- Part travelogue, part coming-of-age story that any cyclist/father/son will appreciate
- Turn away if accounts of saddle sores make you feel unwell
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Rides of Passage will appeal to both cyclists and non-cyclists alike, as it deals as much with how a father-and-son relationship changes over two decades as it does with the literal and metaphorical ups and downs of cycling the entirety of France, from north to south coast.
Back in 1994, Jersey residents Matt Lamy and his dad Arthur decided to undertake a 1000km trans-France bike trip. Last year, the pair embarked on the same trip, some 21 years later – with a lot of water having travelled under the bridge between the two excursions.
Matt was 15 on the first trip, and his original journal entries, along with those of Arthur’s, are presented at the start of each chapter. These are then followed by much more in-depth accounts of their more recent adventure. Each day of the trip has its own chapter.
Rather than a blow-by-blow account of every road travelled, the book is presented much more of a journey of the intervening 21 years, cleverly referenced to things that happen along the way. It feels much the same as the sort of memories and thoughts that pop into your head on a long ride, triggered by sights, sounds, smells or places.
Now a father himself, Matt’s description of his altered relationship with his dad will ring true with many people. Equally, Arthur’s account of the relationship with his son will be recognisable to anyone whose kids have left home and started their own family.
It’s a humorous and sometimes moving account. Two opposing views of the same situation are dealt with by the switching of text between the two authors, so it feels like you’re listening to a conversation.
The central colour photo section adds life to the narrative, as much showing some of the oddities spotted by the roadside as much as the charming views across France. Some of the best images are the recreations of original photos, with the more mature pair striking the same poses in the same places as they did 21 years before.
As well as relationships and riding, there are descriptions of the places and people that the pair encounter along the way, good and bad. Fatigue after a hard day occasionally leads to a cutting assessment of the French way of doing things: a recurring theme is the difficultly in finding a shop that’s open.
There’s also a wince-worthy description of a chronic ailment caused by one of the author’s error in fitting a brand new leather Brooks saddle right before the trip… and the methods employed in trying to relieve the pain.
A companion website gives more in-depth details of the exact route taken and the bikes used, plus there are more photos.
The appeal of this entertaining book is broad: Anyone who has a father or son, has ever undertaken a long-distance trip or has an interest in riding in France will enjoy many aspects of it.