home> cycling> Inspirations

Updated May 22 2009

"There are endless things to do and see and learn and as I grow older I have come to realize that I will never even come close to doing a fraction of them. The best I can do is to focus on things that reflect the way I wish to live my life and do so with respect for the people and world around me. Cycle touring is a unique way of seeing the world. It allows you to slow down and experience your surroundings – to interact with them rather than just watch them and your life whizz by." -- Nif

On the Web

Others do a far better job than I could ever do:

Bicycling Books

Looking for pre-trip ideas, or trapped indoors by bad weather?

Book cover - Adventure cycle-touring handbook
Adventure cycle-touring handbook, Stephen Lord, Trailblazer Guides, 2006, 1-873756-89-5

This book is a good read.

Split into three parts, it covers practical information on planning and preparing for a long-distance trip, lists route outlines and tips for a wide selection of long-distance trips, and provides ten of the best travelogues I've read in the last decade in the final part of the book.

Available by mail order from (who do several other excellent cycling guides too).

Book cover - Travels with Rosinante
Travels with Rosinante, Bernard Magnouloux, Oxford Illustrated Press, 1988, 0-946609-70-5

If there was a Golden Age of Cycle Touring in the 1980's, Bernard Magnaloux was riding through the thick of it.

Starting in May 1982 in his native France, by January 1987 he'd covered 76,988 km on his bicycle Rosinante through Africa, Asia, and the Americas.  But forget the vast distance he covered, it's his eccentricity, humour, and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds that shine through this incredible account - he didn't seem to consider any geographic barrier to be a big problem, even crossing the Darien Gap with his bike ... my all-time favourite cycling travelogue.

Book cover - The Great Bicycle Adventure
The Great Bicycle Adventure, Nicholas Crane, Oxford Illustrated Press, 1987, 0-946609-34-9

Fifteen fast-paced accounts of Nick's early tours in Europe, Africa, and India/Tibet - he certainly deserves greater credit than he's received for single-handedly firing up the rebirth of adventure cycling in the UK in the 1980's.  You can't put this book down, it leaves you itching to set off yourself when you've finished it.

His description of a solo tour in the snowy Lofoten Islands in the winter, and of his stay with Roar Justad, was pivotal to my Interailing with a Bickerton bike to Norway a year or two after the book came out.

Off the Rails, Tim Cope and Chris Hatherly, Summersdale Publishers Ltd, 2004, 1-84024-398-8

True grit abounds in this recounting of a tough, uncompromisingly difficult, long distance ride across Russia from Moscow to Beijing on recumbents. 10,000 km! Impressed with their determination and choice of bicycles, but physically this falls into the Ellen MacArthur school of adventure cycling. See for updates...

Update 07 Oct 2006: Yesterday I received the DVD of the film they made during their journey, sent to me from Andrew Cope in Australia the day after I filled in the order form on Tim's website. The documentary was made with the help of the Australian Geographic society and is excellent.

Book cover - A Gringo's Journey
A Gringo's Journey, Cris Osborn, Impact Books, 1989, 0-245-55066-6. Cris, a Brit abroad with some time on his hands, is a fine travel writer.  He laconically recounts the story of a two-and-a-half year exploration of the Pacific coast from Vancouver to the furthest reaches of Argentina after he exchanges a Greyhound bus pass for panniers and a bicycle in Denver, Colorado.  He's a master of dialogue with plenty of time to observe the local scene and no qualms at taking on some fearful adventure cycling - a must read.
Book cover - A Gringo's Journey
Cycling in Europe, Nicholas Crane, Oxford University Press 1984 (Pan Books, 1988), 0-330-30456-9 This has been our trusty and essential guide to touring in Europe for the last fifteen years, we've covered seven of the routes in the book (with some artistic license); Nicholas Crane must have sweated blood to produce it since it's hugely comprehensive in its coverage of each country it describes as a cycling guide. Hey Pan Books, if you'd like a researcher to go on the road and bring it up to date look no further!  My only gripe is that it doesn't cover Eastern Europe since it was written before travel to the Eastern Bloc was feasible.
Book cover - The Long Way
The Long Way, Bernard Moitessier, translated by William Rodarmour, Sheridan House, 1995, 1971,1986, 0-924486-84-8

Caught you out!  Okay, not a cycling book but it perfectly captures the spiritual side of a challenging solo journey - Moitessier is a master of describing the feelings of freedom and delight he felt during his incredible solo circumnavigation of the globe in his ketch Joshua during the 1968 Round the World Race.  He was leading, but after crossing his outward track and passing the three capes he decided to forfeit the prize money and continue on into the pacific again, unhappy at the thought that his voyage was being viewed back home primarily as a competitive, commercialised media event.


Book cover - Cycling in Ireland
By Bicycle in Ireland, Martin Ryle, Impact Books, 1988, 0-245-54666-9 Martin Ryle's personal guide to the landscapes of the Irish republic is a gentle, captivating book by an author with a deep love and respect for the country.  He describes the history and scenery of each area carefully, but the real charm lies in his vignettes of the towns, lochs, moors, valleys and mountain he explores on his bike with his partner Kate.
The Long Distance Cyclists' Handbook, A&C Black, 2004, 978-0713668322

Both inspirational and useful - a really enjoyable guide to setting up a bike for long-distance riding, what to do to train properly, what to eat, and how to solve problems. I keep coming back to this book both to motivate myself at the start of the season when the weather here is poor, and as a general sourcebook for touring.


Book Cover - Giles Whittell
Lambada Country, Giles Whittell, Chapmans, 1992, 1-88592-591-5

When the Iron Curtain fell in Europe, Giles Whittell grabbed a touring bike and set off with his notebook and minimal luggage to discover life in Eastern Europe before it changed for ever under the onslaught of Western consumerism.

He's an entertaining writer with a real knack for drawing people out in conversation; his cycling perambulations take him through Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Tatra and Carpathian Mountains, Romania, Bulgaria, and all the way to Istanbul. There's an undercurrent of paranoia alternating with humour throughout the book - it's a ripping yarn!

Book Cover - Miles from Nowhere
Miles From Nowhere, Barbara Savage, The Mountaineers, 1983, 0-89886-109-8 A funny, rewarding account of a couple's shoestring-budget ride of 23,000 miles across America, Canada, the UK, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, and New Zealand between May 1978 and April 1980. This book was a signficant catalyst for our route planning for our own 1992-3 trip, because it made us realise that our goals were realistic and achievable after all.
Book cover - Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Richard and Nicholas Crane, Corgi, 1987, 0-552-13212-8 Impeccable minimalism in their choice of equipment, pared down prose in diary entries from each of them for each day, and an awesome challenge as they rode flat out from the coast of Bangladesh up over the Himalayas to a remote corner of north-west China, the furthest place from the sea in Asia - 3,313 miles in 58 days provides plenty of opportunities for adventure and a real test of their stamina and survival skills.
Book cover - By bike to Budapest
By Bike to Budapest, Elizabeth Hilton, Minerva Press, 1996, 1-85863-965-4 An inspiring, lively, and humorous account of a family of six's 1500 mile ride from Denmark to Budapest over three months during the summer of 1994. Read this if kids are holding you back and ask yourself again "what's stopping us?..."
Book Cover - Josie Dew
The Wind in My Wheels, Josie Dew, Time Warner Paperbacks, 1993, 0751502499

Josie Dew's first book is a delight - fresh, full of zest, and unforced, her enthusiasm for cycle touring is highly infectious!

Unfortunately I find her later writing proves that it's difficult to combine business with pleasure - her subsequent books (written more to support her nomadic lifestyle) aren't a patch on this one...

Book cover - road of Dreams
The Road of Dreams, Bruce B. Junek, Images of the World, 1991, 0-9630448-1-8

Reprising some of the Savages' journey above some twenty year's later, this is pretty much transcribed directly from the diaries kept by Bruce and Tass Thacker on their two-year tour; impressively self-published on their return to fund the next leg of their planned journey.


Book cover - road of Dreams
Full Tilt, Dervla Murphy, Murray, 1965, 009-952780-4

An extraordinary adventure: doughty Murphy sets off in January 1963 on a one-speed bike from Dunkirk to cross frozen Europe to Persia, Afghanistan, and over the Himalayas to Pakistan and India.  My favourite paragraphs recount how, struggling through a blizzard on a snow-blocked mountain road in Yugoslavia, she is unexpectedly attacked by wolves:

"I stumbled, dropping the torch that I had been carrying, then recovered my balance, and found one animal hanging by its teeth from the left shoulder of my wind-cheater, another worrying at the trousers around my right ankle, and a third standing two yards away, looking on, only its eyes visible in the startlight.

Ironically enough, I had always thought there was something vaguely comical in the idea of being devoured by wolves.  It had seemed the sort of thing that doesn't really happen ... so now, as I braced my body against the hanging weight, slipped off my glove, pulled my .25 out of my pocket, flicked up the safety catch and shot the first animal through the skull, I was possessed by the curious conviction that none of this was true, while at the same time all my actions were governed by sheer panic."

Book cover - road of Dreams
Latin America On Bicycle, J.P. Panet and Zack Lewis, Passport Press, 1987, 0-930016-07-6

This little book is a mine of information on cycle touring, good areas to choose for a tour in Latin America, and bicycle advocacy; it packs a lot into its 150 pages, including five travelogues of tours by the authors in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Chile, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.  It's a pity the book is twenty years old, but I'd certainly use it as my primary guide with more recent generic Lonely Planet books as backup if I were planning a ride now.


Book Cover - cycling to Xian
Cycling to Xian and Other Excursions, Michael Buckley, Crazyhorse Press, 1988,0-9693370-0-0

The true grit of Mike and his travelling companion Robert shines through in this account of their 4000 mile overland journey from Shangai to Kathmandu through China and Tibet. He's a guidebook writer by profession, and he knew what he was getting into, but it's a ripping yarn through and through.


second choices perhaps but still worth a read...

Johnny Ginger's Last Ride, Tom Fremantle, Pan Macmillan, 2000, 0-333-37692-6

Well-written and entertaining account of Tom Freemantle's journey from his home in Swanbourne, England to Swanbourne, Australia, and historical links to his ancestor, the founder of Fremantle.


Discovery Road, Tim Garrat and Andy Brown, Traveller's Eye Ltd, 1998, 0-9530575-3-4

Australia, Africa, and the Andes mountains - fortunately not with backpacks on their backs as the cover suggests. Cycling across the Nullabor and discovering that flies can be outpaced at 25 kph ... ouch!


home< cycling<Books, Websites

[ Home | Strictly Business | Near Misses | Cycletouring ]