Wednesday, 27 February 2013

One Man and his Bike, by Mike Carter

It's rare to 'review' a book before finishing it – although I've heard many journalists discuss how a book review is little more than reading the publisher's press release and the flap jacket – but I thought I'd be honest and say that this isn't so much a review (that will come when I've finished the book), it's more a kind of 'thumbs up' for what, so far (I'm on page 108) has proved to be an excellent book.
Mike Carter with his trusty Ridgeback bicycle

Anybody who reads this, my NoVisibleLycra blog, will have some kind of interest in cycling. As most of you who do read it regularly (alright, I know I've only got half a dozen followers) will know, the whole point of this blog is to document my cycling adventures at the weekends with my pal Andy. We cycle out to places like Westerham in Kent, Godstone in Surrey, The Botley Hill Farmhouse on the Surrey/Kent border, the Tatsfield Bus Stop and so on. Sometimes we head off to Longford Lake near Dunton Green or the Church at Chevening. Other times we visit the churchyard at Tatsfield or even the village itself. A lot depends on the time at our disposal and the weather.

In short, we get up early and ride off to various destinations, never further than around 36 miles all in, and we're back at our respective homes, at the very latest, around 11am. Why? To keep fit mainly, but since we've started it's become more than just a hobby. It represents freedom and there's definitely a spiritual element too. We love it. If you want to find out about our rides over the last three and a half years, just scroll back through the pages and you'll get the general idea.

So, when I went to Waterstone's recently and discovered what I'd been looking for – an easy chair where there was no compunction to buy a cup of tea or coffee – I inwardly rejoiced, found a book on the shelves adjacent to the sofa (the travel writing section) and then sat down to read it.

The book in question was Mike Carter's One Man and his Bike and I was transfixed from the moment I started reading it. I'll admit to feeling a little envious of Mike and the fact that he was able to simply up sticks and cycle around the coast of Britain. I couldn't do it for all sorts of reasons: my job (which, fortunately for me, involves a lot of long-haul foreign travel); my family and I guess that's it. I need a regular job to support my family and, while I do travel the world in my role as a magazine editor, I couldn't really swing with being away for months on end riding leisurely around the coast of the UK. That doesn't mean that I don't want to do it and that's another reason why I bought the book, so that I could kind of 'live the dream'.

That, of course, is one of the great qualities of this book: it enables the reader to be there with Mike as he visits different parts of coastal Britain. Whenever I pick up the book (normally I'm on a train) I admit to getting excited about rejoining Mike where I left him and being part of his adventure.

Another reason I love this book is because I can associate, being a fellow cyclist, with a lot of the stuff Mike talks about: the headwinds, the tailwinds, the being soaked through and eventually just getting used to it and no longer feeling wet and cold, the hills, everything. While you probably don't have to be a cyclist to appreciate this book, it certainly helps.

There's so much more to say about this book and, rest assured, I will be writing much more about it. As I write this, Mike has just left Skegness and is making his way towards North Yorkshire, he's just met a man who is walking around the coast of Britain and that's as far as I've got. I'm actually looking forward to my train ride to work tomorrow – and it's all thanks to Mike Carter and his excellent book, One Man and His Bike (published by Ebury Press, incidentally).

For more about Mike Carter and, I think, links to photographs he took on the trip, click here.

For an article written by Mike about his ride around the coast of Britain, click here. I think you'll find pix here too.

For a review of Uneasy Rider by Mike Carter, click here.

As I said, expect more writing on this amazing cycling book in future posts.

Postscript, April 2017: I completed One Man and His Bike well over four years ago, but I felt it was worth informing my readers that Carter's book is a continual source of inspiration and something I reach for on many occasions, particularly if I'm feeling down in the dumps or in need of some instant happiness. There's nothing better, in fact, than reading a few pages at random and enjoying again Carter's fantastic cycling adventure around the coastline of the United Kingdom. Just thought I'd mention the book's longevity and the fact that, once read, it can be enjoyed again and again. I cannot praise this book enough.

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