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ESCAPE BY BIKE BOOK

Introducing Pannier Journal Contributor Josh Cunningham's new book - "Escape By Bike: Adventure Cycling, Bikepacking & Touring Off-Road"....

The temperate forest regions of the world, littered throughout Europe, North America, and Asia, are, in short, the perfect environment to begin a cycle touring apprenticeship. Their changeable seasons can provide the full spectrum of climates, but a well-chosen slot in place and time will ensure idyllic touring and bikepacking conditions. Arable land, generous river networks, and temperate climate have contributed to development across these regions too and the resulting infrastructure makes self-supported travel easier. The variety of interesting and challenging human and physical geography that result from temperate forest regions, especially in Europe, is hard to top anywhere in the world for a traveller on a bike…

Pick from my journey: Nazani valley, Georgia

Desert regions are renowned for their inhospitability. The extreme hot and cold temperatures, and aridness make life challenging, which extends to life on a bike. Successfully skipping between resupply points, which can sometimes be hundreds of kilometres apart, is an endeavour that can only be accomplished with a degree of logistical planning. These ‘skips’ are a challenging prospect too; not least because of the exposure to the elements, but also the mundanity of the often barren, featureless landscapes. For me, the lack of topographical variety encouraged more of an introspective journey, more than anything – a connection with the road, the bicycle, and myself…

Pick from my journey: Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan

For centuries, the mountains have stirred something deep inside travellers of all kinds. Their sublime beauty, which simultaneously conjures feelings of both trepidation and exaltation, is to a cyclist what a flame is to a moth. With their gravel roads, relentless inclines, and changeable microclimate, we know that we’ll be in for a challenging time on the bike, but the rewards are well worth it.

Given the very real physical barrier they have presented over time, mountain regions are also a fascinating place to move between from a cultural perspective. It is only when travelling by bike, and hauling yourself for days over a 4-5,000m pass, that you realise just how hard it is to travel from valley to valley – and ultimately why it takes race, religion and language so long to breach these physical barriers; real borders. I learned a lot, and enjoyed riding the mountain ranges across Eurasia…

Pick from my journey: Spiti Valley (Himachal Pradesh), India

Like the rainforests that flourish here, tropical regions are defined by their thriving diversity, colour, and ceaseless activity. The suffocating nature of the hot, humid air is replicated by the suffocating intensity of travel in the tropics. Be it the screech of a macaque, throttling of a tuk-tuk, or barking of a street trader, life in these regions is absolutely everywhere, and the pace of it is relentless. But this is what makes the tropics so appealing, and – thanks to the added intimacy that bike travel brings – a joy to experience from the saddle. Tranquil scenes between the trees ensure it’s not all life in the fast lane too, and while you’ll end every day drenched in sweat and grime, it will be the result of having taken a plunge into a rich, rich bucket full of planet earth…

Pick from my journey: G323, China

MORE FROM JOSH'S TRIP

When it comes to cities, there is a dual experience on offer for a travelling cyclist. Adventure Cycling and bikpeacking is often seen as a way of escaping cities, BUT after having spent long periods of time off the beaten track, with a simple primal life on the road, it doesn’t take long to start yearning for the comforts of the city: a shower; an unrationed feed; a bed; people to talk to; an opportunity to fix broken bodies and bikes….

As a person of the road, you are just the most recent in a line of travellers since the dawn of travel. And like those before you, who have each experienced the same challenges that beset you on your bike, you will take comfort in the offerings of the city and appreciate why life is focused there, rather than in the middle of the desert, on top of a mountain range, or deep in the forest. You will contribute your time and money to that place, and add your name to the list of those who, since it was a small trading village, have made a city what it is.

Rather than simply reading about a place, or even seeing it, travelling by bike allows you to actually feel, experience, and live it. And while we may spend most of our days wishing to break free of cities, strangely some of my best memories were forged amongst city limits…

Pick from my journey: Kashgar, China

CREDITS

AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHY
Josh Cunningham

ILLUSTRATOR
Chris McNally

PUBLISHER
Thames & Hudson

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