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Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie

30 Mar
Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie

Good Vibrations

I’ve always wanted to go on a month-long cycling trip, but until I can find the time to do so I have to settle on reading the adventures of other cyclists. A few weeks ago Andrew P. Sykes sent me a copy of his new book, Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie, and asked me to review it. The book is about his 2010 journey from his home in the south of England to a villa in the heel of Italy—a trip of over 1,800 miles (3,000km) that was completed in 37 days.

Sykes was not exactly an experienced distance-cyclist before this trip. In fact, he describes himself as “a fat middle-aged bloke” who teaches French at a secondary school in southern England. After two years of planning Sykes loaded up his panniers with clothing, maps, a few guide books, a sleeping bag, a camping mat, a medical kit and a repair kit for his bike. Sykes called his bike Reggie, which is short for Reggie Ridgeback Panorama (if you don’t have a nickname for each of your bikes you’re not much of a cyclist). In case you were wondering, Ridgeback Panorama is the name of a moderately priced British Cro Moly touring bike.

The adventure begins with Sykes wondering if he was going to be lonely on the trip since he was traveling alone. However, this appears to have never been the case—he found friendly and talkative people all the way from England to Italy. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is his description of sleeping in a tent in small campgrounds. I don’t think I would have any trouble cycling the miles (or kilometers) that Sykes did on a daily basis, but sleeping in a tent after a ride would definitely wear me down. He also devotes a few paragraphs to describe what it is like to share your tent with hungry mosquitoes—something I would rather avoid.

Since I cycle in all weather conditions I really hadn’t given touring cyclists much credit for spending hours in the rain—I do it all the time. However, after I’ve spent a few hours riding in the rain I come home to a nice dry house, grab a warm shower and my sweet wife launders my dirty clothing. When you are riding across several countries by bike and sleeping in a tent washing your clothing is rather difficult and there are times your washed clothing just doesn’t want to dry out.

My favorite part of the book was his time in Switzerland, and especially his approach to the St. Gotthard Pass and the crossing of the Swiss Alps. While I am no longer a Clydesdale, I am still not the lightest cyclist and hills are my least favorite part of cycling—we don’t have any mountains in my part of the world, so anyone who can cross the Alps on a bike really impresses me!

Every time a read a book about adventure cycling I try to learn from the mistakes of others. Sykes had the misfortune of breaking spokes on Reggie twice while on his journey—and neither time was he near a bicycle repair shop. If he had taken a few extra spokes with him he could have saved himself a lot of time and trouble. Spare spokes weight next to nothing and you can usually carry them in the seat tube of your bike. Even a basic bicycle multitool will often have a small device for repairing spokes—all you have to do is turn your bicycle upside down and use the brake pads as improvised calipers and the bike fork as a makeshift truing stand.

Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie is available as a paperback book for around $18 from Amazon.com, and in a Kindle edition for under $4. Sykes employs a relaxed writing style throughout the book and I am certain anyone interested in adventure cycling would really enjoy it.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, there are a couple of things I would suggest Sykes change before the second edition. First, the photographs in the book are rather small and a book like this just begs for larger photos. Second, while there is a small map at the beginning of the book I think a few more detailed maps would really help those of us who don’t live in Europe. Lastly, Sykes uses several foreign (to me) phrases and I really would have appreciated a translation of the words—I could usually make out the intended thought by looking at the context, but that slows the reading down a bit.

Sykes is already planning a trip from Athens, Greece to Cadiz, Spain for the summer of 2013. You can follow his adventures by visiting his Website, CyclingEurope.org.

 
17 Comments

Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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17 responses to “Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie

  1. IsobelandCat

    March 30, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Sounds like a good gift for someone I know. Thanks for the review.
    And thanks for visiting my page and leaving ‘likes’. 🙂

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 30, 2012 at 1:02 PM

      Yes, this would be a great gift for any cyclist or for someone who enjoys traveling.

       
  2. anniebikes

    March 30, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Thanks for reviewing books. I love to read about someone else’s adventures.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 30, 2012 at 1:02 PM

      anniebikes, I enjoy reading books like this because they motivate me to ride more each day!

       
  3. Andrew

    March 30, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Many thanks for the review; I hope it encourages the USA to start loving my book in the same way that people over here in the UK have been loving it since I published last autumn (sorry, fall!).
    Your comments about the pictures and the maps are noted and I will look to improve them in future editions. That said, the eBook does now include web links that will take the reader directly to the Good Vibrations Facebook page where all of the pictures from the trip can be seen in glorious digital quality and by visiting the Eurovelo 5 page of CyclingEurope.org you can find links to more detailed maps etc…
    Thanks again & happy cycling!
    Andrew
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Good-Vibrations-Crossing-Europe-on-a-Bike-Called-Reggie/200327756726635?ref=tn_tnmn
    CyclingEurope.org Eurovelo 5: http://cyclingeurope.org/eurovelo-5-2010-2/

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 30, 2012 at 1:03 PM

      Andrew, thanks for the links to the photos — they really add a lot to the story!

       
  4. Bill Wiencek

    March 30, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    This book is A great read. I would recommend it to any one that is into cycling not just the cycle tourist. @RaleighTourist

     
  5. AndrewGills

    March 31, 2012 at 6:01 AM

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll get my partner to buy it on her kindle so that I can read it (have bought too many books lately so have to go the cheap option)

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 31, 2012 at 8:50 PM

      Andrew, the Kindle edition will certainly save you some cash. I spend half of my life working on a computer, but when I read a book for enjoyment I still prefer paper!

       
      • AndrewGills

        April 1, 2012 at 7:22 AM

        I generally prefer real books too but having spent $100 on adventure racing and navigation books last month I think I need to behave myself of I’ll never be able to buy the new 4-season bivy bag I need for my hike next March 😉 Or the other myriad of little things like water purifier and boots and new compass and map set and guide book … oh dear – definitely will have to stick to the Kindle version 😦

         
  6. Urban Rider

    March 31, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    I’m currently halfway through a book called “Round Ireland in Low Gear” Written by ric Newby in 1987. He and his wife took a bike trip in the winter around Ireland and it’s mostly in the rain.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 31, 2012 at 8:49 PM

      Urban Rider, that book sounds like an interesting read — I’ll have to put it on my list of “books to read.”

       
  7. DummyDiva

    April 1, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    I enjoy reading these kinds of books also. Check out BE BRAVE BE STRONG, by Jill Homer and EAT SLEEP RIDE by Paul Howard (I believe he’s from England). Both accounts about the Divide Ride through the US.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 1, 2012 at 8:55 PM

      I bought “Be Brave, Be Strong” a few weeks ago, but haven’t had time to look at it yet. I’ll have to get a copy of “Eat, Sleep, Ride” (but I have about 20 other books to read first).

       
  8. Tom

    April 2, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    Thanks for the “like” on my blog, and for this book review. I’m off to get the Kindle version.

     
  9. Andrew

    January 27, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    Reblogged this on CyclingEurope.org.

     

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