Endless Perfect Circles is a jaw-dropping account of Ian Walker's journey – mentally and physically – from sedentary to world record ultra-distance athlete.
In his mid-30s, Ian Walker was, in short, much like the rest of us: pursuing a physically-undemanding career by day and TV surfer by night and by his own confession 'getting pretty fleshy and unhealthy'. Dabbling in the odd walking tour, though, led to him joining the Long Distance Walkers' Association, and within a few months he was battling his way through a 100-mile walk. From there it was long-distance running, then silly-long-distance running, until one fateful day he learned about the Transcontinental Cycle Race.
He swapped his daily run to work for a cycle commute, and within months was lining up for the start of the fifth edition, 4,000km from Belgium to Greece. He finished it in a little under 13 days, in 27th place from 250 starters.
After this, he entered the North Cape 4000, which he won. The next logical progression was, of course, to smash the world record for the fastest crossing of Europe. Not too shabby for a man who believed since school that he had no aptitude for or interest in sport, and that it had nothing to offer him.
Endless Perfect Circles is Ian's account of how (and why) he did all this. Subtitled 'Lessons from the little-known world of ultradistance cycling', the book is also Ian's opportunity to share what he learned along the way. There are practical tips aplenty, but even more about the mental side of the game, which is not surprising given Dr Walker's day job as a research psychologist (all you need to do is 'keep moving', apparently).
Ian's world record ride across Europe takes under 17 days (!), but the account fills half the book, so packed with intense experience is it; and even though I knew the outcome I was still urging him on as the book raced towards its conclusion.
There's a fine line between false modesty and achievement signalling which not every journal of this sort is able to keep to, but I found Dr Walker very good company throughout, and for both the book and his other colossal achievements I offer him a gigantic 'chapeau!'
A lesson in what you can do – provided you're a genetic freak with a single-track mind...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Endless Perfect Circles: Lessons from the little-known world of ultradistance cycling
Size tested: Paperback, Ebook
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From the back cover:
A professional psychologist spent his entire life believing he had no ability or interest in sport. Then, in his forties, he became a champion ultradistance athlete before breaking the world record for the fastest bicycle crossing of Europe. This journey - made entirely alone and without any support crew - went from the northernmost point in the Arctic down to the very southernmost point in Spain. Averaging 377 kilometres each day and with up to 18 hours in the saddle at a time, the total distance of 6367 km was covered in well under 17 days, knocking well over two days off the previous record. It was a journey of ultimate self-reliance. Endless Perfect Circles is not just a tale of sleep deprivation and eating terrible food in supermarket car parks, it is also a celebration of how tough sporting challenges offer ordinary people a path to self-improvement. Weaving his own experiences together with psychological insights, Ian Walker demonstrates the rewards we can all find from setting ourselves difficult personal goals and working out how we will rise to meet these. "When I ride, my mind is both crowded and empty. The practical part of me churns, thinking all the time about navigation, shops, food, weather and lodging, seeking information about those raw essentials of life and planning dozens of contingencies. But when I look back on any given ride, even one lasting many days, I would struggle to tell you a single thought that passed through my head, because the rest of my mind has been liberated. All of life's needs have been simplified by the pure act of riding."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Format Paperback | 228 pages
Dimensions 139.95 x 215.9 x 12.19mm | 272.16g
Publication date 27 Jul 2020
Publisher Independent Publishing Network
Publication City/Country United Kingdom
A thoroughly engrossing read with plenty of advice as well as the tales from the road.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing. Maybe a future edition will include some photographs.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The book is subtitled "Lessons from the little-known world of ultradistance cycling" and Ian Walker shares generously what he has learned on the way from sofa-surfer to elite athlete. The "lessons" don't turn to didacticism and the main focus of the book is the accounts of the rides themselves which are done due justice by Ian's prose.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,