News & Stories
The 100 Bike Rides of A Lifetime
I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new book The 100 Bike Rides of A Lifetime (November 2023), by National Geographic Books. It’s a project I have been working on for some time this past year and has truly been one of the most enjoyable commissions I’ve ever had – working with a great team of people at National Geographic, while researching and writing about something so near and dear to my heart.
I’ve always been a keen cyclist, eager to explore the world on two skinny wheels ever since I got my first bike, a clunky secondhand Schwinn when I was seven years old. My first-ever contribution to National Geographic Magazine in fact was a three-part series about my solo, nine-month 10,000-mile cycling odyssey through the Australian outback.
In the years since then I’ve ridden bicycles all over the world, on every continent, either touring on expeditions of my own or hiring or borrowing bicycles as local transport while on magazine assignments. Once, years ago, I even managed a ride at the South Pole, while researching a story about science in Antarctica. Borrowing an astrophysicist’s studded-tyre mountain bike, which he used to commute the half mile from the base to the observatory, I gleefully took the opportunity to pedal around The Pole itself, a tight little loop that crossed every single line of longitude, thus entitling me to claim, cheekily, to have ridden “around the world” in ten seconds.
As much as looping the South Pole might have been a ride of a lifetime for me, it is not one of the 100 I selected for the book. Getting to the starting line is simply too difficult and unlikely unless you just so happen to be embedded with the US Antarctic Program.
No, the rides in the book are all accessible, more or less, although that is not to say they are all easy. For those who are looking for epic challenge I’ve included some real dillies – the nearly 14,000-foot ascent up Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the brutal La Ruta de los Conquistadores through the jungles in Costa Rica, and the venerable Paris-Brest-Paris are a few that spring to mind.
I’ve tried to include something for everybody, whether your preference is for road bikes, tourers, gravel or MBT. The main criteria is that they are memorable, special rides that stand apart from the rest. The rides I’ve selected are scattered around the globe, from Rwanda to the Yukon to Fiji, although the majority are in easy to reach places in the US, Britain and Europe.
In these pages you’ll find social rides, such as five-day RAGBRAI event across the State of Iowa, and lonely rides across the emptiest stretches of the Silk Road in Central Asia. There are rides with history as a theme such as the Berlin Wall cycle path or King Alfred’s Way in Britain or the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route, from Mobile Alabama to Ontario, Canada following the route taken by escaped slaves in America’s antebellum south. Racing romantics will find climbs over the iconic passes from the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia – the Tourmalet, Mt Ventoux, the Mortirolo. Wine lovers will find scenic rides through vineyards in France, New Zealand and Australia while mountain bikers looking for an adrenalin rush will find it in rides such as The Whole Enchilada, a harrowing expert-only 8000-foot plunge to the Colorado River in Utah, or the dizzying descent down Bolivia’s famous death road.
Where possible I tried to keep things off-road or traffic free. Families, I hope, will appreciate the elegant old carriage roads in Maine’s Arcadia National Park and gloriously easy traffic-free pedalling along rails-to-trails paths such as the Katy Trail in Missouri or or along the banks of some of Europe’s stateliest rivers, the Danube, the Rhine and the Loire, or still further afield, the idyllic Four Rivers Cycle Path than runs the length of South Korea.
Inevitably, with something like this, when you’ve literally a world of possibilities at your disposal, and your brief limits you to writing up only 100 rides, some great ones will be left out. I’d love to hear of any you think should have made the cut, or perhaps little-known gems that have yet to be discovered. Maybe someday there could be a Volume II…