Book Review: The Kiwi Cyclist’s Guide To Life, by Jane King

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_kiwi_cyclists_guide_to_lifeI’ve been meaning to review this one for a little while. It’s been sitting on my coffee table glaring at me. ‘Read Me’, it beckons. But it’s been a great summer and I’ve been out on the road, peddling away through some great trails – on road, off road, town and country.

And every time I reached out to pick it up, a visitor would arrive. So, instead, they are the ones to pick it up a and peruse its chapters. They often drift away to another part of the house to finish a chapter. They are not long, complicated or overwritten. Quite the opposite. King writes with a journalist’s eye. She wants to capture the full flavour, not just the essence of her subjects.

When I found time, I discovered that King’s book is a taste treat for anyone who loves cycling; but it’s much more than that. Over 25 chapters, she introduces us to a varied selection of cycle fiends from literally every walk of life. She covers every popular style – GT factory racing, track, BMX, triathletes, cycle builders, historians, off-roaders and inventors. There’s eccentrics, lifestyle cyclists and hippies. There are some of the pioneers like Graeme Pearson (a racer, rebellious innovator and bike designer who pushed the boundaries of conventional cycle racing in NZ). Or Aaron Gate (World Champion and Olympic Medalist) and Sarah Walker, whom we all know as a top BMX rider and pioneer for the sport in New Zealand.

Mountain biking gets a mention, with a look at Wyn Masters (see image from his Instagram below) who’s won some big events like last year’s Enduro World Series and competed in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Leogang. If you’ve ever been up the Gondola at Rotorua then you would have seen the  Crankworx track. That’s where he raced.

A post shared by Wyn Masters (@wynmasters) on

 

If biking has an unsung hero of Arthur Lydiard proportions it could well be Phil Gibbs, who nurtures new talent. And don’t forget another legend, swimmer Moss Burmester – double Olympian, Commonwealth Games Champion and World Champion – he’s eternally on two wheels as well. In training, racing and, as proven in a great photo double spread, in bed sleeping with his Giant training bike. He’s taking a fear of stolen bicycles to a new level!

There’s a profile on Graeme Simpson, who operates out of his Oamaru garage making, believe it or not, Penny Farthing Bicycles! We also get an intriguing inside into journalist and presenter Mary Lambie who is a keen competitive cyclist, racing in the Taupo Cycle Challenge, the K2 around Coromandel Peninsula and even doing the Coast to Coast race.

There is a profile of Drew Duff-Dobson, who runs a Cycle Shop-cum café in Auckland. Now that’s my kind of cycling. And then there’s a High Country Heli-biker (yep, it’s a thing), tour operator Dan McMullan. His piece is accompanied by a stunning photo of he and his bike perched on a lonely precipice surrounded by an endless mountainous backdrop, with another inside of him leading a group down the snowy slopes of Mt Burke. You could not ask for a better work story!

Not everyone in this book is an over-achiever, though. One of my favourite stories is that of Ana Steele and her adventures on her electric bike, leather jacket and vintage flying goggles. She’s done her OE differently, riding across Europe, instead of hitching or bussing it. Brett Cotter doesn’t just ride, he organises biking film festivals and couple Sandra Jensen and Mark Vuletich have embraced the new trend for wearing vintage clothes and riding ancient Velos from the 1930’s.

Jane King was originally from the UK but it’s clear that she has a love of our outdoors and she travels widely to source material for her books. She knows about quality publishing being a digital producer and content writer for TVNZ, NZME, Tourism NZ and a number of other digital agencies. A lot of her photos definitely look like they belong in a brochure – in a good way!

King’s book is thorough, as she covers every aspect of cycling, from racers to innovators to fashionista to cycle tourists to electric users to zen riders and planet savers. Cycling is as diverse as the people that sit in the saddle and this book proves it. She has drawn on a wide range of photographers to illustrate her book, including herself. The image of Dan McMullen off-loading a bike from a helicopter in the snowy back country is one of my favourites. It has the promise of a great ride in amazing terrain. It sparks the imagination but is also a familiar scene, of which every Kiwi is proud of. It sums it all up superbly: the spirit of adventure; entrepreneurship; risk taking; ecology and green tourism and, best of all the invitation to have fun.

On the other extreme is Sandra Jensen and Mark Vuletich riding alongside an old tank dressed in their finest tweeds and muslin, expressing their overt eccentricities and quirkiness. They want to be alternatives to a life in front of a screen, breathing in recycled office air and drinking bad coffee. To be on a bike is the freedom you can never get from any other pursuit. It offers something more than the daily grind of the crankshaft. This is what this book embraces.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Kiwi Cyclist’s Guide To Life
by Jane King
Published by Bateman
ISBN 9781869539795

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