CYCLE TOURING FOR BEGINNERS
Marie Madigan is an experienced cycle tourist with a penchant for wild-camping and discovery. She has toured extensively in the UK and Europe, with the intention of seeing things rather than blasting out the miles. That does not mean that she has not ridden long distances or taken on tough ascents, she has, but always with a willingness to observe and have a breather. This book reflects the fact that, like many of us, cycle touring was a voyage off discovery in itself, with the best education coming from practical experience. Though this is a practical guide to the fundamentals of cycle touring, it is also full of the stories which gave birth to the guidance.
The advice comes from the liberal wing of the cycling community; there are no attempts to lay down the law. All to the good in my opinion, though I admit that as a cycle-tourist with my own experiences and preferences, I had to remind myself that this is a book aimed at beginners. As such, it works very well; language is jargon-free and there is no attempt to probe the subtleties of ancient varieties of bottom brackets. There is sound advice on gearing and bikes and luggage and clothing and food - some moderately technical - but every stone is not overturned, nor is every possibility discussed within an inch of the reader’s life.
As a consequence this is a great book for the cyclist setting out on their first tour or for the experienced cyclist to give to someone in need of convincing that cycle touring is just the best. I don’t think the favourite word of many cycling publications, “gruelling” crops up once - though I stand to be corrected. Believe it or not, according to Marie, cycle-touring should - though we all know there are times when gratification is delayed - be fun. Hence we are treated to sections on luxuries, maintaining friendships and reminded that the pace, the route, the stops and the food are all your choice.
by Marie Madigan
Published by Wood Sorrel Books, 2016 (Also Createspace Independent Publishing Platform)
Number of pages varies depending on format, but 189 in the paperback version.
Available in various formats, including paperback £5.99 and Kindle £2.49 and as an epub download.
Reviewed by Steve Dyster
Fundamentally, Marie’s opinion is that you are better off getting out and cycling with basic gear and learning on the job than you are spending your evenings Googling and burdening your credit card. Go for a day, go for a weekend, go for a week, but go and, if you like, upgrade. Enjoy and learn to make cycling what you want it to be.
There are many manuals that will take people into the realms of bike-fitting, technique, technical gear, advanced maintenance, and different aspects of cycle touring. They may be the next step, for some readers This book does not claim to do that. It sticks to fundamentals.
Chapters cover bikes, equipment, decisions to be made, luxuries, camping and accommodation, bikes on trains, planes and boats, tom plan or not to plan, food and hydration and more. Given the way the modern world moves on, there are links to useful websites etc. Inevitably some will go out of date, CTC for example, is now Cycling UK.
I was once told to think about cycle camping and then forget abut it and book a bed in a hostel. Marie would not agree. Additional kit and consideration, more than Marie’s personal preference, mean that cycle camping gets particularly good coverage.
As a starting point, this is a an excellent book, both for its common sense and its enthusiasm. It is easy to read, without being simplistic; it covers a wide-range of topics without baffling the newcomer with arcane cycling lore; it is humorous, but informative; it it is enthusiastic and encouraging, but realistic; it should inspire as well as empower.
For old lags, such as this reviewer, it will remind you of the day when you first overloaded your bike and set off over the mountains or decided to go touring with only what could be fitted in a saddle-bag and got caught in a snow-storm. Cycle-touring, we all do it differently, and this is a great place from which to set off on your own voyage.