This is certainly a book of two halves. One, the actual cycling is well documented and observed in both books. Graeme has a knack of seeing and describing places and scenes in a way that can range from seemingly harsh to sublime but always honest. Equally important to the reader, and more so to the author, is the reason for doing these rides.
Graeme has suffered severe mental health issues for some years and he has found that by planning and completing very demanding rides he his helping himself to come to terms with, and have some control over, his personal issues. To be candid and open about this in a cycling book, I believe, is very brave and courageous. But he takes it to another level in that he is using the rides not only for his own self help but to raise awareness and charitable funds for other people who have similar issues.
So, how does cycling from Lands End to the far north of the Shetland Isles via the rugged west coast of Ireland, across the Isles of Arran and the Outer Hebrides, around the north west coast of Scotland and out to the Shetlands via the Orkney Isles manage this?
Initially, it sets out to advertise why he is doing such a ride. By towing a trailer, named Trevor, emblazoned with logos of the charity 'Mind' and a synopsis of what he is doing, Graeme is able to not only raise donations but, importantly, to get people to engage with him and share their stories. He has a great skill in giving people the time, space and opportunity to talk about their problems. Something you may feel he could really do without, having enough of his own, but in reality both he and the person he engages with appear to gain some strength and comfort from knowing that they are not alone, that there are good people who understand where they are coming from. I found this to be very heartwarming and a constant source of admiration throughout the book.
The cycling side of it takes us through the wettest summer on record up the westerly coast of Ireland, not known for its droughts at any time, then across to Scotland and the Isles for a well described and breathtaking cycle tour. This is not about breaking records it is far more than that, it is about exploiting what all cyclist already know to work towards self healing.
Like anyone on a tour, he faces the weather, indeed lots of it in this book, hills headwinds and soggy camping places. At one point he even talks about giving in and returning home the going is so bad. I think I would have folded long before he even thought about it and, really, I would have had no excuse. But Graeme didn't. Conquering his demons is what this ride is all about and he fights back with great courage and clearly wins the day.
I would recommend that if you have not read his first book, 'Riding2Recovery a journey within a journey', that you get it and read it first. There are two reasons for this. One, simply because it is a good book and a good read but it also sets a lot of the background to why Graeme does these rides. Secondly, it will help when you read this second book to see that what he is doing is working.
Both his books stand out from the crowd to me simply because a very sensitive and stigmatised problem is being dealt with in such a different and positive way. There is no way these books are somber or depressing, on the contrary, they are touching, uplifting and truly inspiring.
I have had a veritable feast of 'food for thought' in reading these and I truly admire what Graeme has done and continues to do.
(reviewed 11 days after purchase)