Gap On A Bike

Gosh, but this post has been a long time in the arriving.  The younger me would have been ashamed: now, I don’t believe in looking back and regretting.  Life’s too short and we all deserve a little slack cut from time to time.  Even the arch-procrastinators amongst us.  In any case, for once life got in the way of blogging: hardly a capital crime.

Two cyclists who can’t be accused of anything like procrastination are Neil Stables and Jenny Smillie.  As I type, they are heading towards Laos and Cambodia on a little jaunt they just happened to start in Glasgow no less.  The stuff of dreams, but certainly not for mere dreamers.


With much of Europe and Russia behind them, before them lies a route that will take them over to the USA then West to East from side to side before their return to Scotland in the Summer of 2017.  Fantastic stuff!

Neil and Jenny are on a gap year no less and have a FaceBook Page called Gap On A Bike.  You should pop in and follow the adventures of this inspiring couple.

David Bowie, cycling companion

David Bowie provided the accompaniment to my best ever cycling day. Jacqui and I were 11 days out from Paris, cycling towards the Pyrenees and Spain.

Heading South East Works!


We were a mixture of ecstatic and terrified. We knew we were going to complete the French leg with our arrival in St. Jean Pied de Port – plenty reason for us to celebrate: but we were painfully aware of the Pyrenees louring in the distance – and we were very unsure we could climb over them.

Then on that thrilling last day, a snatch of, “we could be heroes” came into my head.  I was not even sure it was a Bowie song. It stuck in my brain and repeated as a loop for all the miles after until we arrived. I confess I was even heard to sing it aloud on full volume: this mercifully is not something that I am given to doing often.  Put it down to the thrill of the moment and the power of Bowie’s anthem.

That night we raised a glass to our success. Tonight the toast will be, David Bowie – with a word of thanks included.  RIP.

Champagne Moment


Eat sleep cycle – better than it sounds

My bedtime book these nights is Anna Hughes’s, Eat Sleep Cycle: a bike ride around the coast of Britain.  It’s proving to be something of a treat.

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To be honest, my expectations were not all that high. The title is perhaps a little weak?  The cover did not inspire. I feared the worst, but still parted with my £8 from Amazon: cycling has taught me to travel optimistically. However,  I feared it was going to be one of those cycle tour books – we went from A to B, we ate here, we met Fred, we got soaked and lost and we ate a lot before retiring to our tent to post to our blog.

It might well have been one of those – but for one pretty important redeeming fact – Anna Hughes is really good with words.  As old Eric Morecambe (almost) said, she not only uses many of the right words, but she also puts them all in the right order: and that makes a big difference to the reader.

Here’s an example taken at random as she rode towards my home town of Elgin. “Surprised I was riding alone, people asked if I was lonely. It had taken time, but I had come to love those hours of solitude, the anatomy of my solo journey something that suited me. Being alone is not the same as being lonely.”

Or this, from the road to Durness, “I set off into the early morning, the sea mist gradually dispersing as the sun emerged from its shroud.  I would spend the entire day going from east to west;  I could almost feel the planet rotating beneath me, the road turning against my wheels, the sun rising at my back then beckoning me forward until it disappeared into the sea.”

Believe me, I read a lot of cycle books and this is not the normal fare. This is something of a banquet. At her best Anna Hughes is up there with Anne Mustoe and Dervla Murphy in my book. Her journey may be a little less ambitious (she only set out to cycle the entire coast of Britain) but her prose compares well with the very best.

Will you enjoy it?  I don’t know, but if you like a dash of the author’s inner journey as well as the road trip; if you enjoy description that blends geography, history, culture and people’s lives; if you are looking for lyrical descriptions of our beautiful country and the joy of cycling through it – then give it a go. You have nothing to lose but your £8 and I very much doubt you will regret it.  I certainly didn’t.  This is a keeper for sure.

Tandem Two Head for the Hills

With the wind and rain lashing against the window as I type, I guess I can be excused doing more surfing than cycling at the moment.  In this spirit these two young Australians – the flying cyclists – caught my attention.

This video shows their honeymoon trip on a Bike Friday tandem on the Leh-Manali Highway over some of the world’s highest passes.  It makes for great viewing.  A true case of ‘ in sickness and in health and through triumph and disaster’. 🙂


Inspiring Nicaragua tour video

I have had this video linked from my desktop for a good few weeks now. Caught in the worst of the winter weather as we are around here, its nice to remember that better and warmer days will come.

This is a very well put together video that nicely catches the routines, ups and downs of a day touring in Nicaragua – but to be honest it could be from a tour almost anywhere.  Ah the joys to come!

Thanks to Roberto Sordillo for the posting on YouTube.

ACA Montana on the North Tier Route

For four or five years now Jacqui and I have been thinking about a trans-America trip, either West to East or the reverse. Most of the time our discussions end nowhere as we get cold feet thinking about the extent of the commitment required – we guess it would take us about four months or so.

So we try to dismiss the idea as too big and too scary. Then up pops a prompt like this video from the Adventure Cycling Association about the Montana stretch and we think – will we spend the rest of our days regretting that we put if off until it was too much for us?

What do you think?  Could we be heroes – or are we just chickens?

Andrew Sykes – Chapeau!

2014-12-14 at 12.29I must have been following Andrew Sykes’ cycling adventures for about 5 years now I guess. I have always found much to admire, but his new plans and schemes deserve a special mention.

I first became aware of Andrew through his excellent Cycling Europe website. This was always an entertaining site, but it has been very special to see it grow into such a successful, useful and much visited touring resource.

Next came his first book, Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie. This was both a great read and a super example of making a self-publishing success through the use of social media. I enjoyed seeing both achieve success.

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His second book followed, Along the Med on a Bike Called Reggie and with the two titles came a growing reputation for other media work and personal appearances. You could see Andrew developing another persona and presence in the world of cycle touring and this too seemed a well deserved success.

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So perhaps it was not altogether surprising when he announced a change of life-direction and his decision to leave his job as a language teacher and set about widening his horizons. He is now 5 working days away from this life-changer. New studies and more ambitious cycle trips lie ahead – and no doubt new publications.

I don’t know Andrew personally, but it has been a pleasure and a privilege to follow his personal and cycling adventures over the last few years, and I did not want to leave his new starts unremarked. All the best Andrew and good luck for the future.  You have been an inspiration on many fronts and deserve all your successes. Chapeau!

4000 miles takes more than inspiration…

We were away mid-week visiting Edinburgh, combining work with pleasure. It’s a great city at any time of year. We came back to find this letter waiting for us: it put a big smile on my face:

An inspirational journey
An inspirational journey

Michelle is a young American I got to hear of via WordPress. As a supporter of the Bike and Build Charity she will be riding across the United States to help create social housing in the states she passes through. I had not heard of Bike and Build and I think it is just the greatest of causes – truly inspiring on many levels.  You can visit Michelle’s blog and read more of her story in her own words.  I am sure you will leave impressed – as did I. You might even consider leaving a wee donation to help her in her fund-raising.  We oldies need to cherish the enthusiasms and idealism of the young: sooner or later the world is going to need them.

New cycling book does battle for the climate…

Cycling books seem to come thicker and faster with each passing year. I imagine e-publishing has made self-publishing so much simpler: but e-books are a mixed bag in my experience. So, I was very pleased to come across, “The Bicycle Diaries: my 21000 mile ride for the climate by David Kroodsma – it sounds very promising.

David is an environmental activist, climate scientist, journalist and cycle enthusiast. His book tells the tale of a bike ride he made from California to the southern-most tip of South America.

Latin America and the Caribbean
Latin America and the Caribbean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only does the book promise to detail his route, adventures, challenges and engagement with the people he meets (David speaks Spanish and I am sure this added much to the richness of these meetings), but also he uses the cycling adventure to explore and illustrate people’s views and concerns about climate travel and its effects.  This added element promises to lift the book well above most ordinary travel diaries.

David has a website at and more importantly, a Kickstarter Page (with an excellent video trailer for his book) where you can pre-order a copy while helping to fund the project.

The book is billed to appear in February 2014.

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