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On Our Bookshelf: Bike Touring Books To Read

January 9th, 2011 19 comments


Winter has set in with a vengeance here in Holland.

It’s dark by 5pm and there’s enough rain, wind and generally miserable weather to make bike touring pretty much impossible, unless you escape to Spain!

The dreary weather and lack of light leaves a lot of time to do some reading and dream of the next bike tour, so here’s a glimpse of what’s on our bookshelf and waiting to be read over the coming months. (We bought most of these books from Abe Books).

I Follow The Wind by Louise Sutherland

Louise Sutherland I Follow The WindWay back in 1949, when many of us were not yet born, Louise Sutherland was going around the world solo on a bicycle. She bought her bike in a church junk sale and her trailer was made by a patient in the hospital.

Perhaps most remarkably, she never intended to go around the world. Her original goal was only Land’s End at the southern tip of England!  Read more about the book and Louise’s adventures from the CycleSeven and Retrorambling blogs.

Around Africa On My Bicycle by Riaan Manser

Around Africa On My BicycleWe went for dinner with Shane (who’s shortly setting off for a bike tour through Africa) and came back home with this book off his shelf.

It took Riaan Manser just over 2 years to cycle the perimeter of Africa and this book is based on that journey. Along the way, he was thrown into jail in Equatorial Guinea, traversed the Saharan and Lybian deserts, learned several languages and ate a variety of exotic foods.

This book tells the story of his 36,000km bike tour, which started and ended in Cape Town.

Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage

Miles From NowhereOf all the touring books we’ve heard of, this one is by far the most recommended. Almost everyone who’s read it raves about Barbara’s ability to describe the highs and lows of life on the road.

It’s also a book where you grow with the author. In the beginning, you sense how out of her depth she is but as the book goes on you gain in strength as she does, becoming more bold and confident in her own abilities.

We’ve only just started reading this book but we love it and definitely recommend it.

Sadly, Barbara was killed in a traffic accident shortly after this book was published.

Full Tilt: Ireland To India With A Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

Full Tilt: Ireland To India With A Bicycle“For my tenth birthday my parents gave me a second-hand bicycle and Pappa sent me a second-hand atlas. Already I was an enthusiastic cyclist, though I had never before owned a bicycle, and soon after my birthday I resolved to cycle to India one day. I have never forgotten the exact spot, on a steep hill near Lismore, where this decision was made. Half-way up I rather proudly looked at my legs, slowly pushing the pedals around, and the thought came ‘If I went on doing this for long enough I could get to India.’”

This is how Dervla Murphy describes the inspiration for her first bike tour, from Ireland to India in 1965. She travelled alone, covering difficult terrain, braved difficult weather and packed a pistol for protection.

She’s written many books since her first adventure, but this book is considered the classic of her collection and we can’t wait for it to arrive in our mailbox so we can start reading it.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg on what we’re sure is a very long list of books we should read. We’ve already placed another order for more reading material from Abe Books (our favourite source for books, with some some real gems that we can’t find elsewhere).

Which books are you reading? Recommend one for us by leaving a comment!

Dreaming of a Bike Tour? see our Survival Guide
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18 Responses to “On Our Bookshelf: Bike Touring Books To Read”

  1. Blanche says:

    We still have a book of you guys here :>
    Next time I see you, I will return it.

  2. Thanks for that. Just ordered Miles from Nowhere on Amazon for £4.68 inc. P&P second hand in paperback, bargain!

  3. woollypigs says:

    Well that wish list on amazon just got bigger :) Now I just need a longer winter or a tour to read them all.

  4. Amaya says:

    I’m waiting for a book authored by one Friedel Grant before I fork out any more money to read about bicycle touring adventures. Any ideas about when it’ll show up on Amazon?

    • Friedel says:

      Ha ha ha :) I am almost done one book (an in-depth practical guide to bike touring), and laying it out in InDesign now. That one will be around in about 2 months. As for the story of the trip, I truly don’t know. I want to write it but it might easily be a couple years away.

  5. Gareth says:

    The two I can see from here are, the adventure cycle-touring handbook – Stephen Lord, and the hungry cyclist – Tom Kevill-Davies.

    Both were really inspiring reads, but I haven’t read either in quite a while, so I can’t give a very good review.

  6. Nico says:

    I’d second “The Hungry Cyclist”. I just finished it and it was an entertaining read.

    Thanks for recommending Barbara Savage, half way through at the moment :)

    Also, I have just bought a Kindle for my cycle touring and it looks like it will have been a very good travelling purchase. Thousands of books in one small device!

  7. Mark P says:

    The last book I read, was The man who cycled the world by Mark Beaumont. In this book Mark Beaumont describes his journey cycling around the globe. the story is illustrated by photo’s and maps. This book complements the documentary the BBC made of this epic journey.

    This book isn’t like a Lonely Planet guide, you must keep in mind that is a race for the Gunmess World Record.

  8. Hi,
    I would definitely recommend ‘Moods of Future Joys’ and ‘Thunder and Sunshine’ by Alastair Humphreys. These two books describe in great detail Alastair’s epic 5 year round the world cycle. Two of the most inspirational cycle books I have ever read (and reread, several times!).
    All the best,
    Fergie

  9. Avinash Kachhy says:

    One great book to read is Erika Warmbrunn’s Where the Pavement Ends. She was working in a travel book store and noticed that there were no guidebooks on Mongolia and so she set out to explore Mongolia and eventually all the way to Vietnam on bicycle. It is strange (and sad )why she stopped at only one tour and book.

  10. Amaya says:

    A quick plug for a new book coming out from fellow Montanan, Nancy Brook. Cycling,Wine and Men is her account of how a bicycle ride through France helps her bounce back from a mid-life breakdown. Sort of like Eat, Pray, Love but better because it all revolves around a bicycle. And the protaganist is far less self-obsessed. Check it out at: http://nancybrook.com/the-book/

  11. Stephen Botel says:

    Have you heard of this book: Two Wheels in the Dust-From Kathmandu to Kandy by: Anne Mustoe? It was published in Great Britain in 2001. I just found it at the library & haven’t had a chance to read it yet…

  12. A great read that I bought nearly 30 years ago was Into Remote Places by Ian Hibell. Some staggering exploits by a very modest British traveller on three expeditions. Ian sadly passed away as a result of a drunk driver in Greece a couple of years ago.

  13. I just finished Miles from Nowhere as suggested here. Best book I’ve read so far on bike touring. Barbara Savage had a great sense of humor and it made me laugh loads.

  14. Kelly Mantle says:

    Cycling Back to Happiness by Bernie Friend is a gentle ride around the North Sea. Tackles some serious issues, but overall made me smile.

  15. Tom Bruce says:

    Hi,

    Great list – I’d like to introduce my book: “Every Inch of the Way; My Bike Ride around the World”.

    It’s about the round the world ride I did in 2011, includes nearly 100 photos and maps and is out as a paperback and an ebook. My ride took me through Europe, Asia and the USA on an unbroken chain.

    Thanks very much,
    Tom (tombruce86@gmail.com)

    “A challenge that tested Tom to his limit but in return gave him more than he could ever have imagined.”
    - Bear Grylls

    “Every Inch of the Way is a great page turning adventure which is as close as you can get, without actually saddling up and pedalling yourself into the unknown. It takes real magic to turn a great adventure, into a great book. For one thing, most people can’t relate to the mindset of the long distance cyclist and I found myself laughing along to Tom’s thoughts and observations, wondering if they were in – jokes, shared by those who had seen the world at the speed of a bike, for example his relationship with Serbia’s stray dogs! . But his anecdotes have a great balance of the cultures and places, as opposed to just inward reflections, so I am sure would be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in travel and human experience. A lovely story, written from the heart.”
    - Mark Beaumont (around the world record breaking cyclist, author and adventurer)

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