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4.6 out of 5 stars38
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 6 March 2003
The book captures the essence of the cycling experience, with wonderful descrptions of the relationships between riders. More than this, is asks some important questions about the relevance of this very consuming sport when "real life" knocks on the door and asks for a response.
I found myself unable to put the book down during the descriptions of Matt's improving results, and of his wife Ruth's
tolerance of his cycling, as they went through their trials.
The story of the pressure to give up a male obsession in order to satisfy the demands of a relationship with children were familiar territory, but left unexplored due to the tragic changes in the family's circumstances. I was left feeling quite sad and very moved by the account Matt gives.
One can't help but wonder if the cyling bug has really been extinguished in him; the passionate descriptions lead me to belive that he will find it hard to leaves cycling out of his life forever.
One for cylists and the people who tolerate them.
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on 20 October 2006
This book is beautifully written, and so elegantly ans subtely crafted in that it is controlled, measured, eloquent, yet unleashed on occasion when required, precisely reflecting the nature of the sport itself. For anyone that has competed in bike racing, and has given up for other reasons this is a jolting tug on your heartstrings. It's a shame that its not longer, dwelling more on those signpost life moments; but that would be to deny the impact of the book, written to be read as a race; and as such is as pertinent and as moving as any story about bike racing or indeed the vagaries and eccentricities of life itself.

If you buy no other sporting biography this year, then you should grace your bookcase and your mind with this.
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on 23 September 2002
This is a book that has more to offer than detailed accounts of the author's rides out of London and into the Kent countryside. Seaton also writes about his arrival at a harsher world where cycling no longer seems to offer him the 'escape' or the palliative to the stresses of modern life that the title imbues with such promise. By the end of the book, Seaton becomes an Escape Artist for very different reasons.
Thankfully, what this book has in abundance are some keenly wrought observations on cycle racing and its sub-culture. The sport of cycling deserves and in this book has got some wonderful descriptions of the agony and the ecstasy that cycling brings that I think will appeal to the roadie and non-roadie alike. Seaton's desire to subscribe to a sport as uncompromising as cycling is described with a passion and grittiness that reminded me of the opening of Tim Krabbe's book 'The Rider'whose central character expresses disdain for those who prefer not to subscribe to the (more agony!)of cycle racing.
It is Seaton's determination to succeed and rise to the challenge of cycle racing that provides such a compelling read even if he does dwell a little too long on the matter of leg shaving! But it is also his ability to weave into the narrative the challenges facing him in his personal life that bring a respectful sobriety to the text. This is a book that manages to balance serious life issues with the simple pleasures of bike riding.
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on 30 July 2006
Matt Seaton's book,has for me been a real trip down memory lane,i too used to road race and i felt for him all the way through the book,i know what its like to win and loose,i also know how saddend i was to have to give up the bike.A damn good book,makes you proud to be a cyclist.
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on 20 July 2003
The Escape Artist is by far the best book I’ve ever read about cycling and it tells of Matt Seaton’s life as a cyclist racing for the well known South London club VC De Londres. He used to train on the same roads that I used and it was heart warming reading in my front room in Cornwall about familiar names from my past such as Keston, Westerham, Badgers Mount and Knockholt. Places that I’ve ridden through hundreds of times on training rides. Mr Seaton was a road racer while I chose to do the less taxing discipline of Time Trialling, but I could easily identify with the obsessive nature of what being a racing cyclist is.
The book ends on a sad note with the death of his wife (the journalist Ruth Picardie) and the realisation that theirs more to life than cycling.
But after reading the 'The Escape Artist' Mr Seaton has given me an appetite to start pounding the roads again and I'll dust down my old Look Carbon Fibre racer as soon as the chiropractor's finished with me.
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on 9 August 2007
Road cyclists will empathise with the cycling anecdotes; Seaton is spot on with these. I think that's what I enjoyed most and particularly as some of the cycling routes he describes are familiar to me.

I've never actually read a book that I generally found more depressing than uplifting so this for me was a first (or perhaps that simply exposes a lack of extensive reading on my part). The highs and the lows are devoted equal, and indeed fleeting, amounts of time but in general you feel like you're on a gradual descent that delivers you painstakingly to the end of Seaton's cycling career. I think every road cyclist who becomes moderately serious with the sport will feel at one time or another that the rest of life (inevitably) gets in the way of an activity that takes 4 hours out of your day in activity and the rest in recovery. I felt frustrated for Seaton as he desperately tried to hang on to whatever cycling life permitted him. It's fascinating to observe how he deals with this experience and how he reconciles things eventually in his mind.
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on 15 April 2008
I read this on an evening business trip to Brussels, tucked away in the dark on a seat on Eurostar. I'm glad I was there because I couldn't help welling up at one stage - a grown bloke reading a cycling book! The opening lines written about a climbing a hill on a cold morning were so aptly described I could feel the morning damp tingling my nostrils. It's no more and no less than Matt's autobiography - his life and the role that cycling plays as he gathers his thoughts and works out his emotions during high times and low. The simple eloquence is a joy though, and is exceptionally enjoyable. Up there with Tim Krabbe's "the Rider" as one of the best pieces of cycling literature ever. Highly recommended.
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on 5 December 2010
Matt Seaton's book is richly evocative of so much. For someone like me who knew and recognised many of the characters behind their pseudonyms, it brings back very fond memories of training sessions at Herne Hill, rides around the north downs and getting hooked on racing. But his description of ultimately having to put cycling into perspective as a hobby and not the all-consuming passion one might want it to be, when other responsibilities have to take priority, relates to a near-universal rite of passage; how much we have to let go of that past life is just a matter of luck. The passages about his wife's illness and death are beautifully written and incredibly sad. If you can bear it you should also read Ruth Picardie's Before I Say Goodbye, which is her own telling of her story.
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on 8 April 2009
This isn't a story about bike racing. It's the story of a bike racer (and not a very good one) and the conflict between wanting to work as hard as he can at this against the very real demands of life, relationships, parenthood and bereavement.

Don't read this expecting an account of the sport; there are plenty of those around. This is about life, and is all the more engrossing because of it. By describing specific moments in his life, rather than a broad brush approach, Seaton draws you in and makes it feel like you are there. I couldn't put it down, and can see myself reading it again and again.
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on 22 May 2007
A beautifully poetic description of one man's obsession with cycle-racing, the sport of strange, lycra-clad lads with shaved legs and eyes permanently fixed on the back wheel of the bike ahead. Seaton is particularly good at evoking the rituals of the sport (the loving maintenance of both body and bike, the relentless monitoring of calories, pulse beats and heart rates) and at recreating the adrenaline thrills it provides.

It is a touching tale of a life tinged with tragedy, it brought me to tears.
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