Review of three cycle touring books

The bicycle touring season has come to a close in the Northwest, and so planning for next year needs to occur. Trip planning, repair of the bicycles and equipment, and review of current and future technologies all need to take place. So, here are three books that I have just read, presented in the order in which they were read.

Bicycling Magazine’s Guide to Bike Touring, by Doug Donaldson ★★★★
This book has the subtitle “Everything You Need to Know to Travel Anywhere on a Bike”. Actually, it is not a terribly comprehensive book on cycle touring but written in magazine style, designed to hold a 30-second attention span. It is well written, interlaced with much humor. This book would be best for the early novice in cycle touring, the person who has never tried cycle touring before. It is a great introduction, and thus the four stars, rather than the 2-3 that I would have otherwise given it. The book did offer some advice unknown to me such as bicycle repair tricks in an emergency. Generally, it tended toward magazine-style recommendations for tours and tended to recommend products advertising in Bicycling Magazine. It had lengthy advice for drafting (????, hello, this is touring, NOT road racing!!!!), exercises to do to get in shape (try just getting on a bike!), advice on picking a tour company (?, ok, sure….) and a lengthy chapter on nutrition, all of which seemed to be more filler material than good touring advice. Get the book if you have never tried cycle touring before, and you will be inspired. Otherwise, see below.

Bike Touring (A Sierra Club Outdoor Adventure Guide), by Raymond Bridge ★★★★★
This is the best bicycle touring book available, though not the most inspirational. Bridge writes in a straightforward but informative style. He provides the most comprehensive text, including numerous references to the internet and to other books on bicycling and related topics. The book is divided into three sections. The first paints the picture of what it means to cycle tour. In this section, he discusses the various types of cycle touring, including self-contained touring (camping out and doing your own cooking), as well as “credit-card” touring (staying in hotels and eating out everywhere). The second section is a comprehensive discussion of the types of equipment, beginning with the bicycle, discussing then bicycle components of interest, cycle touring clothing, repair tools, lights, locks, panniers and trailers, and camping gear. Finally, Bridge discusses in the third section the actual act of cycle touring, including route planning, and the style of self contained vs. supported (hotel) tours. There is a sizable resource guide at the end for additional books on cycling, bicycle repair, tour companies, map sources, etc. This book is well worth obtaining simply as a reference.

Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook, by Stephen Lord ★★★★
This book is meant for the person who wishes to leave civilization and travel beyond the US/Canada or Western Europe and into the hinterlands of foreign countries. The book is divided into three parts, the first being an invaluable reference to planning such a trip, equipment, etc., etc. The second part provides recommendations for routes throughout the world, with a focus on Central Asia, South America and Africa. The first part is anecdotal tales written by various cyclists on their adventures in the greater world. This book has many inset stories and information pieces inserted throughout the text and written by different authors that provide personal experiences. After reading the book, I realized that I did not have an overwhelming interest in exploring Tibet, Outer Mongolia, or Zanzibar on a bicycle. Should my mind change, this will be the first book that I consult.