I’ve never been interested in long-distance touring, but Peter Rice’s practical philosophy and light humor in his Spandex Optional Bicycle Touring: How to ride long distance, the cheap and easy way might convince me to give it a try.
At only 104 pages, this book isn’t a complete how-to manual, but more an encouraging manifesto that if you can ride across town, you can probably handle overnight touring to the next county and even across the state. He mostly assumes that you already know your bike. Once you get past his bike-gear chapter (a throwaway chapter that you can easily skip), he rolls with advice on what to bring, where to stay, and what to do when you get stuck in the boonies, interspersed with anecdotes from himself and a variety of other tourists.
“If you can ride a bike across town, you can ride across the country” is the premise and the promise from Rice, who has toured thousands of miles through eleven states on bikes that he says bike mechanics would turn their noses up at. One bike “was such a piece of junk,” writes Rice, “that I seriously considered leaving it to be stolen rather than paying more than it was worth to ship it home.”
This book is not for those who need that $150 axe imported from Sweden. As you might expect from a guy who rolls with a chihuahua mix in a milk crate, Spandex Optional completely lacks pretense. He eats Goober Grape straight from the jar, is happy with Gatorade drink mix for the electrolytes he craves, and happily buys his supplies from the cheapest vendor out there.
To show that he has nothing at all against lycra (and, in fact, he strongly recommends padded bike shorts when riding long distances), Rice asked me to use this photo of him next to Lyndsay Wood, who illustrated his book, on a ride near Taos with her and Joe Beman. “The reflective vest,” Price parenthetically adds, “bought for five bucks at Home Depot.”
Spandex Optional is a self-published book (using Amazon’s CreateSpace platform), but Price’s background in journalism and other print media shows with good editing to create a professional product. Unlike most self-published media (including this blog), I counted zero spelling and grammar errors; the author’s breezy, conversational tone make this an easy and fast read.
Spandex Optional Bicycle Touring: How to ride long distance, the cheap and easy way by Peter Rice is available from Amazon.com in paperback, ebook (Kindle) and audio formats. For those who download the audio version, Rice makes his suggested packing list freely available.