Book Review, 'Barring Mechanicals…' by Andy Allsopp


I stumbled across 'Barring Mechanicals, From London to Edinburgh and back, on a recumbent bicycle' while searching Amazon for a book about 2 guys riding recumbents across Russia. Just before that I'd been idly browsing the LondonEdinburghLondon audax website. At first glance the idea of riding from London to Edinburgh and back seemed quite appealing. But then I looked again at the time frame – 1400km in 5 days. That's nearly 300km a day for 5 days! 5 days of doing nothing but cycling, eating and snatching a couple of hours sleep. Maybe not! That is for seriously hard core Audax riders not for someone looking to ride their first 200k. Andy Allsopp, however, thought differently!

Andy bought his recumbent after an operation for a degenerative spinal condition left him unable to ride an ordinary bicycle. A short tour of Normandy inspired him and a friend to enter London-Edinburgh-London. He was averaging 10 miles a week at the time! Undaunted by this minor technicality he embarked on some serious training with regular overnight rides from London to the coast and back. By the time the event came round 9 months later he was able to cover 400k in a day but his friend had been forced to drop out with a broken wrist. Within a few miles of the start he found himself walking to the nearest railway station as his recumbent suffered serious mechanical problems. In desperation he fired off a message from his smart phone to his regular cycling forum and almost immediately was offered a solution using zip ties! From then on there was no stopping him!

This is a short, but most enjoyable, read that offers a real insight into what it takes to complete such a monumental ride. I became quite engrossed in it, almost sharing his feelings of hunger, tiredness, joy and fear. Then there's the storm... Illustrated with photographs, maps and elevation profiles you almost share the ride with him. In his forward he states 'I'd like to share a little of how my LEL came to be, because when I started I was in awe of long distance cyclists. I was very aware of the differences between 'them' and 'me', but failed to see that the distinction was made on my side only... ' He certainly does a great job of making an extraordinary achievement seem like something anyone could do if they tried. Bald statements such as 'Miles travelled 690, miles to go 186' don't seem too extraordinary if you read them fast enough!

Its a great read and well worth £5.39 from Amazon but I don't think I'll be rushing to get my LEL entry in. Not this time anyway!

6 comments on “Book Review, 'Barring Mechanicals…' by Andy Allsopp”

  1. Chris wrote:

    Please don't tell us you're thinking of getting a recumbent bike, Hilary. Even at my most assertive on the road I'm still aware of how vulnerable I am on a bike. I don't think anything could persuade me to ride one of those things on public roads. Nah.

    Sky Ride Hull 2011 - Recumbent bicycle outside St Charles

    A recumbent cyclist at the Hull Sky Ride 2011. On closed roads

    Hats off though to those guys riding very long distances on similar machines. Rather them than me.

  2. Kern wrote:

    A Canadian comedian, Red Green, literally made a career based on the possibilities of Duct Tape. Maybe zip ties could be the Next Big thing. Sadly I have neither timing nor mechanical capabilities. For that matter, I don't have a randonneur's stamina either. This is a definite bedside (Stay There!) book.

  3. Patrick wrote:

    ... something anyone could do if they tried

    This reminds me of (what I thought was) a Rubettes number from the 1980s: "All You Gotta Do Is Do It." The song I think I remember at least contained that line. It's easy when you say it, but the inertia to get going and actually do it is the difference between 'them' and 'me'. Well done Andy.

    I wonder if long distance cylists enjoy cycling for its own sake or whether the bicycle is just the means to an extraordinary achievement. My enjoyment limit is about 80 miles and that is on a good day. After that I'm thinking "enough!" (regardless of whether I'm capable – or not – of going further).

  4. Hilary wrote:

    There is no fear of me getting a recumbent altho I am currently reading 'Off the Rails – Moscow to Beijing on recumbent bicycles' so there is a bit of a theme developing! From this I have learnt that they make you more susceptible to frost bitten feet and that chasing dogs are at eye level with you! Back in the normal world I have a friend who regularly rides a LWB recumbent which also has bigger wheels than the one in Chris' pic. They seem to help people who have back problems and I think this extra comfort makes them well suited to long distance epics – no saddle sores!

  5. Mary wrote:

    I received this book for Christmas 2012, and I have it stashed away to read in a few days time as I get over surgery.

    Great review Hilary, and SO pleased you are getting into the Audaxing bug. I haven't ridden my bike properly (ie more than 60 miles) for a long while now, sort of lost my Mojo, but then suddenly, some lovely ladies from 'Dorest area' contacted me by email, via one of my Audax mentors and invited me to do a long distance Audax to Scotland in 2014. They had been my AAA inspiration, and now we sort of 'know' one another – amazing....

    It totally surprised me for teh better at a time when I needed a 'lift'.

    Looking forward to catching up with your long Audax adventures.

    Im a volunteer on LEL this year, really looking forward to it.

    Great review on this book. I like the idea of a 'bent' with no saddle sores! But Im keeping my 'upright'.


  6. Andy Allsopp wrote:


    Just been pointed to this by a friend. Thanks for taking the time to read the book. So glad you enjoyed it. I've not learned my lesson, by the way. Aimed for LEL2013 but got rear ended by a car during my commute and killed the bike. Ended up volunteering which was, if anything, more rewarding than doing the ride. Was wonderful to see all the riders come through our control, (and nice to know I only had to sleep and bimble whilst waiting for them to make the return trip).

    Of course, volunteering gets you a reserved place on LEL2017. So, MJ, how you fixed for a couple of summer's time?


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