Author: Gary Sutherland
Published by: Birlinn
Paperback, 224 pages, illus Also available as an e.book.
What happens when the grand age of 40 years is reached? Gary starts to reminisce of his very early cycling, from the first launch sans stabilisers to the first long ride, all of two miles from his home in Hopeman, to Duffus, his younger brother dragged into the exploit. The whole purpose of the younger brother is to follow the elder, so now, at this certain age, he not only reminisces with Stewart about these early cycling adventures, but suggests they repeat that first ride … and continue it around Scotland, the figure of eight loop totalling 1000 miles. For this, they acquire new cycles, and set about on a training program: Stewart doing rides of about 30 miles each, Gary, when the sun is shining, some short, flat rides from Glasgow, as he reckons that longer rides are not really urgently needed, and hill training can wait until they meet them.
Not surprisingly, the hills become an issue for Gary. On the second day, having walked one long climb, he decides that a change is needed if they are to continue the ride: he concludes that a stronger mental attitude will help, and manages the next, even longer climb! All the while in describing the day’s exploits, he weaves in biographical snippets and matters of interest relating to the places they pass through, these well blended in to the tale.
As returnee cyclists, Gary has chosen routes which avoid busy roads wherever possible, relying largely on the National Cycle Network. This serves them well coming south to Edinburgh, but the canal route to Glasgow becomes very slippery in rain, so, after Falkirk and its magnificent rotating boat lift, they find a parallel road offering a quiet way in to Glasgow. Next day, following the Lochs and Glens route northwards, Gary discovers an intense pain in one knee. Rather than taking medical advice, he soldiers on, favouring the knee as best he can. Eventually, by the next day, he finds he can forget the knee and get back to cycling normally again!
So, they eventually arrive at Durness and begin their return to Hopeland, having more adventures on the way. When, on their last day, they arrive at Forres, a change of steed takes place, giving the reader a final surprise.
In all, an enjoyable read, entertaining with its gentle humour and passing tales.
Reviewed by Mark Jacobson
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED 2015