Review: Cycling Along Europe's Rivers

Published by Lyn on 22 January 2013

Cycling Along Europe's RiversThe good thing about the boom in internet publishing is that it gives everyone the chance to share their knowledge and experiences. Cycling Along Europe's Rivers: Bicycle Touring Made Easy and Affordable is by American cyclist Michael Lyon, who is indebted to his Uncle Harvey (85 and still cycling) for introducing him to cycling and for accompanying him on so many long bike rides. The story is a personal touch, and it's one reflected throughout the book.

Cycling Along Europe's Rivers is a digestible and accessible overview of more the 25 bike rides along Europe's rivers. The first 60-odd pages feature an introductory guide to cycle touring in Europe: where and when to come, preparing for a ride, how to here, where to stay, what to eat and how much to budget for. There's also an overview of what to bring: types of bikes, packing and panniers all feature.

The Loire River route from Orleans to St Nazaire route (see our Sancerre to St Nazaire report) is the only ride in the book that concentrates solely on France, but it's a good one to include, especially as the book seems geared towards more inexperienced cyclists or people undertaking their first long cycle tour. While the Loire river bike ride is more difficult than some others covered in the book, the continuing development of cycle infrastructure along the Loire à Vélo bike route makes it an accessible cycle ride for all abilities. 

The other bike ride in the book to touch on France is the Moselle River ride from Koblenz in Germany to Metz in Moselle department of France's Lorraine region. It's a 180-mile ride that, like the Loire cycleway, takes in a generous selection of castles and vineyards.

Other bike rides in the book take in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. The book finishes with a Grand Circle Tour linking the Rhine, the Elbe and the Danube rivers together.

The layout and design of the book is simple – it very much has a self-published feel to it – but the information is solid and full of common sense (nearly all of it the result of the author's first-hand experience cycling in Europe over so  many years).

However the book is not a blow-by-blow guidebook – it offers overviews and a guiding hand rather than detailed route information. It's the kind of good advice you'd get if you sat down with a friend for a coffee or a beer and picked his or her brains about their most recent cycle tour of Europe. The maps are for illustrative purposes only, and would be of no use on the road. Michael Lyon freely acknowledges this up front, which is why he has referenced and recommended throughout the book more suitable maps and supplementary information where necessary.

For the Moselle ride he recommends using the Esterbauer/Bikeline guide to the Moselle River Trail, while for the Loire river route, he recommends the Esterbauer/Bikeline guide covering Loire-Radweg. 

While more experienced cyclists – especially those familiar with European cycling – will find this book much too basic, it will appeal to first-time cycle tourers or people cycling in Europe for the first time. It will also be of value to older cyclists: the fact that Uncle Harvey Lyon still accompanies his nephew on his 400-mile cycle rides along the rivers of Europe is evidence enough that the author of this book is both methodical and sensible in his approach to planning a cycle tour.

Cycling Along Europe's Rivers: Bicycle Touring Made Easy and Affordable by Michael J. Lyon.

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