are most of the bicycle travel books I own or have read. There have
been a few over the years that I can't now remember - a sign that they
were no good anyway! They’re in alphabetical order by author, with publication
details (if I have them) and a brief summary. All my own opinions. Any
queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy . . .
Austin & Mel Platt
| Josie Dew | Edward Enfield
| Tim Garratt & Andy Brown | Howard
& Anna Green | Christopher Hough | Tim
Hughes | Mark Jenkins | Jerome
K. Jerome | Bernard Magnoloux | Christian
Miller | Dervla Murphy | Anne
Mustoe | Freya North | Barbara
Savage | Bettina Selby | Pamela
Mike Austin and Mel Platt
London to Peking: A Bicycle Odyssey
ISBN, distributed by Spare Tyre Publications (01684 560922)
Not so much a book, more three themed sets of postcards (Bike Bike,
Face to Face & Impressions) linked by a short narrative of the trip.
Beautiful photography, so much so that I don’t want to split a set.
I’ve seen them on sale singly at Stanford’s in Covent Garden.
Wind in My Wheels: Travel Tales from the Saddle
Books (1992), ISBN 0-7515-0249-9
first book, chronicling nine trips over nearly as many years. Ranging
from a tour of Iceland and Scandinavia to ‘Land’s End to the Other End
on a wheelchair bicycle’ to a Nova Scotian excursion, this is constantly
amusing, light-hearted and adventurous. There’s an enormous amount of
travelling packed in to 368 pages; so much so that I often wished it
was a series of books. A good one to inspire and give a flavour of different
in a Strange State: Cycling Across the U.S.A.
Warner Books (1994), ISBN 0-7515-0575-7
A tour of Hawaii and then from LA to Nova Scotia, via the Great Lakes.
Not as captivating as her first book, perhaps because I’m not so interested
in the US of A. Maybe one for our American chums.
in the Neon Sun: A Gaijin in Japan
Little, Brown & Company (1999),
latest, only released in February this year (1999), and only available
in hardback so far. This has been a long time in the writing. The four
month trip took place in 1994 (or ‘95?) and had been published in part
in UK cycling magazines a couple of years ago. The time in preparation
has been well spent though. Ms Dew has moved on in leaps and bounds
from her earlier books; the writing style is clever, articulate and
wonderfully descriptive. Always one with a keen eye for the absurd and
ridiculous, I often found myself laughing out loud at her perceptive
observations on Japanese society. She also makes the reader realise
that we can be the weird foreigners with strange habits. An excellent
Sun in My Eyes: Two-Wheeling East
Little, Brown & Company (2001),
This a the
sequel to, or rather the continuation of, 'A Ride in the Neon Sun'.
The first couple of chapters are about getting to Japan: diversions
in China and then sailing from Hong Kong on an Outward Bound ship. Once
in Japan it's the North that's travelled, all the way to Hokkaido. It's
good Josie Dew - amusing, wry and quite incredible.
all the Way
Ted Smart (1994), ISBN 07475-16324
Written as a travel book rather than a bicycle travel book, this is
by the comedian Harry Enfield’s father and details his journey across
France in 1991. Frustratingly there are no maps or photographs. However,
Mr Enfield is a humorous writer who has a keen and witty observational
Garratt & Andy Brown
Travellerseye Ltd (1998), ISBN
15,000 km across Australia, Africa and South Africa. Andy Brown gets
tired of the rat-race, links up with Tim Garratt and Suzanne Taplin
and sets off on a charity ride for Intermediate Technology. Suzanne
(Andy’s ex) only makes it across Australia. An entertaining book, full
of high spirits and high jinks, experience and naiveté. Andy Brown writes
honestly about his radical change in life-style, and what he had to
give up as well as what he gained.
Howard & Anna Green
a Bicycle Made For Two: 6,000 miles from London to Nepal
Hodder and Stoughton (1990),
first bicycle travel book I read, and the one that’s inspired me most
so far. They travelled to Nepal to work for the International Nepal
Fellowship, Howard as a health project administrator. They went by tandem
(hand-built by Chas Roberts of London), following the traditional route
across the Alps, down Italy, through Greece and Turkey, then Iran, Pakistan
and India. I’ve met them (as my parents also worked for the INF) and
they say it was a most amazing experience. One day I’ll follow in their
tyre-tracks . .
Pedaller to Peking
(1986), ISBN 0-413-57980-8
Entertaining, witty, written like a student and all the worse and better
for it. How to set off on a transcontinental adventure with no real
idea of what you're letting yourself in for. Only taking one waterbottle
probably says it all. Travel books from the eighties paint the world
and its English ex-pats as consistently arrogant and screwed up. Don't
know why. Not a great book but worth reading.
Cycle Tours of Britain
Ward Lock (1988), ISBN 0-7063-7112-7
book full of really good cycle tours of Britain. From north to south,
from long to short, this has it all. I've followed some of the routes
and they are consistently enjoyable; the tour of the north-west coast
of Scotland is particularly stunning. I don't know if this is still
in print but is worth buying if you get a chance. The photos are great,
the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia
Hale (1992), ISBN 0-7090-6257-5
Siberia. Not the place most of us would chose to go for our holidays.
Mark Jenkins writes about an adventure, physically and psychologically,
across one of the remote regions of the world. His style is distinct,
often impressionistic (and frustrating) and a close reading is duly
rewarded. Intense, but worth it.
Men on the Bummel
Penguin (1900), ISBN 0-14-006392-7
"Bummel",' I explained, 'I should describe as a journey, long
or short, without an end.' This Bummel is a follow-on to the hilarious
Three Men in a Boat and recounts the mishaps that George, Harris
and J. undergo on a cycling tour of Germany. It is fiction and, in the
words of J., the narrator, 'There will be no useful information in the
book'. Jerome has a deeply ironic style, never missing the opportunity
to laugh at the English or Germans, but in an affectionate way.
Oxford Illustrated Press,
ISBN 0 946609 70 5 (Haynes Publications Inc, CAL
USA) Thanks, Ed!
Laughs all the way as the eccentric (and very determined) Monsieur Magnouloux
cycles around the world on his faithful steed. (Interestingly enough,
Rosinante is the name shared by Dervla Murphy’s first bike. Does anyone
know of any obvious cycling link? (update: Kent Peterson informs me
that it's the name of Don Quixote's horse.)) An entertaining tale, from
struggling across Tibet with one gear to seducing women in Africa. Well
worth searching out.
& Kegan Paul (1980), ISBN 0-7100-0709-4
180 pages this is a condensed story of a remarkable journey across America.
Mrs Miller headed west against the prevailing winds on a three-speed
folding bicycle which she had never ridden before, complete with camping
gear. So there's a refreshing (and sometimes frustrating) naiviety about
the trials and tribulations she encounters. She writes well and honestly.
Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle
John Murray (1965), no
ISBN, it’s that original a copy! (In print with Flamingo)
A unique copy, dedicated to a colleague of my father in Pokhara in 1965.
Dunkirk to Delhi in 1963, through the coldest winter in 50 years. (No,
I don’t know why she didn’t wait till later in the year.) Rather than
travel down Italy she went via Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. This is one
of the classic bicycle travel books; despite being 35 years old it has
the air of a different era. For instance, the List of Kit includes,
under Incidentals, one .25 automatic pistol and four rounds of ammunition,
which get used for killing wolves in snow-bound Yugoslavia. Not something
Jobst Brandt’s packing list recommends! Most of the book deals with
Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, an area that the author has a strong
affection towards (see Where the Indus is Young). Sometimes self-righteous
and naive (but interestingly so), the narrative is compulsive and the
journey awe-inspiring. The one-speed 37 pound bicycle survives the journey
intact, as does Ms Murphy.
Waiting Land: A Spell in Nepal
(1967), ISBN 0-00-655090-8
Not strictly a bicycle travel book as most of it is about Ms Murphy’s
work in a Tibetan refugee camp in Pokhara. However, she does go on a
few bike rides and I was born in Pokhara, so justification enough for
me! Pokhara as a destination on the hippy trail, and before the tourist
centre it’s become is vividly described, as is the unique culture of
the Tibetan refugees. It’s sad that thirty years later they’re still
Penguin (1978), ISBN 0-14-00.5030-2
Again, this doesn’t set out to be a travel book as such but the use
of a bicycle as transport is important in the book’s aim: to understand
the fabric of life in Northern Ireland. So much (and so little) has
changed in two decades that this is out of date politically but still
soberingly relevant in terms of communal violence and ignorance. Well
worth reading as an outsider’s view (Ms Murphy being an atheist) of
Penguin (1979), ISBN 0-14-055448-0
Ms Murphy’s autobiography up to about 1961, just before her trip to
India detailed in Full Tilt. A fascinating and moving account of the
roots of her independence of mind and spirit. Deep roots: in the introduction
to Full Tilt she writes, ‘On my tenth birthday a bicycle and an atlas
coincided as presents and a few days later I decided to cycle to India’.
Maybe her parents were encouraging her even then . . .
?? No details, I’m afraid,
although it’s definitely in print ??
A by turns harrowing and hopeful account of a ride through central Africa,
in an area dominated by AIDS and corruption.
from the Limpopo: Travels through South Africa
Murray (1997), ISBN 0-7195-5789-5
Not a conventional travel book, this lacks thematic or physical progression
and is more a documentary on South Africa immediately before and after
the first multi-racial elections in 1994. Well written and compelling
D.M. treads where most of us would fear and asks the difficult questions,
both of herself and the new South Africa. She can be rather too curmodgenly
at times, with her blanket aversion to television and computers, and,
worryingly, still can't fix a puncture! A long and serious book but
well worth reading because of this.
Bike Ride: 12,000 miles around the world
Virgin Books (1991), ISBN 0-86369-650-3
the age of 54 Mrs Mustoe left her job as headmistress of a public girls’
school in Suffolk to cycle around the world. As a classicist and historian
she decided to follow Roman roads through Europe, Alexander the Great
across the Asian subcontinent, early European traders through the far
east and then the settlers across America (although going W-E). The
first few times I tried to read this I found it very dry and academic,
and was unable to get past the first chapter. However, I tried again,
and being older and wiser (hopefully), found it fascinating. A carefully
planned route, following historically important roads, gives a sense
of following in the well-worn footsteps of travellers over the centuries.
Traveller: One Woman, Two Wheels and the World
Swan Hill Press (1998), ISBN
Mrs Mustoe heads off around the world again, this time from East to
West. Instead of doing the whole distance at once she split it over
a number of years, picking the best season for travel in each continent.
Rather than follow the traditional linear narrative this is split into
chapters dealing with themes and particular terrains, for instance:
good days; bad days; the Australian Outback. This works really well.
Her writing is far better than in A Bike Ride and the structure
avoids the cliches inherent in travel books. Recommended.
wheels in the dust: From Kathmandu to Kandy
Books (2001), ISBN 1-85227-926-5
Wheels in the Dust' is Mrs Mustoe's best book yet. Like 'Lone Traveller'
it doesn't follow a single bike ride, instead taking it's structure
from the Ramayana, one of the Hindu religion's sacred books. The journey
takes the route of the Ramayana from Nepal through India to Sri Lanka,
following Rama, Sita , Hanuman and a whole legion of gods, demons, humans
and animals. Most chapters end with an extract from the 'Ramayana' that
relates to the area Mrs Mustoe is in.
This is a wonderful book because it plays to Mrs Mustoe's strengths:
her erudition and educational background. The enthusiasm she displays
about her discoveries of Hinduism and the Ramayana is infectious, and
this transfers to her depiction of the land and its people. I guess
this book also wins in that it makes me want to visit India and read
the Ramayana, which is surely the goal of any travel book!
Needle: Two Wheels by the Water to Cairo
Virgin Books (2003), ISBN 1-85227-984-2
A journey from Cleopatra's Needle on the Thames Embankment to the place
where it was carved and raised in ancient Egypt, now a suburb of Cairo.
The rather tenuous conciet is following the route of the obelisk as
far as possible by water, which means a trip round the Mediterranean.
The weather was awful for Mrs Mustoe's trip and coastal roads are always
grim, either full of traffic or impossibly hilly, so it was not the
joyus expoloration of Europe and the Levant it could have been. But
it was saved by two things: 1) following her progress with a map and
Microsoft Encarta, which was great fun, and 2) her erudition which taught
as well as entertained.
Heinemann (1999), ISBN 0-434-00538-X
'Sex, drugs, lashings of lycra, large bulges and larger egos...' is
what the jacket says, and I can't disagree. A novel based around an
imaginary Tour de France (but with many recognisable characters and
incidents) it's badly written (but enjoyably so) and concerns the ludicrous
love-life of Cat, the main character, and assorted soigneurs and mechanics.
For anyone who enjoys the TdF this is a top read, full of laughs and
excitement - I actually found myself caring which of the fictional characters
was going to win! Freya North followed all of the TdF in 1998 and the
experience really shows through. A good read for the dark, cold days
of winter when you can't imagine summer ever coming again.
?? No details. Sorry ??
The American classic which I read and enjoyed, but it failed to capture
my imagination. Each to his own.
the Mountains Down: A Journey by Bicycle to Kathmandu
Unwin Paperbacks (1985), ISBN
have a huge admiration for Bettina Selby. She’s one of that band of
doughty middle-aged women who undertake mentally and physically demanding
journeys that put most of our adventures into perspective. This is her
first book, tracing a journey from Karachi up the Indus, detouring to
the Khyber pass, and finishing in Nepal. The Indian subcontinent is
often described as being the hardest part of any transcontinental trip
that involves it, so much respect to her for tackling it. It’s not the
best written of travelogues, often losing itself in directionless description
and route detail, but inspiring all the same.
to Jerusalem: A Journey through Turkey and the Middle East
Drew Publishing (1989), ISBN 0-86267-250-3
The Crusaders’ routes through Europe and Asia to Jerusalem form the
backbone to this book. Bettina covers London to Venice in 30 pages,
the majority of the book dealing with the journey through Turkey and
Syria into Israel. I found it to be hugely educative and compelling.
Mrs Selby obviously knows her stuff and has great enthusiasm for it;
this comes across clearly in the writing. Cycling as a form of modern
North One Summer
?? No details. Sorry ??
My recollection of this is hazy. A trip up the west coast of England
to the Scottish borders and then back down the east coast.
Dream of Timbuktu
John Murray (1991), ISBN 0-7195-4838-1
Following the river Niger westbound, through Niger and Mali, this is
another trip through hostile terrain. I did enjoy this, despite having
to start a number of times before I it hooked me. The sense of a way
life on the brink of disintegration in the face of the 21st century
is clearly conveyed.
Water in a Dry Land: A Journey into Modern Israel
Harper Collins (1996), ISBN 0-00-627942-2
a travelogue, this brings together a number of trips through the Middle
East and, specifically, Israel. Like Riding to Jerusalem, this wins
through because of Mrs Selby’s passion and knowledge on the subject.
It’s depressing and uplifting by turns: seemingly unresolvable tensions
against positive individual actions and attitudes. This close observation
is combined with a wider look at the political situation
de Battuta: Alone Across Africa on a Bicycle
Aurum Press (1999), ISBN 1-85410-629-5
Starting in Senegal and finishing one-and-a-half years later in Tanzania,
Pamela Watson is not your typical cyclist; she worked in business before
setting off and was supported by Shell, an anathema to many people.
Whatever their starting point, though, most transcontinentals have the
same sense of a deep-seated goal that pushes them on through difficult
experiences and terrain. Testse flies, terrible roads and the turmoil
of central Africa all make their mark, but the highs (of which there
are many) always make up for the lows. Her love of Africa is never defeated,
only deepend. Intelligently written and well worth reading.
Mike Austin &
Mel Platt | Josie Dew
| Edward Enfield | Tim Garratt
& Andy Brown | Howard & Anna Green
| Christopher Hough | Tim Hughes
| Mark Jenkins | Jerome
K. Jerome | Bernard Magnoloux | Dervla
Murphy | Anne Mustoe | Freya
North | Barbara Savage | Bettina
Selby | Pamela Watson
back to the index . . .