Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Man Who Cycled the World

The Man Who Cycled the World
Mark Beaumont
Bantam Press 2009
419 pages

"After only 10km, I was exhausted.  My legs were fresh but my head dropped and my eyelids started slow-blinking.  The surge of adrenalin at the start had passed, and I felt shattered.  The last few weeks had been a series of ridiculous and unsustainable routines that had left me completely void of energy at the outset of my 18,000 mile cycle."

So begins the tale of Mark Beaumont, a Scottish adventurist who has decided to break the Guinness World record of cycling the world which at the time stood at 276 days.  As Mr. Beaumont explains "...I would have to cycle 18,000 miles, start and finish in the same place, go in one direction, and pass through two points on opposite sides of the world, among other criteria" (which included using the same bike).

Making the story even more interesting is the fact that the author has never been obsessed with cycling.  His younger passions included horseback riding and skiing.  It is never satisfactorily explained why he chose this particular epic and novel journey and it should be pointed out that this bike trip is a race.  Which means the author never has much opportunity to stay for very long in any one place.

With his head down and eyes focused on the route in front of him, the reader never gets the impression of reading a travel book by the likes of Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux.  Like Theroux portions are a repetitive litany of stats: "90m ascent, 179km, 32 degrees.  7.30 start, 8 and a half hours cycling in 11 hours and 5 mins...Really tough day.  So low on energy and left calf really sore.  Shit lunch and breakfast.  Shouted at police escort."

At 419 pages, the book does offer a nice long, winter read, curled up in your favourite spot and dreaming of cycling adventures of your own. Cycling around the world is a remarkable achievement and for those who have made long distance cycling trips, Mr. Beaumont's journey will astound you and you will be left shaking your head in amazement that he did in fact break the Guinness World record.

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