At a time when we are in COVID-19 Lockdown, self-isolation, lots of turbo bike miles and my company have said we cannot carry over holiday entitlement to the new holiday year I found myself with two weeks leave (should have been cycling in Sweden, Denmark and Norway but lets not dwell on that) and the offer of a book review – perfect timing!
So the above was how I came about the book Gears for Queers. Now I will admit when I first got the book I saw the title and thought eek, will that offend anyone? Well the book is written by Abi and Lili who are a couple and refer to themselves as queer. The book quotes:
‘to queer something is to trouble boundaries, to question the division into binaries, success/failure, commuter/cyclist, made/sane, travel/migrate, leave/remain’
The book documents the couples journey of bike touring from Amsterdam to Spain. Lili is from Cambridge and having cycled there myself I know it is flat albeit very windy at times, not Lanzarote windy but windy nonetheless. I did a 100 mile cycling sportive in Cambridge with two girlfriends and we practically flew for the first 50 miles and then turned and battled wind for the remainder of the ride! Lots of people cycle in Cambridge and Lili is one of those very people. Abi, however, had not cycled more than 20 minutes as part of her commute before agreeing to take on this trip!
Both Lili and Abi had second hand steel framed bikes for this bike tour, one of which cost only £40, and these were the bikes they cycled in Amsterdam, through The Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland as part of this tour. Two steel framed bikes, a printed route from Google Maps, many pannier bags filled with all sorts (I have 2 items they took that my firm favourites but I won’t give away what they were), leaving technology behind and they were set for an epic adventure!
There was so much in this book I could relate to as a cyclist including aching legs, saddle sore, grimacing at hills as you approach them, navigating busy roads and traffic, trying to understanding signage in different languages when cycling abroad and much more.
Both Lili and Abi are vegan and so a bike tour of this nature is made even harder when trying to find vegan friendly places to eat and buy food – I know this first hand as my husband is plant based and we have cycled in many countries abroad and the concept in some countries is just not known as much so you need to adapt and be creative at mealtimes.
The book is an honest account of their journey, including periods, hormones and the moods that go with that. It is a refreshing account including warts and all and not just the good fun stuff that went to plan but all the bits that didn’t too. It shows the kindness and generosity of people who are perfect strangers. I learned about Warmshowers, a non-profit organisation that is a community of like minded people who bike tour around the world and host other people bike touring – I didn’t even know this existed before reading this book and love that there is something like this out there.
Oh and there are cats! Not cycling with them obviously! Camping, wild camping, interesting hosts along the way and lots of chickpeas!
I loved this book and finished it in two sessions. I struggled to start with the gender neutral pronouns used as Lili is non-binary but only briefly at the start and then it naturally flowed as I read more and more.
Bravo to Lili and Abi for completing approximately 2,000km over a two month period – what a way to see different countries than by your own speed and power on a bike. I am completely envious of such an experience and hopefully one day will experience something similar.