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.

Journey’s End on The Algarve

After 675 pretty challenging kilometres on the bikes and almost as many by hire car, we are finally at journey’s end and a very pleasant finish it was too with a very enjoyable lunch with Lesley and Howard.  It was great to see the two of them again and get a wee insight into their fascinating lives – with bikes and green living at the heart of them.

A hill too far…

We headed from Lorca to Velez Blanco today.  We knew we were in for a few category hills ending with a stiff one over the final 10 K rising to over 1000 metres, but we were not ready for the horrid blustery headwinds that made bike control difficult.  We made it, but not without some trauma.

A pleasure en route however was meeting Kevin, a true cycle-traveller. Kevin is from Ireland and was making his way to the coast to get away from the cold and snows of the hills – he camps each night.

We were reminded that we play at this cycle touring thing while some others have it as a life style. All the best to Kevin and his tribe.

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


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’. 🙂


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.

2014-12-14 at 12.28

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!

The Road Headed West – Five Star Plus Review

Leon McCarron’s first travel book, The Road Headed West, is something very special: as it says on the cover, it tells the story of his adventure cycling 6000 miles across America – and it’s a proper adventure. I read it in three long gulps, unable or unwilling to put it down.

A proper boy's own adventure
A proper boy’s own adventure

McCarron travelled from New York westwards to Seattle before striking out to the south and down towards the Mexican border.  For much of his route he criss-crossed the historic Lewis Clark Trail, battling into headwinds and getting into scrapes with bears, rabid car drivers and gun-totting, psychotic mid-westerners, while dodging typhoons and RVs. All this in addition to ploughing across the endless plains of the mid-west and the high mountains of the Rockies and beyond. A brilliant effort for a novice cyclist who barely made it out of New York on his first day and was tempted to give it all up before completing his first month in the saddle.

The Road Headed West stands out from the peloton for a number of reasons. It has left straight into my favourite top five titles.

Firstly, McCarron writes beautifully and with an easy, loping style that makes reading a pleasure.  Better still he is a natural story-teller and he peppers his text with memorable and amusing tales of his encounters with the Americans he meets as well as the fellow cyclists he falls in with on the road. He neatly avoids the traps of relying too much on a diary of details or inflicting on his readers the all too common tedium of recounting where I slept and what I ate. This is a much more reflective book and all the better for it.

Secondly, McCarron has read several of the travel literature greats and copies their best trait – he combines accounts of his physical travels on the bike with insights into his internal mental and emotional journey as he struggles to come to terms with the challenge he has set himself.  This lifts his offering high above the more mundane efforts of many other cycle touring authors. The result is a much more engaging and satisfying read.

He is also funny, human and at points almost vulnerable. He is not afraid to say that some bits of the travel were demanding just because they were boring in the extreme. Nor is he afraid to delve into the emotional cost of leaving loved ones, family and friends to take on what might be described as a selfish dream.

However, and above all, this is an uplifting book that may deter many from following in the author’s wheels, but for sure, will inspire the brave and footloose few to – well, get on their bikes and go!

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.

The bicycle as never heard before… Bespoken by Johnny Random

I warn you – let this into your head and you may never get it out!  My thanks to Oregon Expat for putting me onto this via his excellent WordPress blog. It brightened up an otherwise wet and windy day here in Northern Scotland.

Pick up your own copy from iTunes.  Enjoy?

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