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Long Road, Hard Lessons: Ireland to Japan by Bicycle - a Gruelling Test of a Father and Son's Relationship Paperback – June 18, 2019

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Editorial Reviews


If you want to understand the point of adventure and the way it can glue families together, listen to Mark Swain describing his hellish night of suffering half-way through an extraordinary 10,000-mile bike ride to Japan. --Nicholas Roe, The Telegraph

The story of a great journey, packed with vivid descriptions of landscapes and the ups and downs of life experienced from the saddle. --Christopher J A Smith

About the Author

Mark Swain was born in Singapore in 1958, where his father was stationed in the RAF. He has lived in many countries, and as a young man found it hard to break the habit of a nomadic life, spending a great deal of his youth hitchhiking around Europe.

With a low boredom threshold, Mark has had dozens of jobs and quite a few careers, but only one wife. Studying Graphic Design at Hastings College of Art, he soon joined the Army in search of adventure. At one point he found himself travelling the world on the QE2 as a silver-service waiter and going to the Falklands war.

As a TEFL teacher, he went to Tokyo in 1984, where he met his wife Lorna. Between then and now, Mark has run a language business in Barcelona, customised VW Beetles, worked as a systems analyst and completed a degree in 3D design. Eventually he stood still long enough to set up a risk management and business training company. At 54, when not writing, he still works as a management consultant and trainer for Systems2 Consulting Ltd, the company he founded in 1998. He sleeps little, yet there are never enough hours in his day.

Mark and his wife Lorna have three grown-up children and live in Canterbury, Kent. He plans to repeat his cycle trip with his grandchildren, when they arrive.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 381 pages
  • Publisher: Tinderbox Publishing; 1st edition (June 18, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 095720020X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0957200203
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I was surprised with myself when I had difficulty putting this book down. How could a 10-month long bike ride keep me engaged for over 300 pages? Mark Swain uses this book to share the incredible journey of him and his son, Sam. The reader joins these two riders on their adventures through Welsh hills, German cycle paths, Turkish mountains, muddy Indian hillsides, picturesque Laotian hill climbs, rural Chinese villages and everywhere in between.

Reading this book as I began my first long distance cycle trip, I found Mark's advice and cautions for touring cyclists to be invaluable. Though fellow cyclists certainly benefit from reading this book, it is not littered in cycling jargon, therefore it is accessible to everyone.

At the core of this rather formidable journey is the dynamic relationship of a father and son. Each initially admitting to going on the ride for the benefit of the other, both Mark and Sam share first hand accounts and retrospective analyses of their relationship as it oscillates day by day. The reader tags along as Sam deals with the constant solitude of cycling and Mark is forced to 'gear down.'

My sole disappointment with the book is that Sam did not share more of his perspective. Though he describes a lack of confidence to contribute constructively to conversations throughout the trip, I still would have liked a greater counterbalance to Mark's description of their changing relationship.

More than anything I appreciated their honest story telling. Though the ride may have been monotonous at times and many of the obstacles overcome were not glamourous, it is the sincere attempt to be unflatteringly honest that kept me captivated with this very human story. It is this central pillar of the book that draws the reader into this story about a real father and son pushing themselves beyond their limits.
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By Raymond Riha on December 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Now here's a book that doesn't sugar coat the adventure. A father and son team that battles the elements as well as each other at times. Each portion of the ride is told mainly by the father with the son adding his thoughts at the end, and they each have their own opinion. I myself have been in a couple of the countries that they traveled and so I'm familiar with the customs and hospitality. I was amazed at some of the countries that they traveled were as hospitable as was portrayed; countries such as Iran, I would have thought they would be anti-American, but it wasn't the case. It seems that most countries one travels by bike treat bicyclist very well. I believe most bicyclist who tour don't portray themselves as "The Ugly American", therefor people reach out to them when they need help. Sure there was places that took advantage of the situation and charged more then was appropriate, that happens everywhere.

This father son team struggled with sickness, the elements, hunger, thirst and each other, but they survived and learned a lot about their relationship.

For anyone who wants to travel to other countries by bicyclist, this is a great book. There is lots of information to be gained before one heads out to foreign countries.

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By Tyler Stiner on April 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I was fortunate enough to meet Mark Swain and his family in Dingle, County Kerry in the late 1990's. I was in my early 20's and mostly interested in pubs and trying to figure out to do with my time here on earth. The Swain family arrived at the Hostel I was working at. I was immediately taken with their approach to life. There were surf boards attached to their car and a free spirit connected to their presence. Their children were great. They seemed like some of the happiest people I'd ever met. In designing my own path in life I have reflected on the the Swain family often.
Long Road Hard Lessons is an excellent read. Mark and Sam touch on the finer points of travel and the complex relationship between fathers and sons. Mark and Sam take you on an amazing journey without forgetting the struggles and triumphs of hard travel. I highly recommend it. Since reading LRHL my wife and I have built some great touring bikes and are eagerly awaiting our chance to hit the road!
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By Paul B on October 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I came to this book by way of planning my own long distance bike ride. Primarily I was after hints and tips, which the book does contain. Though the pointers in the text are there by way of explaining the reality of a father and son cycling across the globe. It's not a long list of kit and gear. That said, there is a very useful list at the back of the book.

The book is Mark's summing up of a journey with his son. There is text from Sam (Mark's son), though by and large it's Mark explaining what goes on inside the head of a father of a late teenager. That being the fears, hopes and misunderstandings that lead like stepping stones from the relationship of a father to his infant son to that of his adult child.

A good and useful read for both and or dads, sons and all cyclists... and maybe wannabe cyclists.
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