Book review: The Cycle Tourist, a great guide for beginners
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It all started innocently enough. Gary Corbett was in dire need of a holiday and thought he would do something a little different, so he signed up for an organised bike tour along the Loire River in France. It was an obvious place for a cycling holiday – France, home of Le Tour, the world's most famous bicycle touring race. But the experience opened up a world of amazing adventures well beyond Europe's borders.
Thirteen years on and the retired journalist has now cycled more than 30,000km in different countries around the world, his latest destination being Colombia. For Gary, as with almost anyone who has been on a bike tour would attest to, cycling holidays – whether guided or self-supported – have become an addiction. In his new book, The Cycle Tourist, Corbett invites newcomers to share in the intoxicating fun.
“It can't be said any clearer, there is simply no better way – and I mean NO BETTER WAY – to see the world than from the seat of a bicycle on a bicycle tour,” he says in the opening chapter. “The people you meet along the way become your friends, the sights are more beautiful then those seen from a car or a bus, the smells are real and the world in general just seems to be a better place.”
Without a doubt, cycle touring does have an odd way of reaffirming our faith in humanity. Perhaps it is because there is a certain level of vulnerability that comes with exploring unknown places using your own pedal power. For many, that feeling of vulnerability is what holds them back from taking that first bike trip. It is an impasse that Corbett aims to break down in his book, which details everything a beginner needs to know, from what to check when booking an organised bicycle tour to what to carry when making a self-supported journey.
The Cycle Tourist is an incredibly detailed guide divided into chapters that deal with both organised tours and how to go it alone. It leaves no leaf unturned for a nervous beginner who wants to know exactly what they'll be getting themselves into. For organised trips, Corbett details how to best plan an overseas cycle tour, what is and isn't included in the costs, the pros and cons of guided versus self-guided trips, the key questions you need to ask to make sure you pick the right tour for your style and ability, what to wear, training and fitness levels and even what the tour companies are thinking.
For those more interested in planning a self-supported trip, Corbett covers everything from the best times to ride around the world, what to take, how much weight to carry, what to ride, the ideal gearing set-up, how to customise your bike and comfortable saddles as well as tips on how to deal with the doomsayers.
“Accept the fact that it is only natural for family and friends to worry while you are away, but don't let that deter you, just follow your dreams,” says Corbett.
If you've got questions about cycle touring, there's a good chance Corbett has already answered them. The Cycle Tourist is a comprehensive guide to bicycle travel that will help build the confidence of any newcomer that is questioning their ability to go on a cycling holiday.
Gary Corbett's 'The Cycle Tourist' is available to download on Amazon.
Images from top: 1. Gary Corbett on a guided tour in Italy in 2012. 2. Cover: The Cycle Tourist, by Gary Corbett.