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on 10 November 2008
Beware, this is difficult to stop reading once started. At one level it is a thoroughly engaging, informative and captivating account of a journey through the better and lesser known parts of South America by a seasoned traveller and writer who knows the continent well and speaks fluent Spanish. At another level it is a contemplative account of 21st century international perspectives from someone who is inquisitive and gregarious, someone who engages in conversation with anyone he meets and someone who listens.

He is no fan of President Bush, which in South America makes him welcome, and he gets on well enough with people to be accepted by Argentineans, although a Brit, and talk about the Falklands / Malvinas. Not Laurens van der Post, thankfully, but more honest, better written and many more laughs. His humility helps.

If you are over 73 you will wish you had done something similar. If, like me, you are under 73 you will be thinking it is not too late.

On page 288 he says his wife is egging him on to do the return journey from Tierra del Fuego to New York. I just hope that the resulting book is as good as this one.
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on 18 July 2010
Simon Gandolfi's Old Man On A Bike is a classic in every sense of the word, and it is one of the world's great motorcycle road trips. The story line in a nutshell is that Gandolfi (a Brit in his 70s) went to Mexico, bought a single-cylinder, 125cc Honda delivery bike, and pointed it south. "South" as in Tierra Del Fuego, the southernmost tip of South America.
I've read every book of this genre, and none is in the same league as Gandolfi's. Old Man On A Bike combines first-class writing, captivating story-telling, the excitement of a long distance motorcycle trip, ground-level input on how others outside the US-UK alliance view world events (without Gandolfi injecting his own views), and most significantly, the realization that we can age without losing our enthusiasm for life or our sense of adventure. The title's implied oxymoronism may attract readers, and Gandolfi describes himself as an old man, but Old Man On A Bike shows that he is not old at all. His excitement about being alive and out in the world, his curiosity, his willingness to take on what others might not, and his de facto youth are invigorating.
Gandolfi writes in the present tense, which takes the reader into every scene to experience the food, the accommodations, the people, the road, the weather, the fear, the excitement, and the rest of his wonderful journey. His positive experiences refute misinformed warnings about corrupt border guards and officials in a delightful manner, and provide an overall "feel good" experience. I've written a few books myself, I've traveled internationally by motorcycle, and (as mentioned above) I've read all of the motorcycle travel stories. The only one that comes close to being as good as Gandolfi's is Dave Barr's Riding the Edge (Barr is a double-amputee who rode a beat-up old Harley around the world), but I believe Old Man On A Bike is an even better read than Barr's inspiring story. Trust me on this...Gandolfi's book is more than just a road is wonderful story about staying young and living large.
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on 9 October 2009
Having read the reviews,most do have a point,l loved the book,having travelled a lot in Europe on bikes,but not in his league,although my wife wishes l would go for longer!l only know to well the problems the solo traveller comes across.ok there isnt much about bikes,that is not the point of the book,the book is about an old man doing the unthinkable,doing a massive journey with no backup,and that is the point,no backup,if you want a bike hero book(with massive backup,get charlie and co)if you want real travellers tales this is the book for you. By the way l met simon at a travellers day at the ace.I recognized him and said"l am reading your book, its great"he walked towards me with his arms up"give me a hug"he said smiling,and to old men hugged in the ace(in the best possible taste of course)
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on 25 December 2009
This could have been so much better. A journey through Central and South America on a 125 by a 70 year old is enough. Unfortunately the author wanted to ram a polical message down our throats. Initially tolerable it becomes annoying and in my case in the end it resulted in sections likely to contain these old man's rantings to be skipped altogether. Simple human interaction becomes distorted and diminished as the author seems unable not to view every one he meets as a policital pawn either manipulating or being manipulated; I just wanted to read about an old man on a bike.
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on 17 November 2008
Mr Gandolfi has had ten other books published and the reason for his success was obvious to me before I had finished giggling my way through the prologue of Old Man on a Bike.

With his remarkable insight and searing self awareness, Mr Gandofli reminded me, time and time again, of my grampie Kirkby. Once the patriarch of our family, always my hero, a man who died having forgotten more than I am likely ever to be able to learn.

This book is singularly unique in that it draws the reader inside an older person's mind. I found it an enriching, often comforting and pleasant place to be.

The writing style in Old Man on a Bike' is mature and mischievous, gritty, factual and witty. The book is filled with concise, clipped sentences of professional brevity:

'Although travelling, I am on familiar territory. We are always on familiar territory, all of us. Yet we divide ourselves from this reality by erecting fake barriers and boundaries of nationality and race and religion.'

'They infuse their finds in hot water and insist I bath the burns. They are small commanding women. They cook, clean and do the laundry. Disobedience would be foolish.'

'For the past few days I have been pursued by a middle-aged hen. Today the hen slinks into my room while Nora collects my laundry. I discover the hen on my bed. She has laid an egg.'

The book also regularly offers flowing paragraphs of perfect descriptive indulgence. I savoured every word.

I read the last page of this book with a smile on my face and a sense regret that I had reached the end of this enthralling paperback.
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on 17 March 2010
I bought this for my husband at his request. He was fired with enthusiasm from an article he read in The Telegraph. He is totally disappointed in this book and literally had to struggle through it. He sums it up as a description of breakfast in many places. It is therefore not recommended.
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on 13 July 2010
Good title, much expectation, then general ramblings about this and that.

Certainly not a book for bikers.

Made me think "If this stuff actually sells, I'm going to write my own!"

Nearly binned it, but I have learned a little bit about this part of the world.
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on 30 March 2016
As a nearly 70 year old biker stuck in bed with a heavy cold I read Simon Gandolfi's book, and its sequel "back to back". I really enjoyed both books. It's rare to find a writer in this genre who is more interested in meeting people in the countries he travels through AND listening to what THEY have to say than in their own "adventure". So in the depths of my cold-ridden misery I was able to learn how the very real people he encounters live, and their view of the world, especially the bullyboy USA Superpower as it affects their humble lives. Gandolfi's writing brings them, their landscapes and cultures and food to life. He is a VERY brave creature to take on all of this from the saddle of a small motorcycle, but this makes the read much more interesting than "three times around the universe on my 2000 cc BMW all conquering behemoth" would be. Bravo Maestro Gandolfi !
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on 13 February 2009
Biker interest in this book is pretty low, his travel observation are reasonable, if you have a low, very low opinion of North Americans you will no doubt enjoy having your prejudice reinforced. Gandolfi is a bit tiresome in denying that his own views are represented but the repetition I did find tiresome and not convincing. But when he refers to N American missionaries as sneak-thieves on the prowl for victims....these pink rats, his own agenda becomes pretty clear. Try Chasing Che by Patrick Symmes, covers the ground, its a better book and he rides a better bike.
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on 7 February 2010
Although the author says he will just report what he sees, his anti-americanism (or more accurately a dislike of US government and business) shines through. He doesn't miss a chance to get his views in, and this tends to get in the way of the narrative because they are clearly shoehorned in to make a point. Which is shame, because it could be a very good read if it didn't so often seem like a political tract. He seems to have a rather skewed view of history: The Pilgrim Fathers were rapacious invaders who brought nothing of value, but the conquistadors were benevolent settlers who brought fine architecture and treated the natives well. And why does he need to report the quality of the coffee wherever he goes? He seems to revel in making life difficult for himself: the choice of bike for a start, then the perverse refusal to wear proper riding gear (right down to wearing lace-up shoes: if he had been wearing boots the exhaust wouldn't have burned his leg when the bike fell on him!)
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