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Customer Review

10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected a bit more detail, July 20, 2011
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This review is from: Bike Touring: The Sierra Club Guide to Travel on Two Wheels (Sierra Club Outdoor Adventure Guide) (Paperback)
This isn't a bad book, it just isn't a very good book.

I agree w/the 2 star review -- the ideas are common sense: plan ahead and don't plan too many miles. Ok, but how? The book states that training at 150% of the mileage you want to do on tour is a good idea, but also that on a cross country trip it is possible to build up to higher daily mileage. So which is it? On a 2 week trip is there any gain? Surely the feature of having all day to ride helps w/the mileage? This seems like the essence of the insight this book should provide.

The book also fails to provide the details necessary for the information it contains to be useful. For example, pg. 438 states that all the GPS coordinates for the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) are freely available. This is a useful little nugget. For my trip, I did purchase a few ACA maps, but is this compatible w/the GPS map on the iphone? It seems like there is usually a way to make things compatible w/an iphone, but it would be nice to have an explanation in the book. Does the author recommend carrying a separate GPS unit? Wouldn't GPS on a phone save precious weight. It is possible the date of writing prevents much detail on smart phone GPS, but the problem is there isn't ANY detail.

Another problem is the verbose writing. Each sentence communicates very little. For example, pg. 27 "Styles of Training" states "The most critical aspect of training for bicycle touring is to find a routine that gives you the incentive and the consistency to ride regularly and to accumulate significant mileage. Thus, if you commute every day, even for ten or twenty miles, it will help a lot with your riding fitness, and you can add weekend and evening rides as you can fit them into your schedule."

There are a number of problems with this passage.

First, the sentences could be rewritten without loss of meaning as, "To prepare for a bike tour, try to commute on your bike and otherwise ride as much as you can in the evening or weekend." Then, the missing passage, "[From my own experience and talking to other touring riders, a minimum of 50% of weekly tour mileage for a month is recommended]" -- something, anything, to give you guidance. What does "signficant mileage" mean -- this is never defined; what types of "weekend and evening rides" are helpful -- this is also not defined. The next sections discuss club riding, seasonal riding, braking, etc. but never give concrete guidance to prepare for a cycling tour. If the author's answer is: go out and do a cycling tour, and then you'll know. Then, applying that logic to the entire book, the book itself is superfluous.

Side note: Who commutes on a bike 10 to 20 miles? Is the author suggesting there are lots of readers that commute daily via bike more than 20 miles?

More specifically, if you want to do a series of century rides during the tour, what type of training (short of doing a series of century rides) is likely to work? As an analogy, people rarely run the full 26.2 miles of a marathon during training, but there are many training guides out there that give you some guidance on the weekly and daily mileage necessary to be able to run that mileage. Bike touring is by definition a multi-day activity and thus some specifics on training would be very useful to plan your trip.

Another problem is that the book often takes both sides. This was noted above in the 150% mileage vs. tour gain. Here is another example: booking hotels in advance is a good idea during the busy season to avoid not finding a room, but exigencies force changes in plans. Which is it? If the book doesn't take a stand and give straight advice, it isn't helpful.

Most of the 452 pages are on equipment. There are a few nuggets here and there but these days finding a bike that can handle a thousand miles of U.S. country roads is not a challenge. The rider's fitness, planning, and preparation seem to vastly outweigh the potential equipment problems. The latter are important, they just are not worthy of the ~270 pages out of 452 pages, or 60% coverage, they get.

The book does have some utility -- see the lists of equipment to take at the end which are part of the free preview, thus the 3 stars, but don't expect much more than common sense ideas and things you could find on the internet in a few hours.

EDIT: After a 1,400 mile tour from Minnesota to Montana (see [...]), in essence this book raises the obvious problems of any bike tour: what equipment to take, how many miles to do, logistics. The reason this book fails is that it doesn't answer those questions. Thus the book is superfluous, as hinted at above. The author might respond that he didn't want to take a firm stand on many of these issues, because that would be just his subjective view. That is the problem with this book in a nutshell. We all have a sense that equipment, road conditions, traffic, and logistics will be problems, but a guidebook must answer these questions to be of value and this one simply doesn't provide answers.
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