By Jack Hawkins
While browsing my Facebook feed one day at the end of June, a post from Tom Allen (round the world cyclist, and creator of the adventure-meets-love, award-winning film, "Janapar") popped up - he was looking for people to read and review his new book, "Essential Gear for Adventure Cycle Touring". Perfect, I thought. I had never written a book review before, and I sure did need a hand selecting gear for my upcoming cross-Canada bicycle tour. This was the perfect opportunity.
I contacted Tom, and a couple of days later, I was hanging out in my new Hennessy Hammock, reading the e-book version of Tom's latest masterpiece. The first few pages are a prelude and tell you in no uncertain terms what this book contains, and what to expect from both parts One and Two.
The first part of the book deals with some basic questions that Tom feels (and rightly so) that one should ask oneself before embarking on a bicycle tour of any length, he also asks define your priorities - in order to help you get a better understanding of the purchases you may make after reading the second half of the book.
Tom is able to successfully interact with the reader by asking questions of you. "What's important to YOU?" "What can YOU live with, or without?" Throughout the book, he makes it very clear that the book is mainly there to serve as a guide, and that no part of it is gospel.
Tom's years of experience in the saddle are shining through in the first few pages, but he has also drawn upon the opinions and advice offered by many other round the world, adventure cyclists, such as Alastair Humphreys.
If Part One will have you asking questions of yourself and your planned cycling tour, then Part Two will either have you in tears because of that gorgeous looking Koga World Traveller, which comes with a hefty price tag of £4000 - or (if you're one of those very, very lucky people), you'll be salivating at the prospect of all of this new gear you can now go and look for, or purchase!
Part Two is where my inner gear nerd was unleashed, I try to keep it locked up somewhere dark and damp so as not to severely injure my PayPal account balance. But thanks, Tom, I am now looking for new things to buy for my own trip. And my PayPal account hates me, and he scowls at you, too!
Part Two contains a plethora of information, and if I were you, I'd do as Tom suggests and read it online. I wasn't able to do so, but having checked out the web page since, it does offer a sleeker, easier to read, and more streamlined view. But the second part of the book isn't what I had expected. I was expecting tables and charts and a mess of information...
Instead, I was greeted with a nice, uniform layout, and delicately placed pictures of each individual item. And there are lots of those items...
Tom does a fantastic job in the second half of the book of breaking down all of the gear that one would need to conduct a bicycle tour. From the bikes, to the clothing, to footwear and cookware, to the different components that typically break down when you're racking up the miles - plus much, much more.
This isn't merely a list, Tom has taken the time to carefully and concisely break down each item in those above mentioned categories. He doesn't speak with much technical lingo, that would only sound familiar to those who work in the cycling industry, instead he's clear and to the point in his explanations.
The book covers such a vast range of topics, items and gear that it is worth it's weight in gold, no matter what your budget. And, in the end, it may help you realise what you could do without, leave at home, or save money on. Tom has done an excellent job of appealing to the widest audience possible - everyone.
I will happily recommend this book to all of my bicycle touring friends, it's definitely a masterpiece, and one that is sure to get you eager to get out there and explore the world by bike. There really is no other way to travel.
But before you go, be sure to take a copy of "Essential Gear for Adventure Cycle Touring" with you. Chuck it in a backpack, or pannier. Whichever you have available. As Tom says, "Save money, go cycle touring".
About the Author
Jack Hawkins is a freelance travel writer and touring cyclist. Originally from the UK, he swapped one seaside town for another in 2006, and has been living in Canada for eight years. Jack has always had a fondness for writing and after graduating from Bonar Law Memorial High School in Rexton, Jack decided to pursue a freelance writing career, and implemented his love of cycling into his work shortly after a chance-meeting in 2013 with a fellow Englishman who had cycled across Canada.
Jack currently writes for this webzine, but is also a monthly contributor Mike's Bike Shop's E-Magazine, "The Rider's Edge". He recently worked on and published a series of thirty-one articles for revered bicycle touring guru, Darren Alff, for his website: http://gobicycletouring.com/. Jack also writes articles, journals, gear reviews, and interview pieces for his own website - http://jackonabike.ca/.