Book Review: Cycling Home From Siberia, Rob Lilwall

Last month, Michelle and I hit the used book sale at Third Place Books, our local independent book store.  Michelle was looking for books for the little free library, while I was browsing looking for a book to download to the Kindle app.

Editors note: I know, I know this is ‘wrong’ but I just don’t read real books anymore, if it isn’t on the Kindle, it gathers dust.

Michelle pointed me to the bike books, and I found Cycling Home From Siberia, by Rob Lilwall.  I downloaded it (even I won’t use a book stores wifi for that) as soon as I got home.  I was excited to get started on it


Rob was a geography teacher in England whom, I believe, was burned out from riding herd on teen age boys.  Having two of them myself I can see how that would happen.  Unlike many people, though, who use going to the bar to blow off steam from a job they dislike. Rob had another plan.

Rob decided to meet up with an old friend  Al who was on the final part of round the world bike trek, and ride  with him.  An excellent idea, except the meet up place was the far east of Siberia, just as fall was going to turn into winter.  I am not saying I wouldn’t do it given the chance, I like cold weather riding.  But that wouldn’t be my first choice.

However, I was ready to read about a cross Siberian trip and all the beauty and pain that entailed.  Then I had my first disappointment with this book.  Instead of pointing his nose due west and heading into the deepest wilds, he went south to Japan.  STILL a hard ride, yes, something I will never do, definitely, but not what I was expecting.

OK I adjusted to that, and realized this would be a multi-country ride.  Japan, China, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Cambodia to name a few.  I am down with that!  I like those books too. Excitement regained!

For a while…

I honestly just did not enjoy his travelogue.  The more it went on, the more he  changed the focus.  If became less about the ride, and the experiences he had in the countries (Shoot Australia was done in a blink, one of the shortest chapters) and more about religion. He would then go on for pages and pages about a single  church service, prayer and missing his girlfriend.

I could tell that he had a theology degree as he went into great detail about the differences between Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.  He made sure at the end of  each comparison to point out that his was the one true belief. He did paint each in a very positive light, and I did learn things I didn’t know. From his tone though, I could just feel him looking down on the other beliefs.  That annoyed me.

I want to give props where it is due. The man had an epic ride. 30000 miles, through places I can only dream of going and riding: Tibet, Nepal, Australia.  And I applaud his sneaking past the Chinese checkpoints in Tibet as well as braving a ride across both Iran and Afghanistan. The man is a cycling stud.

But as a book, I only gave it two stars.  I went from excited to read to “I just want this thing done!” way to quickly.  Plus, at least the Kindle version, had no pictures at all.  There were some sites he did describe, and said he snapped some shots, but none to be seen!

I really wanted to like this book, but sadly I only gave 2 stars.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Cycling Home From Siberia, Rob Lilwall

  1. “Cycling Home from Siberia” is one of my favorite cycling travelogues. (Admittedly, I don’t remember the specifics about the religious stuff.) Alas, only two stars!?!?! I’m starting to wonder if you and I have different tastes in books! No worries about our differing book preferences — we can still be friends. Hehe. 🙂

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