This book tells the tale of the author Andrew’s bicycle expedition from Berkshire to Brindisi, in southern Italy. He broadly follows the Eurovelo route 5 along the old Via Francesiga pilgrims’ path. Broadly, because there isn’t actually a defined route mapped out as Eurovelo 5. As Andrew and his faithful steed Reggie experience good and bad on their travels, the book reflects their emotional journey as much as it describes the kilometres covered.
The book is deliciously readable. Its style is unpretentious and relaxed, and is not cursed with the excessive use of figurative speech that afflicts some travel writers. The gentle informality of its tone is welcoming, especially to those who are not particularly familiar with cycle touring jargon. You’ll enjoy this book, even if you can’t tell the difference between a rear sprocket and a bottom bracket. Indeed, if you’re looking for a technical review of how various components perform on a long tour, this isn’t really the book for you. Instead, the story is human, the pace is sharp, and the commentary lively. It’s a such a pleasant and easy read that, if this book was a bike ride, it’d be a long, gradual downhill on a sunny spring afternoon with a decent pub at the end.
And what about for those who are more saddle-savvy? It offers an excellent example of the kind of emotions that the solo cyclist can face on a typical tour, so it’s instructive in that respect. It isn’t a guidebook for Eurovelo 5, but then again, it doesn’t claim to be. And anyway, there isn’t a guidebook for Eurovelo 5 – as demonstrated when Andrew explains that he cobbled together his own guidebook by butchering three different Lonely Planets. It also offers a balanced appraisal of his experience of contemporary cycling resources like the hospitality exchange network Warm Showers, or asking blog followers for advice in a tight spot.
I would have enjoyed a fuller conclusion to the story. Some of the crazyguyonabike blogs that I’ve read recently end with the final leg of the journey, and don’t look back and reflect on the trip as a whole. Part of what’s great about cycle touring – and about travelling in general – is enjoying the memories that you’ve made. For me, a short epilogue describing the post-tour afterglow would have made the book even better.
This book is a delight. It’s effortlessly funny on one line, and emotionally direct on the next, whilst never ceasing to be entertaining. It’s easy to read, and has something to offer everybody, whether a hardened touring veteran or a total bicycle beginner. Highly recommended.