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Le Grand Tour – by Andrew P Sykes - WillCycle
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Le Grand Tour – by Andrew P Sykes

I’ve a confession to make, right from the outset: I’ve read all of Sykes’ books, and I’m a big fan of his work. Why am I starting a book review with this disclosure? Simple: this will be a positive review.

However, it’s a positive review because it’s a great book, and not because of his previous books, which I reviewed here, and here.

Cycle touring done wrong

Sykes and I have different views on how to go cycle touring. He has an extremely lackadaisical approach to route planning, he never goes wild camping, and – the worst of all – he relies on tourist paper maps, and even <gasp!> Google maps on his phone!

Cycle touring done right

On a serious note, there’s no right, or wrong way to do cycle touring, and while I got slightly exasperated at his route-finding methods, I must admit Sykes’ methods also meant he had additional, unplanned adventures. Add to that the fact that he goes on jealousy-inducing adventures, and I think it’s fair to say that his way of cycle touring works perfectly fine!

Sykes combined cycling with trains, and even a few ferries, during this adventure. He imposed a distance limit of 100km per train ride, and train ride limit of just ten train journeys. That, combined with a deadline to get back in time for the start of term (Sykes is a school teacher) creates a surprising sense of building urgency that makes a good story even better.

The book

Sykes goes on long-distance cycle tours every so often, then writes a book about it. Well, that’s the basic premise of it, and when put like that, it doesn’t sound like a particularly good read. Except, it really, really is good!

Sykes have a very dry sense of humour, and he’s not afraid to turn it on himself. His writing style is extremely easy-going. He doesn’t write cycle touring books, as such. Instead, he writes books that tell the story of an adventure (which just happened to be by bicycle, and therefore takes place at a human pace) in such a way that he leaves you with itchy-feet, raring to go on your own adventure. And that very much is the ultimate acid-test for any cycling adventure book.

Importantly, Sykes is no Bear Grylls (that’s an enormously positive thing to say, as far as I’m concerned) and there’s not even a hint of bravado about him in his books. That’s despite some of his cycling adventures being very impressive athletic achievements. Instead, his writing style puts you at ease, and takes you vicariously along on a wonderful adventure. During the book, you will learn little nuggets of gold about the places Sykes cycled through, but he does it in such a way that you will yearn for even more.

The verdict

Buy this book! And when you’re done reading it, go buy all his other books! You will thank me afterwards. For the record, I bought my copy, and Sykes didn’t pay, bribe, nor blackmail me to do this review.

I’ll leave you with this: while I accept it may be a few years into the future, and I’ve no idea what his next adventure will be, I already can’t wait to read all about it in his next book. If you read his books, you’ll end up feeling the same way!

Finally, Andrew, on the off chance that you’re reading this, please, please install the RideWithGPS app on your phone? It’ll make your life SO much easier!

You can get your copy of Le Grand Tour here, or from any reputable book store.

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