Sunday, January 11, 2009

Resources for Designing Your European Bicycle Tour Route #3 - Books

Our first post introduced the Eurovelo long distance bicycle touring network in Europe and our second post introduced you to critical maps to help you design your tour route. This post deals with resource books - both the good, the bad and the mediocre.

There are 3 Kinds of Bicycle Touring Books

1) Bicycle touring narratives;
2) "How to" books: how to pack, how to camp, how to cook, and more.
3) Bicycle tour route books: there are a small number of really great books in this category. There are lots of terrible books that fit here.

Bicycle Touring Narratives

There are a few classic bicycle touring narratives out there. You should read them, not because they'll help you prepare for your trip, but because they are great travel literature and they'll help get you psyched for your trip. The definitive bibliography of this literature is an ongoing project of Dr. Duncan Jamieson, a history professor at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. You can see his bibliography here.

But here are a few classic volumes that you might want to peruse:

Barbara Savage, Miles from Nowhere: A Round the World Bicycle Adventure (Paperback), first published by the Mountaineers in 1985. A great narrative of a two-year round-the-world bicycle tour by Savage and her husband. Tragically, the author was killed in a bike/car crash in California right before the book was published.

Andrew X. Pham, Catfish & Mandala, A vietnamese Odyssey (Flamingo/HarperCollins, 2000 and 2001); a memoir by a Vietnamese American who returns to Vietnam by bicycle to find himself. A real adventure in all senses of the word.

Dervla Murphy, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle (first published in 1965). If you don't know Dervla Murphy, this is a great way to start.

Mark Jenkins, Off the Map, Bicycling Across Siberia, (William Morrow and Company, 1992) a great adventure of pedaling across Siberia right after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"How to" bicycle touring books

We're not fans of "how to books." We just don't think that there is nearly as much to be gained from reading something called The Essential Touring Cyclist: A Complete Guide for the Bicycle Traveler as there is in reading some of the more entertaining travel literature cited above. Take a look on Amazon, though, and surf the web. You may find something that strikes your fancy. The following category has more to offer for your planning.

Bicycle Touring Route Books

Watch out! Some of these are great, most are just reruns of "how I spent my summer bicycling across Italy."

Seriously, most bicycle touring books that purport to tell you about bicycling in Italy, France, or wherever, are just a narrative of a ride somebody took. The problem with this kind of book is that they took one ride across Italy, Tuscany, or wherever and wrote it up. That makes them an expert? If I were you I'd want to know the BEST route across Italy or France, not the one John Doe took.

Good route books:
A couple of series of books are quite good, but be careful. The Lonely Planet Cycling Guide Series is pretty good but only if you get the second or later editon! First editions are often no better than Joe Blow bicycling someplace once and writing it up. So scout, for example for anything but the first edition of Cycling Britain, Cycling Italy, and so on.

One great series, and we can hope other series will come out, are the German BikeLine
route guides. These guides combine detailed maps for an entire route along with a step-by-step guide. The focus on some of the classic routes in Europe: Down the Danube, the Moselle, the Rhine, and other river rides.

Some of the Bikeline guides are available in English (the Danube for sure) if you can find them. Otherwise, its worth ordering the German version and using it just for the maps.

You can find the publisher's web site by clicking here. If they cover your region or the area you are headed to, this is your book series.

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