The Ukimwi Road: From Kenya to Zimbabwe by Dervla Murphy

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In January 1992, Dervla Murphy prescribed herself several carefree months and embarked on a cycle tour (pedalling and pushing) from Kenya to Zimbabwe via Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia on the cyclist’s equivalent of a Rolls Royce called Lear. Before long, she realized that for travellers who wish to remain stress-free, Africa is the wrong continent. Inevitably she was caught up in the harrowing problems of the peoples she met; the devastating effects of AIDS (ukimwi is Swahili for AIDS), drought and economic collapse; scepticism about Western “aid schemes”; and corruption and incompetence, both white and black.

The Ukimwi Road: From Kenya to Zimbabwe

Two Wheels on my Wagon: A Bicycle Adventure in the Wild West by Paul Howard

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As bicycle races go, the attractions of the Tour Divide are not immediately apparent. For a start, it is the longest mountain-bike race in the world, running nearly 3,000 miles down the Rockies from Canada to Mexico. But the distance is not the only challenge – the total ascent of 200,000 ft is the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest nearly seven times.
Then there are the dangerous animals likely to be encountered on the route: grizzly bears, mountain lions and wolves, not to mention rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Worse, the rewards for all this effort are strictly limited. Unlike in the Tour de France, there is no fabled yellow jersey and no prize money.
Yet, undaunted, and in spite of never having owned a mountain bike, Paul Howard signed up. Battling the worst weather for generations, drinking whiskey with a cowboy and singing karaoke with the locals, Howard’s journey turned into more than just a race – it became the adventure of a lifetime.

Two Wheels on my Wagon: A Bicycle Adventure in the Wild West

French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France by Tim Moore

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Seduced by the speed and glamour of the biggest annual sporting event in the world, and determined to tackle the most fearsome physical challenge outside classical mythology, Moore, the ultimate amateur, attempts to complete all 3,630km of the 2000 Tour in the weeks before the professionals set off.
Battling it out with the old men on butchers’ bikes across the plains of Aquitaine and pursued by cattle over Europe’s second highest road, Moore soon finds himself resorting to narcotic assistance, systematic overeating and waxed legs before summoning a support vehicle staffed by cruelly sceptical family and friends. Accounts of his suffering and chicanery, and those encountered in the race’s epic history, are interwoven through a look at rural France busy tarting itself up for those 15 seconds of fame as the Tour careers through at 50kph. An heroic depiction of an inadequate man’s attempt to achieve the unachievable, Moore’s Tour is a tale of calorific excess, ludicrous clothing and intimate discomfort.

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The Man Who Cycled the Americas by Mark Beaumont

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In 2008, Mark Beaumont smashed the world record for cycling around the world, by an astonishing 81 days. His race against the clock took him through the toughest terrain and the most demanding of conditions. In 2009, Mark set out on his second ultra-endurance challenge. And this one would involve some very big mountains.
The Man Who Cycled the Americas tells the story of a 15,000 mile expedition that once again broke the barriers of human achievement. To pedal the longest mountain range on the planet, solo and unsupported, presented its own unique difficulties. But no man had ever previously summited the continents’ two highest peaks, Mt McKinley in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina, in the same climbing season, let alone cycling between them. Oh, and Mark had never even been up Ben Nevis before.
Full of his trademark charm, warmth and fascination with seeing the world at the pace of a bicycle, Mark Beaumont’s second book is a testament to his love of adventure, his joy of taking on tough mental and physical feats, and offers a thrilling trip through the diverse cultures of the Americas.

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Kings of the Mountains: How Colombia’s Cycling Heroes Shaped Their Nations’ History by Matt Rendell

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For the first time Matthew Rendell tells the little-known story of a Latin American country in which cycling is the national sport, whose sportsmen, denied the enormous benefits of prosperity, cutting-edge technology and unlimited sponsorship, have nevertheless achieved prodigious cycling feats both at home and abroad, and helped to forge for Colombia a heroic national identity. He tells of how, during the fifties, Colombia’s own top cycle race, the Vuelta de Colombia, was still being held on dusty, unpaved roads – with consequentially ghastly accidents; of how the first top European cyclists who came to race in Colombia found themselves utterly vanquished by its endless mountain climbs; of how the biography of Colombia’s first cycling superstar was written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Then, following the story through to the seventies and eighties, he shows how Colombia’s cyclists began to make their mark abroad, even in the ultimate competition, the Tour de France – and, while they may have lacked the team discipline and the pace training to win the race itself, how to them the premier accolade was to become King of the Mountains, by beating everyone else in the Tour’s most draining mountain stage. And he traces the gradual process whereby Colombia’s irremediable political instability led to the rise of the cocaine cartels, and how, in the world of cycling, sponsorship and the simple desire to achieve the best became inextricably linked with the world of drug smuggling. Kings of the Mountains is a remarkable sports book about outstanding heroism and superhuman achievement, the natural follow-up to the literary interest in cycling generated by Lance Armstrong winning the William Hill.

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