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Have you ridden the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Maryland? Or the fearsome and ultra-challenging Paris-Roubaix course? Maybe you’ve made laps around the Yas Marina F1 circuit in Abu Dhabi or ridden around Cambodia’s Ancient Angkor.
Whether it’s a course you’ve ridden, one you hope to someday conquer, or one that you know lives only in dreams, National Geographic’s stunning new coffee table book, 100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime, has probably included it.
Written by longtime National Geographic contributor Roff Smith (with a foreward by Olympic XC rider and World Champion Kate Courtney), 100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime is broken into three parts: the Americas, Europe, and Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
From there, the book breaks down some of the world’s most famous and beloved rides, along with some lesser-known gems. Each ride gets a few paragraphs describing some of the history and lure behind it and is preceded by some vital statistics a rider can expect. Distance, surface, length of trip (measured in days), which season or seasons to best tackle the ride, and the overall difficulty of the course.
Asked why he chose these hundred for the book, Smith said, “In my years as a cycle tourer, I have had the joy of experiencing trails across the world. I believe that the collection included within this book of the most scenic and unique bicycle trails will inspire and empower riders of all levels to fall in love with the experience of cycling.”
Of course, being a National Geographic product, the book is full of stunning photography, most of which are full-page images bursting with robust color.
100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime is hardly a book for cycling enthusiasts (though there is plenty for the more hardcore set to enjoy). Rather, it offers just as many “easy” rides as it does moderate-to-challenging rides.
So, if you’re looking to take the family on a multi-day bikepacking trip, the book could easily act as a jumping-off point. Similarly, if you want to tackle a climb of Mount Ventoux or ride the Congo-Nile Trail through Rwanda, the book provides a great overarching view of each of the rides Roff writes about.
Of course, for all of its function as a guidebook, 100 Bikes Rides of a Lifetime offers equal amounts of wanderlust-sating, coffee-table book reading (because let’s be honest: if you’re going to plan a multi-day bike ride through Tajikistan or Bhutan or even Montana, you’re going to want more than the two or three pages Roff devotes to each ride here).
In the few weeks I’ve had the book, I’ve found myself picking it up and splitting it open at random, seeing where I land and imagining myself on such a ride. It’s easy now, in the cold and wet season, to enjoy this kind of travel-of-the-mind.
Of course, there’s a reality to everything Roff writes about and, thanks to his insight and the book’s photography, it’s easy to dream of someday doing these rides. Considering as much, I’ve begun making my own list of the rides I’d most like to do in my cycling life.
Denali Park Road, RAGBRAI, and the Natchez Trace here in the States; L’Eroica, Paris-Brest-Paris, and Lôn Las Cymru in Europe; South Africa’s Swartberg Pass and South Korea’s 4 Rivers Path; New Zealand’s Forgotten World Highway.
What might yours be? Maybe you can do them all. I’m sure there’s someone out there who has done all of them; the hardcore cycling version of your friend who’s been to all fifty states. For them, 100 Bike Rides of a Lifetime might be their version of a well-stamped passport. For the rest of us, it might just be a book of dreams, grand and magnificent bike trips that we might someday take ourselves.
You can order a copy of 100 Rides of a Lifetime here.
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