A hand-picked selection of the best cycle touring books for an armchair adventure
The best cycle touring books according to me. I’ve read these cycle touring books a couple of times over and they’re full of useful insight, practical guidance and most importantly, inspiration.
I came to cycling literature in a back-to-front fashion. I’d already made a handful of adventurous journeys by bike before I’d read any of the books I’m about to recommend.
I was introduced to cycle touring by my best friend, Adrian. He invited me along on a coast-to-coast ride – Barrow in Furness to Whitby – in 2008 and I never looked back. I guess that says something about how I learn new things and step into new realities.
A Charity Cycling Challenge
After Adrian and I completed our 2011 charity bike ride challenge to cycle 20 countries in 100 days I found that books about cycle touring became an important part of the planning stages of my next journey. I was plotting a solo trip which meant I would have to plan the route and logistics for myself.
The books* about cycle touring that I’ve most loved are stories and adventures that I’ve enjoyed in the years since I returned from my own bike journey from Vietnam to the UK.
I read these stories to reminisce and to remember the feeling of being out on the road. It’s an important ritual for me. The bond of connection through shared experience is something I value.
My top books about cycle touring that will inspire your next adventure:
The number one book about bicycle touring
My first recommendation is of a practical nature. The Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook is a must-read for anyone planning a long-distance bicycle journey. Originally written in 2006 by Stephen Lord, this comprehensive handbook is now in its third edition. I purchased it after my most recent trip as a way to help me reintegrate into ‘normal’ life.
The idea of a big adventure was a kind of tonic to stave off the blues that my journey had ended. I started to look at possible routes for Africa. This delaying tactic helped me mitigate the feeling of sadness I experienced when I finally parked my bike after 20,000km.
Pikes On Bikes
The latest incarnation of the Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook has been written by Neil and Harriet Pike, perhaps best known as Pikes on Bikes, the handbook shares practical information, route guides and stories of past journeys. This is the go-to resource for anyone planning an adventurous bike expedition of any length.
The handbook is divided into easy to navigate continent sections with country sub-sections. The proposed route itineraries for classic overland journeys are accessible and straightforward including details of seasonality, distance and duration. Perfect for planning a big trip of your very own.
The definitive adventure cycling handbook
Buy this book* if you have even the smallest of aspirations to do a cycle tour of any kind – you’ll realise fairly early on that the hardest thing is leaving.
With the help of the handbook, you’ll feel more confident about the practicalities leading up to that point. It’ll help you answer the questions of interested family members and dismiss the naysayers who try to steer you off course. Once you’re on the road, it’s easy.
A top book about cycle touring
I love this book for its daring simplicity. The story is about a circumnavigation of the British Isles by a female solo cyclist, Anna Hughes. The format of the book is a daily journal entry of the ride as it happened. This style of day by day account appealed to me in that I could pick up the book, read a few pages and be moved by the immediacy of the geography.
Places were at once familiar yet unknown. The action moving steadily at 15kph through a landscape I understood but hadn’t seen. The perspective of Anna’s daily challenge echoed my own experiences cycling through Europe. The scope of the journey was refreshingly local, easy to relate to and inspiring to unfold.
Eat, sleep, cycle, repeat
As I read the book I began to plan for regional rides to enjoy sections of coastline in bitesized chunks that would accumulate to traverse the whole coastline.
I also loved the fact that Anna had friends join along on the ride; her sister tagged along, colleagues from Sustrans hosted and strangers pedalled for a day or two; these alliances make the days move along with ease and grace.
I found that company was a welcome break from my own inner dialogue on the long days in the saddle. These short breaks from the solitary mission offer an insight into the psyche of the long-distance cyclist. Eat, Sleep Cycle* is a classic journey in the British cycle touring tradition.
The best book about bicycle touring
Dervla Murphy is a cycle-touring heavyweight. Ireland to India by bicycle was her most well-known journey and subsequent best-selling book. As an ex-pat living in India, this story resonated a lot.
I often hear about the original hippies in the 60’s and 70’s travelling overland with full psychedelics through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan on a magic bus. Dervla’s adventure is the stuff of legend.
Wheels Within Wheels
The context of this journey is important; solo female travellers crossing continents was incredibly rare; a woman alone riding a bicycle was unheard of.
Famously, Dervla travelled with a revolver and her bike Roz, short for Rozinante, in allusion to Don Quixote’s steed. Full Tilt* is a beautiful account of an iconic route.
This daring escapade along the Hippie Trail by bike set the standard for two-wheeled travel back when bikes, kit and currency were hard to come by. The enduring legacy of this enigmatic adventurer lives on in this marvellous book. Highly recommended.
Best Cycle Touring Books
Janapar*, meaning journey in Armenian, is the love on a bike story of a self-unemployed creative nomad, Tom Allen. The journey begins in the ashes of the failed Ride Earth project, an off-road around-the-world attempt with two friends. As relations sour and the project crumbles, Tom discovers a new mission when he meets Tenny, an Armenian graphic designer.
The action unfolds as Tom begins his round-the-world bike ride once again only to realise that he’s met the love of his life.
The book shares the story of the pair as they navigate the intricacies of cultural differences, companionship and cycling heavy bicycles long distances. It’s an uplifting story of a very personal journey.
Best books about cycle touring
Moods of Future Joys is British adventurer Alastair Humphreys first book about his legendary four year-round the world bike ride. This book was in many ways the inspiration for my own really big bike ride. I read this book between my European and Eurasia trips and it sparked my imagination with the many possibilities that lay ahead.
There’s lots of practical insight about what it’s like to ride a bike for more than four years. It includes lots of countries and possible route itineraries. But most of all the book shares the personal story that unfolds as Al grapples with the excitement, frustrations, challenges and joy of an epic adventure.
Four years around the world by bike
Read this book if you’re planning any kind of bike adventure. It’ll help you get a feel for the type of trip you’ll make and it’ll shape your attitudes – are you a traveller with a bike or a cyclist adventurer?
Moods of Future Joys* is full of humour, honesty and warmth. The anecdotes are wonderfully self-deprecating and written with a Yorkshire charm that makes this an easy book to love.
Additional Essential Reading for Every Cycle Tourist’s Bookshelf
As an avid cycle tourist with a penchant for exploration, I’ve become a collector of experiences spanning over 40+ countries. In that way, I’ve continued to add to this list of must-read cycle touring books.
I hope they ignite your passion for adventure, provide practical insights, and captivate you with their exceptional storytelling.
Brace yourself for an exhilarating read as Mark Beaumont recounts his incredible journey of cycling around the world in record-breaking time.
This inspirational memoir captures the essence of bicycle adventure. But also serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
While not strictly a cycle-touring book, this philosophical classic poses existential questions.
Exploring the nuances of life, self-discovery, and the art of maintaining not just a motorcycle but the essence of one’s existence.
Its profound insights and contemplative narrative make it a thought-provoking addition to any cyclist’s reading list.
Join Tim Moore as he humorously recounts his misadventures while tracing the historic Iron Curtain on a bicycle.
His witty storytelling and eccentric encounters along the way make this book a delightful and entertaining read for any cycling enthusiast.
Dive into this collection of travelogue essays by musician David Byrne. He shares his unique perspectives on cities, culture, and urban cycling in his own inimitable style.
With his keen eye for detail and artistic sensibilities, Byrne’s musings offer a refreshing and insightful take on the symbiotic relationship between cycling and the urban landscape.
Lone Traveller: One Woman, Two Wheels and the World by Anne Mustoe
Join Anne Mustoe as she embarks on a remarkable solo cycling journey around the globe. Her captivating storytelling and unwavering spirit of adventure serve as an inspiration to anyone seeking to challenge the boundaries of exploration and self-discovery.
The Wind in My Wheels: Travel Tales from the Saddle – Josie Dew
Embark on a delightful adventure with Josie Dew as she shares her enchanting tales of cycling across continents. Her infectious enthusiasm and humorous anecdotes make for a fun-packed cycle touring tale.
Dew’s narratives paint a vivid picture of the joy and camaraderie that come with long-distance cycling.
Life Cycles: A London Bike Courier Decided to Cycle Around the World. 169 Days Later, He Came Back with a World Record – Julian Sayarer
Delve into Julian Sayarer’s enthralling tale of breaking the world record for cycling around the world. His remarkable journey and the challenges he overcame along the way.
His determination serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of adventure. Julian’s more recent work shines a light on the Middle East. His newsletter is well worth a read – you can sign up here.
Cycle Touring Book Authors I Have Met Personally
All the books mentioned below, I have had. the privilege of meeting the author personally. All these meetings took place at the Cycle Touring Festival which Tim and Laura Moss organise.
I loved sharing stories with these fellow travellers and learning more about the exotic places I have yet to explore.
Join Helen Lloyd as she recounts her exhilarating solo cycling journey through the diverse landscapes of Africa. Her vivid storytelling and insightful observations make this book a compelling read.
For anyone seeking inspiration and adventure on the roads less travelled, Helen’s take is one of courage and persistence. Helen also has a new book out called ‘Wild Spirit: Freedom, Love, and Adventure in Africa on a Motorcycle‘.
Immerse yourself in the captivating narrative of Emily Chappell as she chronicles her experiences as a cycle courier in London.
Her raw and honest storytelling sheds light on the gritty realities of urban cycling and the resilience of those who pedal through its bustling streets.
Emily recently completed her second book, Where There’s A Will: Hope, Grief and Endurance in a Cycle Race Across a Continent
Follow Tim & Laura Moss on their 13,000-mile journey from around the world by bicycle.
Humorous anecdotes and adventurous spirit make this book a delightful read. A cycle touring book that inspires readers to embrace the spirit of exploration and adventure.
Join Stephen Fabes as he combines his passion for cycling with his medical expertise, embarking on an extraordinary journey to explore remote corners of the world.
Dr Fabes offers insightful reflections on the intersection of healthcare and adventure offering a unique perspective that resonates with both cyclists and medical professionals.
Embark on an extraordinary adventure with Charlie Walker as he cycles from the scorching Sahara Desert to the icy terrains of the Arctic Circle.
His gripping storytelling and daring exploits offer a captivating glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of extreme long-distance cycle touring.
Summing Up Cycle Touring Books
These books, crafted by seasoned adventurers and storytellers, offer a rich tapestry of experiences, insights, and inspiration for anyone setting out on their cycling odyssey.
From traversing continents to navigating the urban jungle, these tales encapsulate the essence of the human spirit’s unyielding quest for exploration and discovery.
Pick up these literary companions, and let the tales of the open road ignite your passion for adventure and wanderlust.
Book, bike, brew. Grand.
What books about cycle touring do you love? Share your favourites in the comments.
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