Spandex Optional Bicycle Touring is the name of a new, short book about the basics of bike touring by author, Peter Rice. This thin 60-page text is a campy introduction to the world of long-distance bicycle touring and would make the perfect gift for the bicycle tourist who has everything, but should not be purchased by individuals looking for an in-depth how-to bicycle touring book.
While Spandex Optional Bicycle Touring is meant to be a short, concise schooling on the basics of bicycle travel, it’s a bit too light and airy for my recommendation. With extremely short chapters on what to pack, how to train for a tour, how to plan a proper route, where to find places to sleep at night, what to eat, how to transport your bicycle and a whole lot more, the book tries hard, but leaves a lot to be desired.
The author, Peter Rice, does his best to be funny throughout the book and make bicycle touring appeal to anyone who wants to travel by bike – not just experienced spandex-clad road cyclists. But Rice also admits that he has only 4,000 miles of bicycle touring experience, which is extremely little in the world of long-distance bicycle touring. While 4,000 miles may seem like a lot to some people, it’s a distance that really only equates to one long-distance bike ride across the United States, which is exactly what it sounds like Peter did to gain his personal cycle touring experience. But 4,000 miles across the USA is not enough (in my opinion) to write a book about the subject of long-distance bicycle touring, or to give out “expert advice” to people who may purchase this text with plans of cycling all around the world.
One reviewer on Amazon nailed this point exactly when he wrote:
“Having clocked significantly more touring miles than Rice has (he has only 4,000 miles under his belt total – which in the world of bicycle touring is next to nothing and explains why his booklet is lacking in several ways), I found some of his tips (and approaches) highly impractical and some downright dangerous.”
While I commend Rice for having the inspiration and follow-through to put this short book together, I myself have written several popular books about bicycle touring and I understand how difficult it is to publish a book of any kind. But I wrote my how-to book, The Bicycle Touring Blueprint, after 100,000+ miles and 14+ years of traveling by bike in more than 50 different countries all around the world. There’s no way I would have written a book about bike touring and tried to pass it off as expert advice after just my first short bike tour in the United States. I might have, at that time, been able to pass on some of the basics of the “sport” with a very country-specific slant, but I’d be unable to capture the whole picture of global bike travel. And that, I’m afraid, is the big downfall for this book. The author is simply too inexperienced to be giving out any in-depth, or truly helpful bicycle touring advice.
In my opinion, Spandex Optional Bicycle Touring would be a nice little $5 item that could be sold in gift stores and novelty shops. It’s short, it’s easy to read, it has some fun (childish) drawings scattered throughout, and it might make a good gift for that special someone in your life who likes to travel by bike.
But if you’re looking for a book that will really help you to plan and prepare for your own bicycle touring adventures, I would recommend getting a copy of The Bicycle Touring Blueprint instead. The Bicycle Touring Blueprint is bigger, longer, more in-depth and more expensive than Peter Rice’s Spandex Optional Bicycle Touring, but it’s by far a more detailed, comprehensive book – written by a true Bicycle Touring Pro with hundreds of thousands of miles of bicycle touring experience under his belt.