Every outdoorsman, exercise fan or anyone that has felt the freedom that riding a bike can offer, has had at one time or another the idea of hitting the road and get to know the world. Friedel and Andrew Grant not only had that dream, too, they actually went for it and have traveled 60,000 kilometers (37,500 miles) on two wheels. In their Bike Touring Survival Guide they teach us how to move from the dream to the road and come back home safe.
The book is divided in two very specific parts. The first one is “Life on the Road” in which this husband-and-wife combo teaches us how they have been able to travel the world by bike. Even though an adventure like theirs is not for everyone, they do show you how it is not beyond your grasp if you really want to go for it. They also guide you step by step on the different things you should be prepared for on a trip of this caliber which can go from a couple hundred miles from your home to thousands upon thousands of miles across the continents.
The second part of the book is much more technical. It is about bike and camping gear maintenance. Things like how to take care of your rims, tires, frame, tents, sleeping bags, stoves, water filters, etc. All these are keys for you to enjoy your experience on the saddle and be able to enjoy it in the meantime.
This is an experience-based book and touches on multiple points that will lead you to a successful trip, things that we may have never thought of, like where to go to the bathroom, how should a woman bike through a Muslim country or how to pack your bike depending on the transportation method you will be using to get to and from your destination.
One of the most important things we learned is to be open to changes as your journey progresses. Don’t feel obligated to travel every single inch pedaling your bike. Feel free to jump on a bus or train or truck should you have to in order to keep moving, avoid hazardous conditions or just take a deserved break. This point alone will keep your of world and self exploration voyage as a joy instead of letting it become a stress that will just ruin it for you and your companion(s).
I read this book because The Amateur Traveler asked me to review it and not because I was planning a long bike trip. But as I read it I started realizing that such a trip may be more tangible that I ever thought. It got me thinking of where to go, how to do it and how much time would it take. So who knows, I may take one sometime soon.
The only thing that was a little bit disappointing from the book was the lack of personal anecdotes and stories to illustrate the different passages. Yes, the authors briefly touched on those but maybe not in the detail that a reader like me would have enjoyed. But that is just a personal preference not a judgment on the worthiness of the book.