Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review - Uneasy Rider by Mike Carter

Mike Carter. Journalist. Age 42. Divorced. Buys a BMW. Points it east. Rides 20,000 miles. Rides through 27 countries. Drinks through 27 countries. Has adventures in 27 countries. He's having a mid-life crisis. And he's telling the world about it.

Book cover from
First - I bought this book hoping to enjoy reading how a motorcyclist traveled all over Europe on a BMW R1200GS. However, there is very little for a motorcyclist to enjoy as far as the mechanics of the trip were concerned. I like to see both sides of Robert Pirsig's "Classic" and "Romantic" views of the motorcycle (from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) - but you get no "Classic" (how a motorcycle works), and hardly any "Romantic" (what you can do with a motorcycle) views. Carter could have done this trip in a van and the story would have been very similar.

The book often appears to have been put together very quickly - as if Carter was working to a deadline that had to be met. The last part of his trip from Corsica to London is covered in less than two pages - France didn't make the deadline. In the Epilogue there are two mentions of Spain - but did he ride through Spain at all? Did I miss this in the book? Carter wanted to ride as far as Mount Ararat in Turkey. He gets there (bottom of p227), but five sentences later he turns around and heads home - so anti-climatic. And he talks about his divorce to anyone who listens - all the time.

There are many good tales and adventures throughout the book - and Carter tells this well. The book won the Oldie 2008 Travel Book of the Year - and there is plenty for travelers to enjoy. Most though is about the people Carter meets, rather than the places he goes. 20,000 miles and 27 countries is far too much for a 352 page book - and it shows. Enjoy the tales of strange night clubs, bars, and the people he meets - this is the best part of the book.

I have had two long motorcycle trips myself (Dún Laoghaire to Almancil in Portugal, and Dún Laoghaire to Sigean in France). I had mechanical difficulties and petrol problems, a sore arse, back trouble, I got lost several times, and had constant worries about the security of my bike. Carter has none of this, or at least doesn't write about it.

Overall - a disappointing book from a biker's point-of-view. I am also not convinced that it makes a good traveler's guide. But it is an interesting "guess what happened to me on my holidays" read.

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