Category Archives: People

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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New cycling book does battle for the climate…

Cycling books seem to come thicker and faster with each passing year. I imagine e-publishing has made self-publishing so much simpler: but e-books are a mixed bag in my experience. So, I was very pleased to come across, “The Bicycle Diaries: my 21000 mile ride for the climate by David Kroodsma – it sounds very promising.

David is an environmental activist, climate scientist, journalist and cycle enthusiast. His book tells the tale of a bike ride he made from California to the southern-most tip of South America.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only does the book promise to detail his route, adventures, challenges and engagement with the people he meets (David speaks Spanish and I am sure this added much to the richness of these meetings), but also he uses the cycling adventure to explore and illustrate people’s views and concerns about climate travel and its effects.  This added element promises to lift the book well above most ordinary travel diaries.

David has a website at and more importantly, a Kickstarter Page (with an excellent video trailer for his book) where you can pre-order a copy while helping to fund the project.

The book is billed to appear in February 2014.

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Inspirational Mountain Biking Video

We have thought about taking up trail or mountain biking a few times, especially over the winter months, but somehow it has never happened. One big dampener was coming across a mountain biker with a horribly dislocated knee on a forest walk one day. It was many years ago now, but the image of that knee still haunts me. Perhaps it’s time to get over this, however.

If ever I do, this video from Filme von Draussen will surely prove to have been one catalyst: it’s a true inspiration and beautifully shot and edited.  Well worth a watch and great to see people at their best, even if you are not one for the mountains.  Maybe I’ll make up a set of cycling resolutions for the coming year – now there’s a thought!

The universe is conspiring to help us : Kevin Kelly’s take

Kevin Kelly is a very interesting man with a very interesting back story.  He was a founder of Wired Magazine and cycle toured in the States as a young man.  I first came across him when he published a book of haiku drawn from his trip.  Later he travelled widely in the far east, picking up some arresting ideas that counter many of our western perspectives.

In this essay he develops his theory with reference to cycle touring and how we can help ourselves by accommodating other’s predisposition to help us – if we first cultivate the correct approach and attitude.

If you can, listen before you read.  He has a great voice for story telling.

Stephen Bilenky’s bike building is truly inspirational

Apparently Stephen Bilensky has been building bikes for over 30 years. He certainly builds beautiful bikes.  Just look at this:

Art and craft combine beautifully

Art and craft combine beautifully

But there is more to these bikes than skin deep beauty. Bilensky starts from a belief that every bike is a worthy soul and nothing ought to be thrown away if it might one day be restored or re-purposed. He offers a challenge to the current view that bikes are mass market consumer products with built in obsolescence. Watching this wonderful video interview brought me up short and gave me lots to think about.




Two on Four Wheels die in Thailand

There are some days that just start off sad.  Too sad really. Unfairly sad. Unreasonably sad. Today was one such beginning with the news that Peter Root and Mary Thompson (Two on Four Wheels) have been killed while cycling in Thailand.

Peter and Mary R.I.P.

Peter and Mary R.I.P.

The news came to me via a touching tribute video posted on Vimeo by Tom Waugh.  It catches their warmth and matter of fact bravery so well.

I spent sometime today replaying some of their videos on Vimeo.  I have decided this one of their trip  through Turkey into Iran is my favourite.  It has all of their humour and love of life and shows them typically comfortable around and loved by all of the people they met on their trip.

They were clearly a very special couple and have been taken from us way too soon.  It should not have ended this way. Their videos showed them so full of life and so talented in so many ways. My thoughts go out to their families and friends and to them both. Rest in peace and know that you touched many, many lives as you passed by.

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Janapar: love, on a bike makes for great viewing.


Santa brought my wife a copy of the DVD, “Janapar: love, on a bike” this Christmas.  Funny how well he knows what she would like, now she no longer writes him letters.

to see one of the first screenings of this fil...

to see one of the first screenings of this film #janapar … (Photo credit: Knebworth Chap)

Janapar was filmed by Tom Allen and tells two stories rolled into one movie.  First, there is the tale of his round the world 12000 mile cycle tour; and second, there is the story of his meeting Tenny, an Iranian girl living in Armenia and falling in love with her.  The two threads travel together pretty well, but it’s the love story that makes the DVD exceptional.

The film is very cleverly sequenced with inter-cut scenes over a number of months and years and this helps keep the attention of those interested in the cycling on the one hand and the romance on the other.  This gives this movie an extra dimension and tension that most travel videos lack.

I’d encourage everyone to buy this DVD and watch it so I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I will say that my wife and I came away well pleased that we had watched it.  For me the film came alive each time the charming and very photogenic Tenny was in the scenes, but the travelogue scenes were also well filmed and often very evocative.  The African scenes especially brought the adventure to life – and convinced me that this is one adventure I will leave to others!  I am passed the point when I can afford to contemplate spending a couple of years chained to some pirate’s radiator or recovering on the road from a bout of malaria.

The film is at it’s best when we are worried about the future of a charming young couple who met and fell in love, but who had to wrestle with Tom’s dream of traveling around the world on his bicycle.  It’s available on DVD and its also on release, and for special screenings.  (See these details.)

Highly recommended with 5 stars.

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The Escape Artist by Matt Seaton Reviewed

The Escape Artist

The Escape Artist

The Escape Artist: Life from the saddle, by Matt Seaton. Published by Fourth Estate, London in 2003.

It took me a little time to realise that this is the same Matt Seaton who writes the ‘two wheels’ column for the Guardian.  A collection of these columns is available in book form and reviewed in this blog.

Matt Seaton

Matt Seaton (Photo credit: hairyeggg)

As I have said before, Matt Seaton is a great combination of cycling enthusiast and very able wordsmith.  He is very clever with words and can use them to great effect.

Take his title as an example.  Here, ‘the escape artist’ neatly bridges his early experience as an amateur racing cyclist and the darker and sadder second half of this book that deals with his wife’s fight against terminal cancer.  Cycling for a time gives moments of escape from this grim reality.

Don’t get the impression, however, that this is a depressing book.  Far from it.  The early chapters are full of funny moments.  You get some great detail on the business of being an aspiring road racer. Throughout the book the warmth of the family relations shines through.  Even as events inevitably turn downwards and darker, the book lifts the spirit more than it depresses.

I have read this book several times and will read it again for sure.  It’s a very fine book that reminds us that fine writing can help us deal with hard truths.

The Escape Artist: Life from the saddle, by Matt Seaton. Published by Fourth Estate, London in 2003.  Recommended with 5 stars.

Matt Seaton’s profile page at the Guardian is here.

Thunder and Sunshine: around the world by bike, part 2 by Alastair Humphreys

Alastair Humphreys (2007) Thunder and Sunshine: around the world by bike, part 2. Eye Books Limited, London.

The Making of an Adventurer

The Making of an Adventurer

I think I must have read this first just after it was published. Reading it a second time recently, I was left wondering why I was less enthusiastic than I expected to be.

My reaction puzzles me because there is so much apparently to admire:

  • his was a fantastic achievement – cycling around the world over four years, covering 72,000km
  • he writes really well and has an exceptional  ability to describe the terrain he is riding through
  • the book is not without humour and in a sense its a page-turner that flows along.

Yet, somehow it left me underwhelmed.  I think I know why. Its a book written by an exceptional young man with huge drive and determination to find his own way in the world, not following anyone else’s path.  The problem doesn’t lie with the book, but with me.

This is a book written by a young man willing to take on journeys I would not contemplate.  There are no conceivable circumstances in which I would cycle across Siberia in winter.  None. So the book has less relevance for me than many others.  I get what Anne Mustoe is about and can imagine taking on her cycling regime: Alastair might as well be cycling on another planet he is so far beyond my aspirations.

This is not to rubbish his book.  It’s a very good read and it has clearly provided him with a platform for greater things and the origins of a personal philosophy and direction for the way he wants to live his life.  Good luck to him.  I should thank him for helping spell out where my red lines are: somewhere short of Siberia I guess.

There is a mass of other stuff of his on the web, and jolly interesting it is too. I especially like this:

Alastair Humphreys (2007) Thunder and Sunshine: around the world by bike, part 2. Eye Books Limited, London. Recommended with 3 stars.