CYCLING BY PROXY – other people’s fun

I’ve just ridden across France, up the Alps and then the whole length of New Zealand. It only took me a couple of weeks and I hardly raised a sweat. Because I did it by reading.

My own cycling recently has been limited to gentle rides to the rehearsal room.

I’ve been pleasantly tied up working on a couple of new theatre shows. You’ll doubtless hear more about them on this blog as the time to buy tickets approaches.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying reading about two other people’s cycling feats and had the pleasure of meeting the writers.

Steven Herrick is one of my fellow Australian children’s authors, a very popular poet and successful writer of young adult fiction. He’s also a keen touring cyclist.

Steven Herrick kindly waits for me at the bottom of the climb.

Steven Herrick kindly waits for me at the bottom of the climb.

I’ve trailed in his wake a couple of times, most recently when he took me deep down into the Megalong Valley in the NSW Blue Mountains…and up again.

Last year, he rode across France beside the Loire River, then followed this up with a few climbs up notorious Tour de France monsters – Mont Ventoux and the Alp d’Huez among them.

He wrote about his adventures and self-published the book, Baguettes and Bicycles. It’s available in e-form from Amazon, and I’ll be very interested to hear from Steven how this experimental publishing venture works out for him.

I met Frank Burns through the blogosphere. I’ve been following his entertaining blog Serendipities of Life about cycling in the UK for some time, and this year he headed south, and rode New Zealand from top to bottom, clocking up thousands of kilometres and raising many thousands of dollars for the Save the Children Fund.

Yesterday we met up for lunch in Sydney, before he set off to ride to Melbourne. I’m most impressed!

Slightly shady figures - match-fit  Frank and off-season Richard.

Slightly shady figures – match-fit Frank and off-season Richard.

There are serious difficulties for those planning to write about cycle touring. As a rider, you want clear skies, tailwinds, little traffic, manageable climbs and a good meal, cheap beer and a warm bed at the end of the day. As a writer you need things to go wrong. The worse the disaster, the better the story.

Sure you can exaggerate your own incompetence in navigation, hill-climbing and ordering a meal in French. You can magnify the gradients, headwinds and thunderstorms. But unless you’re captured by rebels or trapped under a rockfall, many days on the road are much the same. “I got up, I rode (X)km, I found a B&B/hotel/campsite…” doesn’t promise on the face of it to make exciting reading.

To their great credit, both Steven and Frank have managed to make ‘ordinary’ adventures a lot of fun to follow vicariously. I much admire their cycling feats, and they’ve written about them in a way that makes me feel, ‘Gee, I’d enjoy doing that.’ Perhaps one day I will. Perhaps one day soon.


Filed under Cycle touring, Writing

5 responses to “CYCLING BY PROXY – other people’s fun

  1. Good post. My son told me he is buying a new bike to cycle to work – I told him he could have mine – he laughed – it’s nearly twenty years old – ‘it belongs in a museum’, he said. Hurt by this rejection of a generous offer I am going to get it serviced and do some cycling this spring.

  2. I’m still researching for a girly girl bike, one day I might be a confident enough rider to consider some serious cycling.

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