At the start, I thought I’d enjoy this book more than I did. I had taken up cycling seriously again at the age of 56 and the author at the age of 60. I thought we’d have a few things in common but, apart from the desire to lose a bit of weight, we didn’t. “On My Own Two Wheels” is a deeply introspective and rather sombre book and if you don’t know your way around Eire and Northern Ireland, then read it with a map your other hand, otherwise many of the journeys described will be rather meaningless. I battled through to the end of the book but I don’t think it ever succeeds in expressing the sheer joy and freedom of riding a bike; the author seems to take everything so very seriously.
However, one particular idea from the book stuck in my mind: “We had the wheel for about ten thousand years before discovering that one behind another was enough for an elementary vehicle…” I did a little more research. According to Wikipedia: “The oldest known example of a wooden wheel and its axle were found in April 2002 in the Ljubljana Marshes some 20 km south of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. According to the radiocarbon dating, it is between 5,100 and 5,350 years old. It has a diameter of 72 centimetres (28 in) and has been made of ash wood, whereas its axle has been made of oak.” The predecessor of the modern bicycle, the dandy horse or Draisienne, dates from 1817. It is quite staggering to think that it took 5000 years for mankind to make the leap from wheel to bicycle. How could Leonardo da Vinci have missed this one yet still figured out the idea of helicopters, particularly when the earliest wheel was already the right size for a bike?