His name is Colin Baird and he wants to see all of Scotland by bicycle. So says the short biography of ‘Cycling Scot’ on his website, CyclingScot.co.uk. He likes cycling, he likes Scotland… and he also likes cycling books. He even has a short hall of cycling book fame on the website; you will be familiar with the books he lists; they are the ‘classics’ of the cycle writing world written by the likes of Humphreys, Conway, Murphy et al.
Alas Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie has yet to make it onto Colin’s esteemed list but he has just written a review. Here are the highlights (although I’m delighted to report that there aren’t really any lowlights in what he writes…):
Andrew P. Sykes’ third cycling travel book sees him tackle 7,700km across 8 countries, from Spain to Norway. It is a detailed account of the cycle route, the scenery, towns and people that he meets along the way. The writing style makes you feel that you are right there, doing the route with Andrew. There is plenty of humour and interesting experiences to make this book a great read.
This is the first of this author’s cycling books that I have read. Most cycling travel books are one-offs where an author goes on a grand adventure, but Andrew P. Sykes has written about three different trips. If you like his writing style it means that you currently have three books to dig into. His writing is a mixture of factual details about the journey interspersed with dry wit and light humour. The jokes are not always laugh out loud, but they always brought a smile to my face. If you are planning to go on a similar trip from Spain to Norway then this book will prove invaluable for inspiration and practical tips and if you simply enjoy dreaming of taking these trips you are sure to love this book.
It is not just about the bike and the cycling, but also about the destinations. Andrew takes several rest days during his journey and uses these to explore some of the towns along the route, so the book gives a good idea of what these places are like from the author’s sightseeing experiences. You also get a good impression of the differences in the countries that he passes through because he records his observations, including what the cycling infrastructure is like. This is also a book about people as Andrew meets many other cyclists and locals along the way. He stays in a mixture of campsites and hotels, the former giving more of an opportunity to engage with fellow travellers. He also uses the Warm Showers website, a resource for cyclists to find free accommodation offered by other cyclists.
I liked the honesty of the author. When he has a bad day he tells you about it, he is upfront about the fact that cycle touring is not always brilliant. That said, he does have an excellent time for most of the journey and it is hard not to want to repeat his journey when you read the descriptions of the landscapes and idyllic campsites. I thought his writing about the experience of cycling through Norwegian tunnels was excellent. He really captured how scary this can be and I could feel myself shudder at the thought of the passing trucks.
What really comes across is that Andrew is not one of these one-off around the world adventure cyclists, but someone who just loves to explore the world by bike and keep doing it. He doesn’t pretend to be an adventurer and that’s the kind of writing that is going to inspire the rest of us to try this because it comes across as accessible and something that we could all give a go.
In fact, that was the whole review; highlights, lowlights, middlelights… The lot! Actually I do pretend to be an ‘adventurer’ but I don’t think I get away with it very often…
Thanks for the review Colin.
Colin’s website is well worth a few minutes of your time, especially if you are planning a visit north of the border. Mutual adoration all round 🙂 You can see how I got on on my own trip around Scotland back in 2014* by visiting this page of CyclingEurope.org. All ‘Scottish’ posts are here and you can find out about my most recent foray to the country – to Fort William and Ben Nevis (albeit not on the bike) – in August of this year by following this link. Here’s the film:
(*There is a connection between cycling in Scotland in 2014 and cycling from Spain to Norway in 2015, the journey upon which the book is based. With the coastline of northern Norway in mind and having never cycled in what I considered to be a ‘hostile environment’ before, my trip to the northern and western coasts of Scotland was in preparation for life on a bike north of the Arctic Circle. I have to say that Scotland in August 2014 threw the kind of weather in my face that Norway never managed to do in 2015 but it was nevertheless a wonderful, memorable trip…)
Photo credit (photo of Colin): Colin Baird
Header image (the Kyle of Durness): Andrew P. Sykes