Cycling in Britain is undergoing a long-overdue renaissance, but media presentation tends to focus, somewhat scornfully, on the widespread ‘mamil’, the middle-aged man in lycra, a new cyclist whose unathletic physique is poorly disguised by his skin-tight get-up, and is often to be found in on an absurdly (for his level of fitness) expensive carbon bike. Escape By Bike features detailed guidance on the various types of trekking and adventure bike suitable for the different kinds of terrain he encountered en route. Cunningham is fully in favour of high-quality gear, if carefully chosen: ‘Good gear can and will often make touring easier. Having a good down jacket and comfy shorts – not to mention a reliable bike – will often free up mental space to enjoy the ride.’
But it can – and should – be done without, if that’s what circumstances dictate. ‘I remember meeting a girl in Tajikistan who had gone backpacking in China, then met a cycle tourist and was besotted by their experiences,”’ recalls Cunningham. ‘So she salvaged a rusty bike, and strapped some jerry cans to the side of it as panniers. It got her from Kashgar to Tbilisi, across some of the most testing terrain on the planet.’
Escape By Bike is packed with insight and information regular cyclists can learn from, and as a go-to guide for planning a first cycling trip, it’s invaluable. For Cunningham, however, the readers he hopes to find above all are ‘people who aren’t already cyclists, but are interested in travel and seeing the world from a unique perspective’.
Matthew Wright @ theartsdesk.com