also done that journey, this book is like a trip down memory lane, but also highly entertaining.
For a much earlier round Britain adventure, you might also like to check out Josie Dew’s first book Slow Coast Home – 5000 miles around the shores of England and Wales. Like many of the other authors, she has continued to travel, and write about her adventures
For something a little different how about Tom Kevill-Davies – The Hungry Cyclist. I picked up this book initially as it includes a variation on one of my bucket list rides – to ride from the top of the USA, to the bottom of South America. In the case of this journey though Tom was in search of the perfect meal. A cycling (and eating) holiday in France had alerted Tom that the two were a perfect marriage and that further investigation was required. He is however prepared to try anything, so this might not be a good book for you if you are vegan!
One of my favourite adventure authors however is my final recommendation from Steven Primrose-Smith. Two of his books are notable. No place like home – thank God is his journey to visit every European country in an attempt to find somewhere worse to live than his hometown of Blackburn. His descriptions of the people he meets and some of the lesser-known places he visits again, transport you mentally too far-flung corners of Europe. The second of these books is Hungry for Miles – cycling across Europe on £1 a day Having not really financially recovered from his European adventure, but desperate to ride away again, Steven decided (a bit like George Mahood) that it must be possible too travel on a shoestring, foraging, fishing and relying on the kindness of strangers. It turned out that they didn’t come much stranger than one of his travelling companions.
I did note that other than Anne Mustoe and Josie Dew, not too many of these adventures have been written by women. This is something that I intend to balance out a little in 2020. Inspired by some of these authors I am writing my own adventure, which I hope will continue to inspire more women to get on their bikes in search of adventure.
You can find yet more inspiration ahead of sunny riding days here Books about Epic rides