The Bicycle Diaries

The Bicycle Diaries: My 21,000 Mile Ride for the Climate
© 2014 David Kroodsma
428 pages

The Bicycle Diaries combines travel and climate-change advocacy, both literally as a trip and throughout the book. As Kroodsma makes his way through Mexico, Central America, and the mountainous roads of South America,  he talks to locals, from retired presidents to impoverished farmers, about the ways their landscape is changing and discusses with them the ways climate change will further alter their homes, health, and livelihood.   The book is thus a tour of these regions by bike and a survey of the various ways climate will affect the future, as seemingly every place he visits is imperiled either by development or by climactic alteration.

 Although Peruvian villagers aren’t exactly a primary source of problematic emissions,  developing countries and their poor are the most at risk to future changes,  and Kroodsma wanted to increase awareness on all fronts – communicating what he knew to people young and old as he cycled, learning from his discussions with people about their experiences.  This a tale with great appeal, from the travel descriptions of varied landscapes (the beautiful Andes, salt flats the size of New Jersey, stupefyingly rich forests,  to the candid interactions with people from the poor and marginalized to the wealthy and powerful.   Kroodsma is continually amazed by the hospitality of strangers over the course of the year, and challenged by the fact that many people seem happy with their lives despite having so little.  The spread of the internet into very remote places was also a pleasing surprise, as it meant more opportunities at less expense.   The virtue of bicycles comes up quite often, as you might imagine — from their travel merits (making it easier for Kroodsma to interact with people),  to their environmental impact, to their role in making cities more livable places.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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6 Responses to The Bicycle Diaries

  1. mudpuddle says:

    i have to read this… what kind of bike did he have? i presume he had fluent Spanish… how long did it take him? have you ever read George Meegan's book about walking from Tierra del Fuego to Point Barrow? did his itinerary include the Altiplano?

  2. Stephen says:

    His bike was a brand-unspecified touring bike with wide, knobbly wheels; the journey took him just over a year, and his Spanish was very basic to begin with (high school-level) but improved by immersion. He also learned a little bit of various native languages as he passed through areas, and a little bit of Portuguese. The bicycle brand isn't mentioned at the beginning of the book, but when a bracket failed I think he mentioned the manufacturer…Shimano?

  3. Stephen says:

    To the bottom two questions, I haven't read Meegan's book. Sounds like a good complement to this. Kroodsma did visit the Altiplano period, yes…I think that was the salt flats.

  4. mudpuddle says:

    modern, readily available parts: makes sense… i've got to read this book: tx a lot for posting about it…. (had an interesting ride in the rain today: ten miles pedaling and 3 miles walking-flat tire, the second in two weeks…)

  5. Stephen says:

    Sorry to hear about your flat troubles! Do you ever do repairs on the road for that? I used too have a bike with problematic handlebars…they would float loose with the vibration of the road, and I would have to stop periodically (once every two miles or so) to tighten them with an Allen wrench. I've been reading about Meegan a little — I see he traveled the Darien Gap, which I only learned about when reading Kroodsma's memoir. Kroodsma could not transverse it because of narcotics trafficking violence, but instead took a boat from Panama to SA!

  6. mudpuddle says:

    sebastian snow, an English walker, traversed the Gap also, after walking up from Tierra del Fuego, but he quit not too long after that: it was a horrendous experience for him… i have done so-repairs, that is, but it's a pain in the whatchacallit… this time i was tired so i just walked it back to the truck… my bike is a Trek Pilot 5.0, carbon fiber frame and forks with Bontrager wheels. my daughter gave it to me after she quit iron women triathlons… i changed if from a 27 speed to a single speed and had it down to 12 lbs. at one time, but i added a home-made rack and it's about fifteen, now… where i ride is mostly flat with gentle hills so it works pretty well…

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