The man who cycled the world by Mark Beaumont
Mark Beaumont came to prominence when he set off to break the world record at circumnavigating the world on a bicycle, covering a minimum of 18,000 miles, going in one direction and cycling in both hemispheres (terms and conditions of the Guinness book of records). But it wasn’t just his record attempt that brought him to our attention. He planned the whole venture to be a mainly self-recorded journey, using all the portable modern technology available to him at the time, so that it could be converted into a documentary series for television.
In other words, he had the wisdom and foresight not only to go for the world record (which, in fact, he only held onto for a matter of weeks), but at the same time to almost virtually pioneer a method of self-recording the attempt, to a level of quality that would attract the attention of the BBC, and thus launch his career as an adventurer, documentary-maker and author.
I am always very tentative when I pick up books that are first accounts of such ventures. Many are poorly written, offer a journal-like description of the journey (eg. we did this, then we did that…..) and frequently give the reader far too much detail of the mile-by-mile experience, bicycle specifications, kit lists, food eaten etc…….. These details may be important to the author, but the general reader quickly tires of the predictable formulaic style of writing.
Beaumont’s book, however, doesn’t fall into that trap. He tells us a lot about the “touchy-feely” aspects of the journey (the saddle sores, the knee problems, the headwinds…..but also many of the joys) but, more importantly, he relishes sharing the details of the people he met along the way, the cultural and linguistic challenges he encountered, the potential threats to his life both from people and the insect world (eg. tarantulas in Australia)…..and much more. His narrative could make much more of some of the tense moments of his journey, but he neatly avoids the danger of over-egging his experiences, where the reader may begin to suspect unnecessary embellishment for effect.
This is a very worthy travel volume from an adventure traveller who pushed himself to extraordinary limits to achieve his goal…..that of cycling around the world unsupported, in the hope of breaking the world record.