Book Reviews · cycling · fitness

Reading about riding around the world

Two years ago I finished and reviewed This Road I Ride: My Incredible Journey from Novice to Fastest Woman to Cycle the Globe by Juliana Buhring.

This year I read Coffee First, Then the World: One Woman’s Record Breaking Pedal Around the Planet by Jenny Graham.

I was reading it at the same time as Nat’s partner Michel was attempting a 1000 km ride. I blogged about not being tempted by either option. But obviously I’m a bit fascinated by people who have this in them.

The book was published this spring but the ride was in 2018.

Here’s the basic facts.

Who: Jenny Graham, 38 year old Scottish endurance cyclist and adventurer

What: 18,000 miles, 16 countries, 124 days

If you don’t want to read the full book, you can read Bicycling magazine’s short version here or the Guardian’s account here.

In light of Nat’s post about providing support for Michel’s ride, it won’t be a surprise that for Jenny Graham’s ride which was required by Guinness to be unsupported in order to count, the main challenges were logistical.

There were broken bike parts, lots of sleeping in ditches and bus shelters, googling coffee and breakfast near me, unexpected menstrual needs, charging of all the equipment, and many opportunities to persuade well meaning strangers that it was okay for a woman to ride alone at night.

Interestingly for us more everyday riders there was also no angst about speed or fitness.

As with Buhring’s book there’s a lot of racing to the next stopping point and not so much introspection. There’s also a lot less detail than you might expect about the places Graham is riding through. We get to know Canada through Tim Hortons and her fear of bears and Australia through long straight roads, winter riding conditions, snakes and kangaroos. The section on riding through Russia was like an advertisement not to do that with lots of near death on the roads.

The book really is a head down story of the logistics of managing this sort of ride. Yet somehow you get inside Graham’s head and Graham’s story is pretty engaging.

It did make me think more about some extended bikepacking trips but it also hammered home for me that I like riding with my head up and seeing the places I’m riding. Also, both books and Michel’s trip which I followed along with Nat on social media, made me realize how much sleep matters to me. There was a lot of talk about sleep deprivation in the book along with accounts of mini naps and drifting off the road. I knew she made it and even so I found it hard to read.

The book is gripping–i read it pretty quickly–but it’s not the adventure book I’d imagined.

You can read the history of the record Jenny Graham holds here.