Along the Med on a bike called Reggie: Andrew Sykes
Before I say anything about this volume, let me tell you where I’m coming from. After more than 35 years of long distance cycling, and with a catalogue of adventure cycling books already read (and some abandoned after only the first chapters), I came to the reading of Andrew Sykes’s Along the Med on a bike called Reggie with a certain hesitation…….indeed, I wasn’t sure about it.
The cover suggested either the author was a menopausal male trying to catch up on missed opportunities in life, or he was one of those ‘born-again’ cyclists who may come across as a ‘fresh-faced cycling evangelical’. And I definitely wasn’t sure about the anthropomorphism of naming the bike……. but this clearly doesn’t rank alongside people who imagine dialogues with their bikes (yes, believe me, they do), or store their bikes in their bedrooms for reasons other than security.
However, this is what I actually found when I read this book. Knowing, as I do, the extended routine of the long distance cyclist, the repetitive timetable from day to day, which focuses around those elemental things like eating, sleeping, re-hydration, riding the bike hour after hour, map reading, staring at the road ahead………I know how difficult it can be for the narrator to keep the reader engaged. The solo traveller is just that…….a solo traveller, on his/her own for many hours every day, frequently disengaged with the world around him/her. Dare I say that even Bill Bryson appears to be disengaged sometimes, and his writing can lose a certain substance from time to time.
Andrew Sykes, on the other hand, does have a voice, a narrative, a story to tell……..and his style is almost conversational. There is a ‘stream of consciousness’ thread throughout his narrative (capturing the thoughts that run through his mind on the bike) that kept me engaged to the end. Yes, a lot of campsites and hotels feature, so do the meals and the drinks he has consumed, as well as the repetitive map reading, accommodation booking, physical aches and pains……..but, fortunately, they all sit comfortably amongst a lot of perceptive comments about his surroundings, witty observations about things he passes, and a little post-ride research fills in the gaps with many interesting details.
Thousands have done, and are doing, transcontinental bike rides just like this one, but not many can tell their stories in quite such an engaging way.
Watch out for his forthcoming volume Heading north on a bike called Reggie.