Steve's book arrived in my mailbox last week and immediately I felt it was something special. The first thing that struck me was the quality of the colour photos. Often publishers skimp on the photo quality, but here they've done an excellent job. How one can look at the 'centrefold' spread of Janne Corax gazing over Kyrgyzstan without feeling an ache in one's gut to get on your bike and be there, I don't know.
In addition to the superb colour photos, the pages are also dotted with a large number of small black and white photos, which add something of interest to many pages.
The book has several of the 'Lonely Planet' style of small articles every few pages that give greater detail on a particular topic. These are often written by contributors which gives the book such a broad view. I found Steve Pells' 'Going ultralight' (p57) amusing, as I much prefer the feeling of independence by being totally self sufficient for several days. In Bolivia I had to carry 15 litres of water and had food for a week, so I weighed in with 50kg of gear! However, it meant I could camp in some of the most incredibly remote places and stop when and where I wanted and with that amount of gear, I could easily hit 80kmh on those mountain descents!
Throughout the book there are standardised cyclists' trip reports. These are single page summaries that give one lines with details such as, cost, length, `best X', `longest X', `worst X', `biggest X' of trips made.
Anyone who has done a bike trip of any sort will appreciate the feeling of being in such awe inspiring places under their own steam when seeing the photos.
For those who haven't yet taken the plunge, the book offers a lot of practical information, not just from Steve's own broad experience, but also from many other cyclists who've made trips of their own, ranging from a few weeks to huge marathons lasting several years.
The first part deals has a short section covering basics such as money, health and travel details - the right length. It follows with a good section about bike and equipment which gives the reader well balanced information about the pros and cons of different kit choices, for example: whether to take panniers or a trailer, tunnel or free standing tents, or the more esoteric - number of spoke holes in a wheel rim!
The large Route Outlines section is a real gem. It collects many of the classic cycling destinations from all over the world into a single book. It is not a route planning book, more of an inspirational guide to how, where and when you can cycle. I was surprised at how much detail and information he has managed to squeeze into those 120 pages.
Part 3 - `Tales from the saddle' is taken up by individual trip reports, including Jean Bell's fascinating 1929 account of his European tour and Edward Genochio's tale of his attempted bike theft, by horse, in Mongolia!
A final short appendix covers bike maintenance in enough detail to make it useful as a reference, but not as a training guide. Bikes are generally pretty well made these days so it's not often that serious maintenance is needed for most trips and anything read will be forgotten by the time it comes round to changing brake pads or tightening headsets!
Steve has not only done a great job with this book by bringing together reports and articles from many of the adventure cycling community's well known names, such as Janne Corax, Ivan Viehoff, Cass Gilbert and Alastair Humphreys, but also stamped his style by making it eminently readable. He also managed to get in a section on his new Rohloff hub!
My comments may not be completely impartial as I made a small contribution to the content of this book!