The Bike Touring Survival Guide is an e-format book written by Friedel and Andrew Grant. The Grants are the couple behind the Travellingtwo web site: Displaced Canadians, they have some 60K km under their wheels and this rich, personal experience really shines through in this book.
I’ll make no bones about it, I really admire this book. It strikes a great balance between providing hard detail and a nice, light touch with the writing.
Several secrets contribute to this success. Firstly, through their web site the Grants have been able to enlist contributions from 50 ‘collaborators’ to the work, each of whom has added ideas and examples born of their personal experience. As a result the detailed advice offered has the feel of ‘case-hardened’ or ‘tried and tested’ information – gathered from direct, personal experience rather than web-surfing or book reading.
Secondly, the authors adopt a question-driven structure for the book: this brings two benefits. The questions have an authentic ring to them and so convince the reader of their relevance. Along with the electronic format, the questions also help the reader to dip in and out of the text at will, so ensuring it works as a reference text – as well as a good read from cover to cover.
Thirdly, the authors offer what appears to be a very comprehensive treatment of the major concerns of would-be tourers. I was impressed to see a section on ‘settling back into normal life’ offered at the end of the preparation section. This goes to show the value of their personal experience and the care with which they have reflected on that experience when preparing their advice for others.
I ran two different tests while trying to assess the value of the information offered. I chose a section I felt I knew something about (using planes and trains with bikes) and a section where I have little experience (dealing with visas and entry requirements): would my experience in the first instance confirm the author’s offerings and would I feel reassured and prepared after reading the second section?
As far as getting on planes was concerned the information was pretty fair and useful I thought – certainly balanced. For trains, I was less sure: guard vans with space for bikes are almost a thing of the past in my experience in Scotland and mainlines in France. The account of ‘negotiating’ with bus drivers certainly rang true, however.
Of the section on visa and medical matters I was a wee bit less sure, but this merely remakes the point that nothing convinces as much as personal experience and that no two people have the same attitude towards risk!
In conclusion, I am very pleased to have purchased my copy of The Bike Touring Survival Guide. For £20 it would have been very good value: for the 5 Euro demanded it is a cracking good buy. Over two-hundred pages of distilled experience in a well-presented and lavishly illustrated, weightless package – surely, the cycle tourers dream pre-planning manual.
Highly Recommended with 5 stars – copies available here: The Bike Touring Survival Guide