on 10 August 2013
Writing from a solo cyclist's point of view,I found the book irritatingly group
orientated at times.There were so many characters floating around that it was hard
to keep up,and distracted from the story somewhat.Having read a number of solo cycling travelogues such as Josie Dew and Anne Mustoe, the sheer dynamics of undertaking an expedition is vastly different.Priorities for example are turned on their heads when finding a meal or a bed for the night is efficiently organised in advance, thus detracting from the unpredictability of cycling with all its delicious risks.
When travelling alone with no vast backup team to bail you out,at least you can stop at a whim, without having to hold a major meeting to discuss.The very idea of having your luggage transported for you is surely for softies, who prefer to stay in posh hotels and eat in expensive retaurants every night.Not to mention the vast quantities of alcohol they were consuming at every turn.Its a wonder they managed to do any cycling at all.Well written of course but cycling style not for me.
on 14 August 2013
James Clarke, author of “Blazing Bicycle Saddles”, has a blog at [...] Attempting to access one of his more recent articles, I was taken directly to “Gratis Verschenken”, (“Free Gifts” or, literally, “Free Giving Away”), a site in German for giving away unwanted possessions of almost any description. Could this, I wondered, be another example of Clarke’s gentle humour?
Born in London and educated in Staffordshire, Clarke confesses to having been addicted to “Punch”, “Private Eye” and the works of Perelman, Thurber, Leacock, Wodehouse and Jerome K Jerome, which gives a good idea of his literary style. Looking like the twinkle-eyed favourite uncle most would like to have, for upwards of thirty years Clarke was a serious newspaper journalist and science writer specialising in environmental matters before developing another career as a humourist, exemplified by “Blazing Bicycle Saddles”.
The book recounts six gentle “coarse cycling” expeditions (the “Tours de Farce”) on which, between 2002 and 2007, Clarke led five retired South Africans down the Danube and the Thames and through parts of France, Italy and Ireland in search of the curious customs of the natives. At least four more similar, as yet unpublished, expeditions followed.
As befits his former profession(s), Clarke writes extremely well, graphically depicting his surroundings, lightly teasing his companions and injecting gentle humour into almost every paragraph. Whether or not you currently cycle, or the book enthuses you to start again, whatever your age, “Blazing Bicycle Saddles” is well worth reading, especially by more mature “Peter Pans” and has drawn me to reading more of James Clarke’s humourous and serious books.
on 31 July 2014
Really enjoyed reading this, although it wasn't quite what I expected. I knew it was a travel memoir for a group of men who were aged between 50 and 70, who went to Europe and cycled along the river Danube. But this was just the first trip. They also completed trips in France, Italy and Ireland (and others). The disappointment for me was that I was expecting the Danube trip to be the complete book and I would have liked more detail on this - it sounds fantastic and maybe something I would consider myself in the future. Having said that, the whole book is very much worth reading. It is very well written - partly, I suspect, because the author has worked in journalism - it's intelligent, informative and full of humour, without being silly.