How long does it take to ride your bike from Berbourg (Manternach) back to Berbourg?
Is this a trick question? Well, maybe, but it took Yannis Bastian two and half years, as he chose to do it the ‘long’ way; all the way around the world, in fact.
Yannis will be the star attraction at B:Loft’s latest cycling event at Rotondes (17th March), where he will tell his stories from the road, show the photos he took and share the memories he made. In addition to the free talk there will be an optional special meal (tickets in advance only) and the evening with finish up with a free guided night-ride through the city.
To work up an appetite for tales of adventure I continue to review books by other long distance cyclists. This week: Real world politics from the road; A personal tale of discovery on two wheels; and a quick look back to the last B:Loft adventure evening.
Life Cycles by Julian Sayerer
Julian Sayarer is a young man in a hurry. An angry young man in a hurry. Working in the precarious low-paid world of bicycle-couriering Julian heard that a new round-the-world cycling record had been invented and set simultaneously. He saw this as a beautiful, human thing to do but was angered when he learnt that this achievement had been ‘sold’ to big business. He wanted to vent his spleen, but felt he had to earn the right first. So he set off to beat a record he had no interest in, in order to win it ‘for the people.’ Refreshingly for an adventure book he faces the often tricky politics of travel head on and without flinching. He has a great tale to tell and many thought-provoking insights to give. The blog post he wrote upon his return (aimed at the Marketed Man) is now a legendary classic of the genre.
His tenacity is amazing. Riding over 100 miles a day for 169 days unsupported just so he could get that blog post off his chest. Yet whilst he was fuelled by anger and even though he suffered terribly at times the principal thing to come out of this book is an admiration for humanity and an unstoppable desire to uncover and combat inequality. He never resolves whether trying to do this by riding a bike is noble or absurd. It’s probably both.
However it’s not only the character of the author that makes this book special. It’s the characters he encounters; he sketches them as vividly as a latter-day Charles Dickens. His writing is both evocative and beautiful. Julian Sayarer is a young man with an opinion to give; a young man with a wonderful story to tell; a young man who understands the power of words and knows how to use them magnificently.
“Mark my words, the world will not be improved by someone like me, seeking to win a race for the forces of good … it will be saved by those who laugh at the idea of a race in the first place.”
What Goes Around by Emily Chappell
Emily Chappell rode as far as Tokyo where the frenetic urban traffic had her dodging, anticipating and slipping through impossible gaps on her fully-loaded touring bike. The message was clear; time to return to London and to bike-messaging. She had fallen into the job as a young graduate and fell in love with it and with the city. This beautiful and achingly personal memoir takes us on the journey of discovery she took (and chronicled in her popular blog That Messenger Chick) during the late 00s.
You really get under the skin of the difficult life of a courier, you marvel with her as she uncovers the hidden wonders of the UK’s capital and the fascinating hidden history of bike messengers. You find yourself enjoying the highs and suffering the lows with this engaging, complex and remarkable young writer.
I must make a confession regarding this book. I have been on record as declaring this the best book I have read in my entire life; I consumed the whole thing in a single night and it inspired me in many ways; not least to become your bicycling correspondent here at City Savvy. You can celebrate or curse her for that as you please, but I know for sure that you too will fall in love with That Emily Chappell.
“When I cycle through Burgess Park (rarely these days), I revisit that moment as I would the grave of a loved one, simultaneously rejoicing in the past and grieving for it. The girl came and went, as did all my other moments of grief and elation, as did the delicious sensation of not knowing where I was going, and illuminating the future only as I stepped into it. “
An Audience of Strangers by Stephen Fabes
The young doctor set off to “cycle the six continents” from St Thomas’ hospital (his place of work), across Westminster Bridge and managed a couple of miles before stopping at a pub. He had suddenly realised what a daunting prospect it was and felt overwhelmed already! Luckily his friends tracked him down and got him going again. Six years later he had completed his circumnavigation and came to Luxembourg to tell us all about it in the last B:Loft event. His book, soon to be published, will be a fascinating insight not only to the journey but also to the investigations into global healthcare he made as he rode.
“Mongolian roads are said to be nomadic, like the people. So without knowing where to put signposts, they aren’t any, and I had only the occasional inkling of where I was or where I was heading. One track could birth four at once, the offspring fitfully twitching through shallow valleys, fancifully darting over hills, as hectic and aimless as lines on a palm.”
That night last year was a highly enjoyable and fascinating experience and this promises to be too. So save the date and come and hear the young Luxembourger’s story; it’s truly fascinating.
7pm “Clock off – a 32.000km journey around the world to forget about time” with Yannis Bastian FREE
8:30pm Special Meal (ticket)
9:20 Guided bike ride around Luxembourg City (around 8km, easy) FREE