Bicycle Travel Book Recommendations
last update: "Two Wheels and a Map ..." 6/24/09

Here are the books that I have read. I've listed them in order of relevance to the prospective, cross-America bicycle tourist. From there it leads into accounts that include cycle touring in other countries, Europe, Africa, Asia, Russia, India, Nepal, Australia, and New Zealand.

My personal favorite, most highly recommended, and cherished is, "Miles From Nowhere," by Barbara Savage. It was a very inspirational book for me and many other travelers I've met. Read this first (or save it for last!).

Dervla Murphy's books are also among my personal favorites. I detect a kindred spirit here and love to read her books. "The Ukimwi Road" is my favorite, so far.

I enjoyed "Hurt City" for it's relevance to places I want to and have toured. Bob Voiland lives near me in metro Denver, so I suppose this helps, but his book is full of great information for anyone who wants to or has toured anywhere in the US.

I loved Sally Vantress's book, too. It's a story of personal awakening and enlightenment.

The rest are all good reading for anyone interested in cycle touring and armchair travel books. I've included brief descriptions and comments on each one below.

"Miles From Nowhere,"			by Barbara Savage
"Hurt City,"				by Bob Voiland
"Seeing Myself, Seeing the World," 	by Sally Vantress
    A Solo Journey Across America," 	by Richard A. Lovett.
"Pedaling Across America,"		by Donald and Lolly Skillman
"The Wind in My Wheels,"		by Josie Dew
"The Ukimwi Road,"    			by Dervla Murphy
"Pedaling the Ends of the Earth,"	by David Ewing Duncan
"Off the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia,"by Mark Jenkins
"Full Tilt,"          			by Dervla Murphy
"Two wheels around New Zealand"		by Scott Bischke.
"Gold Hill and Back,"			by Gary Wockner
"Ireland, a Bicycle, and a Tin Whistle" by David A. Wilson
"Miles From Nowhere" is THE classic. There are several chapters covering the US portion of a round the world trip starting in 1978. I'll bet that Barbara Savage's book has inspired thousands of people to bicycle tour. She is a true hero and wrote a very entertaining, down to earth book. This is a must have for the tour book collector's shelf. Get this book and read it!
In "Hurt City," Bob Voiland (in his fifties at the time) chronicles his feat of cycling in every one of the lower 48 United States, not all in one tour, but over the course of several. He also cycled over nearly every mountain pass in Colorado and includes maps and a guide. Bob has excellent information and general advice on the ins and outs of cycle touring. Anyone planning a long distance bicycle tour in the US will benefit greatly from reading this book.
Sally Vantress's book, "Seeing Myself, Seeing the World," is excellent and inspirational. Sally truly opens up and shares her inner self with the reader. She starts with a friend and ends up alone, proving to herself the positive power of her's and the human spirit. She rides across the US in the last chapter, and has probably the worst experience of her life.
"Free-Wheelin' : A Solo Journey Across America," by Richard A. Lovett, is a good, straight forward account of a cross country trip. He started in California by himself and dealt with knee pain and "letting go" for a couple of weeks before really hitting his stride. He got a mild case of giardia in Colorado. This is a good chronicle of cross USA riding. In one incident he meets some unfriendlies near Dubois, Wyoming, one being a cowboy who hates cyclists and throws a potato size rock at him.
"Pedaling Across America," is an account of near retirement age folks (two couples?) ride across the US. They stay in motels all the way and have a schedule, but still have enough interesting experiences to offer relevance and insight to the reader and prospective bike traveler.
"The Wind in My Wheels," by Josie Dew, chronicles her travels through Europe, Morocco, the Sahara, India, Iceland, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. I was especially enamored when I saw a picture of her technique for relieving her bladder when there's no place to hide (crouched by the side of the road wearing her poncho). She is a joyful English lass who has an amusing way of living and telling a story.
"Pedaling The Ends of the Earth." A great world wide tour and a good book, but I really didn't care for the young author's occasional egotistical attitude. He almost sounds like he was forced to go on this sponsored ride and doesn't quite "get it." It's mostly foreign countries. I can't remember how much US cycling is documented.

"The Ukimwi Road", by Dervla Murphy is great. I think I'm in love with this woman. I like to think that we'd make great traveling partners (a few beers in the evening is one of her top priorities). "The Ukimwi Road" is about a solo ride (an amazing ride) and all the related events in central, eastern Africa. Reading the first two pages will be enough for you to decide if you want to read the rest. This is the first bike trip she'd taken with a geared bicycle. I bet you'll become fascinated with this woman, her travels, and her writing.

Also by Dervla Murphy is, "Full Tilt." Dervla believes in carrying a firearm. At least it was a prominent and useful part of her equipment in 1962 when she rode across the middle east and Afghanistan on her first long tour from Ireland to India. She started in the middle of the worst winter in Europe in years and on a single gear bike. At one point, her sidearm scares away some interested wolves, and later, a too interested male "wolf."
"Two wheels around New Zealand" is the account of a young, bicycle touring, and traveling couple from Colorado, having a good time in New Zealand. They describe much of the South Island's roads and places, as they cycle, occassinally stopping to hike and do some fishing. I liked the book because it's about riding in the country that I am "saving for last" --- the best.
"Off the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia," by Mark Jenkins. I believe he is a journalist or previously published author. This is his account of being on the first multinational cycle team to ride across Siberia. He learns how to make his bike ride on the rail of railroad tracks when the mud is too deep and there is no more road. "Stay Alert for trains," is his advice. I enjoyed reading this book for the people, places and travel experiences.
"Gold Hill and Back," does not necessarily belong in this group. It's not about cycle touring, as such, but I think all cyclists will enjoy this book, Gary Wockner, an independent, non conformist, weaves whimsical tales from his life experiences and travels in the US and Japan, with the description of a fairly common, yet arduous day ride into the mountains from Boulder, Colorado to . . . Gold Hill and Back.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Ireland, a Bicycle, and a Tin Whistle." The author, David A. Wilson, is a professor of Celtic Studies in Toronto, so his insight into the history of Irish politics and music is very enlightening. This book is often more about those topics than cycling. He travels much the way I would. Between fun, relatively easy cycling days, and long grueling ones in wind and rain, he searches out, and stays up late at music sessions, drinking Guinness, talking with the locals, and occasionally playing along on his tin whistle. I was disappointed when he was unable to properly repair a flat, but that only made me want to go with him "next time," as I could take care of mechanical things, while he got us into (and out of) interesting situations (drinking 'til he dropped with the Irish Hell's Angels in Whitehead, deftly avoiding a confrontation with ultra IRA punks on a beach, feigning Protestant, Catholic or no religious leanings if, or as the situation required, lock-ins - illegal all nighters - drinking and playing music in the pub with locals, getting inside a true, traditional music session...) If you've read any of my stories, you'll easily understand why I liked this book so much.

"Two Wheels and a Map: A solo bicycle journey down the East Coast" Leaving behind an unfulfilling job in the New York film industry, Bob Neubauer set out on his bike to see what life was like on the rest of the East Coast. He meandered along rural back roads, meeting strangers, listening to their stories and enjoying their unexpected hospitality. But not everything went perfectly. Searing summer heat drained his energy, dog attacks and overzealous preachers kept him running, and he spent many a nervous night bedding down where he didn't belong. Through it all, the people who crossed his path, sometimes offering only a kind word, gave him the inspiration he needed to persevere. Two Wheels and a Map details Bob Neubauer's two-part solo bike journey from Bangor, Maine, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His amusing observations on the people and predicaments he encountered along the way give the book a lighthearted tone as it chronicles his life on the open road.

If you have a favorite bicycle touring book, or have read one that is not listed here, please feel free to send me a brief synopsis or review (as I've done), and I will gladly include it here, with an attribute to you.

Return to Travel Stories Page