A guest post by Scott Gater
Books, an incredible thing. In the “old” form (you know, the things made out of paper) they are an amazing concept – no batteries required, variety of formats/sizes and pretty great to travel with.
I've always loved reading and cycling has a rich history of literature to go with it. I'm very fond of travelogues. I love the idea of being transported alongside the rider as they encounter harsh environments and interact with all sorts of people along the way.
In our local library, the classic “bike packing” book prior to bike packing becoming an “it” thing was the book by Nicholas and Richard Crane- “Cycling to the centre of the earth”. A classic story of British cyclists in 1987, heading off into a third world country, cycling massive distances with a small roll of clothes on a small back rack. It is an interesting read in terms of the equipment they took and how they simplified their travel to achieve their goal.
“Cycling to Xian and other excursions” by Michael Buckley was a great read from the late 80's as well. Full of stories dealing with Chinese bureaucracy, the stark beauty of the Tibetan highlands and the dichotomy of trying to get around by and with a bike in a country that did not want an independent traveler all, made it a book that I read numerous times.
When my wife and I lived in Melbourne Australia for a year, I found a new wealth of travelogues to read. “Cold Beer and Crocodiles” was the tale of a cyclist, Rolf Smith, who cycled around Australia. This is one of the better written books about traveling around OZ. The writer is very capable of describing the scenes around him and talking about the human side of the trip, rather than it being all about themselves.
Finally, one that isn't so much a travelogue, but certainly the story of a journey is “In search of Robert Millar” by Richard Moore. Robert Millar was on the vanguard of Anglophone cyclists in the early 80's in the pro cycling world. A Scot who lived in France and Belgium and raced there primarily, he was the highest British finisher until Bradley Wiggins won last week. A great tale of what pro cycling was like in the 80's and a wonderfully written look at a unique personality.
So are you an armchair cyclist? Do you have a favourite book you'd like to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below.