Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Review: The Man Who Cycled the World - Mark Beaumont

I just read the Australia chapters of this book to find out about his experience of it. Mark Beaumont rode - as a small part of his race around the world for the Guinness World Record - from Perth across the Nullarbor to Melbourne and then an inland route to Brisbane.

One thing I remember from reading this part of the book was that he made it across from Perth to Melbourne without mentioning any issues with other road users and then when he got to Melbourne he experienced people trying to drive him off the road, cutting him off in their cars, not leaving enough room when passing... given that Melbourne is probably the city with the highest number of cyclists this really painted Melbourne in a poor light for cycle friendliness. Therefore, having ridden around Melbourne for three years prior to when my tour begins, surely I will have thick skin? In a video he made for BBC (who followed his race) he says:

"An unfortunate revelation about the Melbourne area is that I've never ever cycled anywhere in the world where I've seen so much road rage. We were shouted at, honked at, people giving us the finger all day. I've never experienced anything like it. You always get one or two drivers who have a problem with cyclists but there seems to be a real divide between cyclists and other road users in the Melbourne area which is a shame because there are so many cyclists. We got properly sworn at all the time. I can think of maybe twenty times where people had a go at us and that's inexcusable.... I find that really saddening because everywhere else in Australia has given me a big welcome and been really courteous to cyclists but in the Melbourne area, going through the east side of the city itself we had a lot of abuse. We went into a garage this morning to pick up a map and I was flicking through a few maps to make sure I had the right one and the guy in charge of the store turned around and said 'Are you planning to buy one because this isn't a library' sort of thing and his tone was really confrontational, and if I hadn't experienced what I had yesterday I woudn't have been able to explain it. I would have through the guy just got out of bed the wrong way in the morning, but I think its just a genuine feeling of dislike for cyclists in the Melbourne area, which is sad. And he had a real go at me. And I just said to him, you know 'I'm not from here, I'm from Europe and I need to check I've got the right map before I buy it.' I had my wallet in my hand and I was flicking through the maps and checking I had the right one. I had two of three out. Anyone else in any gas station would either just leave you to it or say 'Can I help you?' I said 'I am going to buy one I'm just checking I got the right one' at which he said 'Well you're not allowed to look at the map before you buy them, you can either buy it or f**k off. ' ... From Sorrento in the south which was just beautiful and such a warm welcome by the people, and all the way across Australia I've just been blown away by just how friendly Australia is. And just through the city itself yesterday and this morning - just people being really really rude towards cyclists. I don't know whether there has been an incident or an accident or something which has caused this, but I think it's pretty inexcusable. But anyway, onwards. It would be nice to wake up and not hear F off first thing in the morning but there you go. I don't do much for your morale when everyone's being rude to you. I mean properly nasty. People say things that are pretty inexcusable stuff out of car windows yesterday. I've never experienced that in any country in my life. "

Mark commented on the fact that, despite being vegetarian, he had to resort to eat whatever he could get his hands on in the roadhouses - and often what was available wasn't the right nutrition for the race he was riding.

In terms of adversities he talks about bad saddle sores and rashes and headwinds making it difficult to stay on target for miles.

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