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I'm a bit of a sucker for books about cycling around the UK, dreaming that one day it'll be me, and I thoroughly enjoyed Riding Out by Simon Parker. It's a very honest account by someone who hasn't had the happiest of times – which I think makes the book a more interesting read than some, shall we say, more contrived challenges.
Parker not only suffers from 'a long-suppressed anxiety disorder', we learn that he's had to cope with a number of bereavements, and on top of all that comes covid and lockdowns. Not ideal for a travel journalist.
This trip (or rather, trips – there's a break in the middle then he sets off again) becomes his way of dealing with the pressures that have built up in his life. The book is like a combination of 'wow, I wish I could be out there doing what he's doing' and 'blimey, what a load of shit this bloke's had to deal with'.
I've read a few books about cycle touring in the UK (and further afield), some better than others. Parker's is one of the better ones. He's a travel journalist, so I was hoping that would mean a decent level of quality to his writing (I have had the 'pleasure' of reading some self-published stuff...).
We were sent an uncorrected proof for review, and I hope he doesn't mind me saying that his spelling and punctuation is pretty awful! Hopefully the final version is perfect on that score, but the writing itself is very engaging.
What you don't get is a straightforward account of touring in the UK, with equipment lists and dos and don'ts. It's a more interesting combination of the challenges (and pleasures) he faces on the bike – the weather, the terrain, the mechanicals – plus descriptions of the people he meets and the places he visits, along with some very honest discussions about his life and the main reasons he decided to set off.
It's not always a fun read, but at the same time it's an easy read. Parker's writing and the story of the journey keeps you turning the pages. It perhaps 'helped' that I have someone very close to me who also suffers from anxiety issues, making it a more interesting read than it might be for others, but it's not at all depressing.
If you've read The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, you'll understand where I'm coming from – though the events that caused Parker and Winn to take on their ride/walk aren't something you'd wish on your worst enemy, the tale of that journey is interesting and ultimately uplifting – it's a positive that comes out of a pretty horrid situation.
Well written and interesting take on a journey round the UK by bike, with more at stake than just getting the miles in
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Riding Out – A Journey of Love, Loss and New Beginnings by Simon Parker
Size tested: n/a
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 publisher:
The remarkable and inspirational true story of how one man battled grief and anxiety, one pedal stroke at a time, on a 3,500-mile adventure around Britain
In March 2020, as Britain entered its first lockdown, Simon Parker's life fell apart; his travel journalism career vanished overnight and shortly afterwards he received the tragic news that a close friend had died. With a long-suppressed anxiety disorder starting to rear its head, he turned to the only therapies he knew and trusted: travel and exercise.
Setting off on his bike from the northernmost point of Shetland with only a sleeping bag and a camping stove, Simon would end up cycling 3,427 miles around Britain. En route, he would meet hundreds of resilient Britons, who were all, in their own way, riding out the storm just like he was. Even in his gloomiest moments he began to see that a chink of light was never too far away.
Riding Out is a story of optimism and hope, and a ground-level portrait of Britain as it transforms from a country in crisis to a nation on the mend. From Shetland to the Scillies, Dover to Durness, Simon learns that life's sharpest corners are best navigated at the gentle pace of a bicycle.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Parker is an Oxfordshire-based travel writer, newspaper columnist and broadcaster who has reported from over 100 countries. He's sailed and cycled from China to London for the BBC, cycled the length of Scandinavia for Amazon Prime, and hiked every known route to Machu Picchu for The Telegraph.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Publication date: 21 April 2022
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I thought it was well written and engaging.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I love reading about travels around the UK, especially by bike – but less so if it's too focused on the bike. The balance here was just right for me.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I read an uncorrected copy and typos and punctuation errors leapt out at me! Grrr. Hopefully that won't be a problem with the proofed version.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if I hadn't already read it...
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's well written (I'm ignoring the spelling and punctuation) and it kept me turning the pages. Parker's mental health issues (and his honesty about them) make his travels more interesting than perhaps they might have been, too, adding an extra dimension to the tale. Overall, it's a good read.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Venon My best bike is: Paulus Quiros
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She joined road.cc in 2015 but first began working on bike magazines way back in 1991 as production editor on Mountain Biking UK, then deputy editor of MTB Pro, before changing allegiance to road cycling as senior production editor on Cycling Plus. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.