Eat, Sleep, Ride by Paul Howard

13 Jun
Eat, Sleep, Ride by Paul Howard - Ride the Tour Divide

Eat, Sleep, Ride by Paul Howard

For the past few years I’ve followed the Tour Divide, a self-supported bike race that follows the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route—over 2,700 miles of mountains, snow, gravel roads, logging trails and muddy paths. Sometimes the trails are so bad that instead of riding it becomes a “hike-a-bike” session. The race starts each June in Banff, Alberta, Canada and ends at the border of Mexico in Antelope Wells, New Mexico (USA). I recently read Paul Howard’s account of his experiences during the 2009 Tour Divide. His book, Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide, is definitely worth your time!

Howard, a British citizen from southern England, never owned a mountain bike until he decided to race in the Tour Divide. His brief training for this ride was rather unorthodox—it appears as though he was willing to “wing it” and “learn by doing” (fortunately, he was a quick learner). In the Tour Divide riders are not allowed any planned support, nor are riders allowed to assist each other. Some riders sleep outside every night, while others are sometimes willing to pay for a hotel room for a few hours of rest and an opportunity to wash their clothes. Unlike many riders, Howard decided to travel the route without a camp stove or water filter, but did take a tent (instead of a bivvy bag).

Except for a few tire punctures, Howard’s bike apparently held up well during the ride. As is common in races like this, other cyclists were not so fortunate. Rugged mountain roads and bikes loaded down with gear are not a good combination—cyclists often have trouble keeping their wheels trued. Even if you are out in the woods truing a wheel is not that difficult if you have a spoke tool (they are found on most bicycle mini-tools). However, it seems that some tour riders never took the time to learn how to make simple repairs to their own bikes!

Howard has a rather dry sense of humor and his perspective on American customs and society is fun to read. Until this race he had never been in a Walmart before (what a lucky guy). On more than one occasion he made snide comments about how fat many Americans are—I’m just glad he didn’t visit a Walmart in Wisconsin!

Eat, Sleep, Ride is very well written and a joy to read. Instead of providing professional maps, this book has maps that look like they were drawn by a bored high school student—this is actually a compliment! Though the maps are hand-drawn and not to scale, I actually liked them better than in any other adventure cycling book I’ve ever read.

I do have two criticisms of the book. First, there is not a single photograph in the book! Second, though it is not absolutely necessary, I prefer adventure cycling books to include a detailed gear checklist (I like to know exactly what distance cyclists take with them on their journeys).

Eat, Sleep, Ride is available as a paperback book (272 pages) and retails for $17, but you can find it on for under $12. It is also available in the Kindle edition for $10.


Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Book Reviews


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18 responses to “Eat, Sleep, Ride by Paul Howard

  1. billgncs

    June 13, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    they did a movie about it too:

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 13, 2012 at 8:43 AM

      Bill — I have the DVD and really enjoyed it — I am going to write a review for it next month

  2. Cherry

    June 13, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Great review! I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I did too!! As a roadie, I didn’t know such a grand tour exists prior to reading the book.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM

      Cherry — this is definitely not a race for roadies (or those who don’t like lugging their bikes through the snow)

      • Cherry

        June 13, 2012 at 9:46 PM

        hah, definitely not!! I’m well aware unless I want a flat once every 2 seconds 😉

  3. Kalli and Bill

    June 13, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    i read jill homers book about the continental divide and loved it!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 13, 2012 at 4:42 PM

      I reviewed Jill’s book last year — I would love to meet her sometime — she moves at a faster pace than most riders on the Tour Divide

  4. portajohn

    June 13, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    Just read this book myself a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed it and had pretty much similar thoughts as you did. My only other criticism is that I think he played up the whole “I’m a bumbling fool, maybe I won’t make it to the finish line” too much as it seemed like he adapted to 60-100 mile per day paces within a day or two.

  5. thefossman

    June 13, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    Great review. On top of that, I’m blessed to work with a gentleman (I use the term loosely with a big grin) who covers the ride on a podcast. Check him out here:

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      June 13, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      Thanks for the link! The folks who finish this race are incredible!

      • thefossman

        June 17, 2012 at 2:52 PM

        You are correct. I also think they’re rather incredible for taking on the challenge! You can look at the ratio of rookies to veterans and see what I mean.

  6. Anna

    June 13, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    Good timing! I’m just loading up my kindle ready for a two week holiday…..just might add this one in! Thanks!

  7. Anita Mac

    June 17, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    Very cool. Not my cup of tea as I am a roadie/cycle tourer (of the on road kind!!) I can only imagine the great stuff he did and saw.
    Gear lists are so tough – they can be so variable! Personal preference can make a big difference too! When I set out across Canada on my bike, my gear and priorities changed as the ride progressed! I was glad for the postal service – when something I wanted to keep was no longer needed – post it! The biggest gear change happened after Labour Day – the days changed and the nights got cooler – luckily I was able to rotate through some of my stuff!

  8. Libby

    July 12, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    I just finished reading it this early morning and loved it. As someone who just did the Alberta Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer (on a hybrid with mtn. bike gears) I can relate to him adjusting to the long ride but still feeling like a bumbling gump so his continued take on that bit didn’t even faze me. I understand wanting to quit but just keep going anyways with little things that revive your energy (I was about as prepared as he was for my ride as he was for his).
    I did wish he had at least ONE photo of himself and the bike…or at least the bike itself all decked out.
    I think anyone who got to at least Sparwood is amazing, never mind finishing the whole race! (They’re incredible or just numb!)
    I especially got a chuckle out of his encounter with the roadies and his perspective on North American behaviour.
    Thanks for the good review. Have you read Neil Peart’s “Ghost Rider”? He rode through Cameroon on a 10 speed! (no fancy roadways there for his ride!)

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      July 12, 2012 at 2:14 PM

      Glad you liked the review! I have a copy of “Ghost Rider” at home — it is in a stack of about 20 other cycling books I want to read and review within the next year.


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