27 July, 2012

Travel books

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.


Richard Risemberg said...

Herlihy's "The Lost Cyclist," about the search for a round-the-world rider of the 1890s who went missing, is pretty good. If you read French, Lionel Bran's "Seul à Bicyclette de Paris à Saïgon"; out of print, so you'd better hope your library has a copy. There was only one edition. He was also a constructeur.

David Stamboulis' "Odysseus' Last Stand" is so-so; he whines a lot. "Catfish and Mandala" by Andrew X. Pham covers a trip through Vietnam pretty nicely.

Bob Goodison said...

Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage
Bob Goodison

KCJeff said...

Full Tilt- Dervla Murphy

Anonymous said...

"Full Tilt" is definitely high up the list. I just got the chance to read the first 35 pages of "Into the Remote Places" by Ian Hibell. A copy is kept in the ACA library in Missoula, which houses several hundred (perhaps over a thousand) cycling related books. A separate shelf contains hundreds more cycling guidebooks. Ian's travels tend toward "high adventure", but are well written.


Dana Shifflett said...

The Wonderful Ride, the journal of an 1895 coast-to-coast ride by George T. Loher, with commentary by his granddaughter Ellen Smith, 1978 Westword Associates. I found it for a couple of bucks in a used book store in Wichita.

none said...

Around the World on Two Wheels, the story of Annie Londonderry's 189x ride around the world. Unbelievable almost.

Dylan said...

My Life on Two Wheels by Clifford Graves is an excellent read if you can find a copy.

The Hungry Cyclist by Tom Kevill-Davies is a fun read with an appealing food theme.

Jeff Schmidt said...

I agree with Bob and Richard. "Miles From Nowhere" and "The Lost Cyclist" are both great reads and well worth it. "Miles From Nowhere" got the bug back in me to start touring again. Highly recomended.

Anonymous said...

My recommendation is "Into Thick Air." Author Jim Malusa adventures to the point of LOWEST elevation on six continents. Exciting, humorous, and contemporary.

Tara said...

I second the recommendation for "The Lost Cyclist." Tim Moore's "French Revolutions" is about his amateur attempt (with no training) to ride all of the stages of the Tour de France. Quite hilarious. Dominic Gill's "Take a Seat" is nice armchair/Metro reading. "Off the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia" was a fascinating read.

I'll have to give Dervla Murphy a second chance...I found her insufferable the first book of hers that I read.

Anonymous said...

You can try Eric Newby's "Round Ireland in Low Gear" but it may put you off trying to follow his pedals unless you like rain.

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