I thought I was a bicycle fanatic. I mean, I pile up a few thousand miles a year on my road bike. When I’m not out riding, I’m wondering why I’m not riding, or thinking about my next ride.
Then I read Alan Snel’s book, “Bicycle Man: A Life of Journeys,” and I realized I’m barely an enthusiast.
For instance, I have not pedaled across the country. Twice. Or climbed 11 miles to the 3,850-foot-high summit of California’s Mount Diablo. The name alone says, “Stay away!” And then there’s the 15 miles Alan rode uphill past mountain goats and bighorn sheep en route to the peak of Mount Evans Road in Colorado, elevation 14,130 feet.
He once stopped at 13 Stewart’s ice cream stores during a 115-mile meander through Orange and Ulster counties, and hit the same number of Dunkin’ Donuts shops during a 100-mile jaunt around Tampa-St. Pete. No need to count calories when you’re expending that much energy.
Alan and I share more than a love of cycling: We both grew up in Rockland County and worked at The Rockland Journal-News, although Alan had already moved on by the time I arrived at the paper’s West Nyack newsroom. He later wrote for the Middletown Times Herald-Record and news outlets in Florida, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas before launching his own website, LVSportsBiz.com, several years ago.
Alan’s memoir combines his appetite for adventure, with his reporter’s instinct for charting the precise mileage and grade of the hills leading to the sky-high summits he’s reached.
The book’s epic rides are described in sufficient detail so that readers can try the routes for themselves, as long as they’ve got the moxie to pedal their way in and out of canyons like Red Rock, Zion and Bryce.
“Bicycle Man” also recounts Alan’s run-ins with bad roads and angry drivers that led him into an advocacy role — a role that took on more urgency after he was almost killed by a distracted driver, detailed in an earlier book, “The Long Road Back to Las Vegas.”
Although many of us connect learning to ride a bike with our childhoods, the book reminds us it’s never too late. His mom took her first ride at 64.
As Alan writes on the book’s dedication page: “When I ride a bicycle, it feels like my problems disappear.”
Amen to that.