Book review – Endless Perfect Circles, by Ian Walker

Dr Ian Walker is quite well known on Cycling Twitter, being an ardent advocate for cycling, and usually being the voice of reason. Though an obviously very intelligent man, the impression Ian Walker mostly creates is that of a humble and kind human being. For reasons I cannot begin to understand, these are strong characteristics shared by many ultra-distance cyclists, amongst others Mike Hall and Emily Chappell.

As a research scientist, Ian Walker is used to publishing written words, but his book, Endless Perfect Circles, is not your normal cycling book. In fact, I’m not even sure cycling is the primary theme of the book.

It tells the story of how Walker came to be an ultra-distance cyclist, and despite the fact that he became the world record holder for the fastest crossing of Europe by bicycle, is a refreshingly-honest story of grit, failure and determination. It is a story of being human, and being vulnerable, yet not surrendering.

As is often the case with such books, the story is a human one, not a cycling story. Walker doesn’t drill down into technical details of his bicycle, and mentions technical elements only when and where they affected his journey.

What you will get is a raw reflection of the realities of ultra-distance cycling, along with a curious side-lesson: Walker admits having gone years thinking he was not at all good at sport. Yes, a world-record holding ultra-distance cyclist thought he was no good at sport, purely as a left over from school PE lessons.  If you are a PE teacher, or in a management position in a school, you should reflect on that, as there are a great many people who have been similarly damaged by school PE, and especially women feel this way. Ask yourself if you’re happy perpetuating a system that fails people in this way.  Importantly, if PE lessons left you feeling the same way as they did Walker, you really should consider trying to do some Audax UK rides – you may yet turn out to be the next record-breaking ultra-distance cyclist.

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Getting back to the book itself, it is very well-written, and there simply is no sense of self-importance anywhere, which is refreshing. There are some very good tips for anyone thinking of taking on any adventure challenge, starting with this: Things don’t always never get better.  Simply put, be prepared for things to get worse, but things getting worse isn’t the normal state, so don’t get caught up in a self-defeating spiral of negativity. Equally, when you understand from the outset that there will be challenges, obstacles, and problems to deal with, you will be better prepared to face those when they do crop up.

All in all, it is an inspirational book, written by a humble, yet inspirational man. This book would make a superb addition to anyone’s bookshelf, and I expect you will reread it a number of times.

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