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on 1 April 2008
Inspired to literally get on his bike following the tragic death of his mum, Bernie Friend, author of Cycling Back to Happiness, is not your typical travel writer.
An exhausting 6,000 kilometer cycle ride around the coasts of the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Scotland and England would be a daunting task for the fittest survivalist.
For Bernie, a lifelong hypochondriac with a morbid fear of dying horribly on foreign soil, it was an immense challenge.
Travel-phobic Bernie can't set foot on a plane, finds boats a terrifying prospect, and hasn't cycled since childhood. But in a last-ditch bid to take control of his fears he sets out from his home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on an epic adventure with just a borrowed bike and a one-man tent for company.
With his well-tuned nose for nutters, Bernie soon sniffs out the strange characters who populate the coastal route and discovers the healing power of travel along the way.
Bernie is joined in Germany by a travelling companion. While Phileas Fogg had Passepartout and Ewan McGregor had Charley Boorman, Bernie is saddled with agoraphobic hermit Rhys as a peddaling partner.
Together they cycle on through Scandinavia, the perfect double act of tortured souls seeking a pine-scented salvation in the land of trolls and Vikings.
The result is an uplifting tale of one man's battle with his inner demons.
Bernie's startlingly honest peeks into the darkest corners of his own fractured mind are contrasted with many painfully funny observations on the weird and wonderful people and places that cling to the coastal journey around the North Sea.
Join Bernie on his journey, and be inspired to face your own fears head-on.
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on 15 June 2009
Unlike some reviewers I felt this book worked better when the author was taking us through his emotional struggles. It was less enjoyable when he started to shoe-horn jokey asides and cliches into every other sentence, and the narrative started to get a bit too "sixth-form magazine". The reader's experience also isn't helped by the absence of a decent editor/proof-reader. Countless spelling and grammatical errors have escaped undetected - unforgivable for a published book.

I was certainly inspired to put the route (some, not all!) on my wish list of trips for the future.
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on 24 February 2011
Hello . Well im sorry but i found this book a right let down . I thought the guy would give me a description of his adventures cycling around the whole of the North sea route . 6000kms Only he didnt do it !!! Why has nobody said this ?? He got to Norway and bottled out!! Sorry but Im off to finish my book about my adventure climbing up the south face of everest Its a short book as i could be bothered to get out my tent as it was a bit cold!!
I cycled 1200 miles Lands end to john O groats in 15 days but I didnt write a book maybe I should have
Sorry to be so negative but I feel cheated
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on 8 January 2013
A heart warming story and a brave feat for someone with such a debilitating anxiety.
When you realise that Mr Friend tackled this journey nursing a lot of personal heartache it made the trip an even bigger success.
He didn't complete the whole route, only getting as far as Norway, which was still nearly 3,000km, but this is all about the inner journey and finding mental strength in tackling your biggest fears and demons.
The fact he seemed to manage this left me feeling pleased for someone best described as a complete novice cyclist. Well done and thanks for sharing!!!
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on 5 August 2009
THIS BOOK IS AN ENJOYABLE READ FOR ANYONE WHO LIKES TRAVELLING BY BIKE.ALTHOUGH YOU SOON REALISE THAT BERNIE IS NOT AN ENTHUSIAST AND ALSO A NOVICE AT MOST THINGS BUT HIS DOWN TO EARTH PHILOSOPHY AND BLUNT HONESTY SOON BECOME APPARENT AS HE CHARMS HIS WAY THROUGH A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE.IT DOESNT TAKE LONG BEFORE YOU SYMPATHISE AND MOSTLY AGREE WITH HIS ODD BUT PROFOUND WAY OF THINKING.ITS A GOOD SATISFYING READ AND HISTORY LESSON JUST ROLL WITH IT AND DONT EXPECT TOO MUCH AND YOU WILL SOON BECOME BERNIES FRIEND.
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on 5 June 2008
Having never read any travel books before, I wasn't sure what to expect from Cycling Back to Happiness, but it sounded intriguing so I thought I'd give it a go. It begins by painting a picture of the author, Bernie Friend, and his life and fears before the journey and reasons for doing it, which completely pulled me in.

I've never been to any of the countries along the North Sea Cycle Route (apart from the UK of course!), so it was a very insightful look into how the people of these countries live and how they treat visitors to their lands while also describing the scenery, landscapes and animals (lots of sheep!) encountered along the way.

However, the book wasn't just about the route itself, but also of Bernie's journey to conquer his fears and fight some of the demons that have long lived inside of him and I felt quite privileged to be allowed to follow him along the way.

Cycling Back to Happiness doesn't just appeal to those who are interested in travelling or cycling, but anyone who likes a well written, often comical, yarn filled with adventure!
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on 14 April 2013
a humour and rain drenched book excellent descriptions of areas cycled thru but the humour is a bit heavy going at times and sometimes it just is,nt funny any more. however this is a enjoyable book though i found the pub and football a bit dreary
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on 4 February 2010
I'm not a fanatical cyclist by any means, but I have come round to the idea of ditching the steering wheel for handlebars more and more, egged on by much keener friends, and fancied dabbling in a travel story powered by two-wheels.
A colleague of mine who is a much more serious wheel-turner pointed me in the direction of this book and I have to say it was good advice, especially for the trainee biker.
There is a lot of difficult scene setting over the first 30 odd pages, punctuated with self-deprecating laughs, but once that is all out the way a very fluid journey unfolds.
I couldn't believe just how many very differing places and landscapes were so close at hand. The book has certainly inspired me to persevere with the pedalling and maybe even take on a cycling adventure of my own.
The best thing of all for me is that the writer is just a plain guy, who lives a normal life, and just wanted to do something different, special even, but within his own personal limitations.
The fact he undertook thousands of kms on a bike as a complete novice, without months of gruelling (and impossible) training regimes makes it all so more achieveable for all of us. Never mind the Spandex... Anyone can do it!!!
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on 24 May 2008
Bernie Friend a first time travel writer captures the full glory of exploration in his `trails'& tribulations along the North Sea Cycle Route, in this quite wonderful light hearted and equally touching travelogue. Peppered with historical fact, geographical insight and humorous trappings, it catapults the reader from page to page with the steady propulsion of a `Halfords' finest mountain bike on a mission. Hooking up with a mate part way through, you capture a relationship between author and chum, not dissimilar to Hunter S. & his attorney, although stimulants never exceed a strong cup of coffee & a few Tuborg's.
Driven to take on a trip well outside of his comfort zone for reasons that are both touching and heartfelt Bernie peddles his way through personal demons and hang up's and brings the reader along with him, safely tucked in his saddlebag. Cycling back to happiness is a debut that hopefully will be the first of many more adventures, and why not? After all there's a coastline round every continent waiting to be explored and here we have an environmentally friendly travel hack who whilst green in his mode of transport is no longer green in penning a decent yarn.
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on 16 February 2010
As someone who loves travelogues, especially cycling ones I found this book up there with the best.

This book is as much about the author and his self discovery than it is about the places he visits on his travels. It really is a journey of self discovery and an uplifting and humourous one too.
It may be that it's a generation thing but being a similar age to Bernie I could relate to his humour and many of his feelings.
Simply put - If you're an armchair cyclist and frustrated traveller I doubt you'll find a much better book this year.
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