Michael Lyon on his book 'Cycling Along Europe's Rivers' and why he wrote it

  • Country : USA

    Currently riding : Marin Mountain steel bike
    Topics :

    Bio :

    Mike Lyon has been cycling for over 40 years, and has been touring in Europe through self-guided travel since 1994. He has also traveled extensively around-the-world, having visited over 90 countries for both work and pleasure.
    When not cycling, Mike works with companies to assist them with developing and implementing international strategic plans and business (http://www.lyoncapitalservices.com).


    Mike was also a leader in the space tourism sector, where he worked extensively on organizing the first three flights of tourist who spent over $20 million to visit the International Space Station aboard Russian spacecraft (Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth).


    Mike also served in senior posts in the U.S. government, including as the Special Assistant to L. William Seidman at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Resolution Trust Corporation (U.S. Government Agencies) during America’s Savings &Loan financial crisis, and as an Assistant Director for Resolutions at the RTC dealing with larger failed thrifts (over $500 million in assets).


    Mike received his J.D. from the Harvard Law School, and his B.A. in History from Brandeis University. He also attended the London School of Economics.Mike lives and cycles in the Washington, D.C. area, with his wife, Kusavadee, and son, Joshua his great cycling companion.

    Website : http://www.esterbauer.com

    My book is a companion guide to the German Bikeline map guide series. The idea of the book was to help further open up European bike touring to riders, especially from the US and UK, who have not used these books and also to provide information on how to undertake easy, affordable, self-guided cycle tours in Europe.

    Think back to when you were a kid; tell me about your earliest memories of cycling

    My earliest cycling memory is riding my tricycle down the street with the other kids on the block. Later, I started to join my uncle on rides around Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, home of Northwestern University, where I grew up. My uncle has been a big rider for over 50 years, now 86. He started touring in Europe in the 1970's, and did many adventures, even into Eastern Europe, by himself on a bike. He also has done rides across the US, even when he was almost 70.

    You run a successful advisory firm in the US, what made you want to come and ride in Europe for the last 20 years?

    My uncle had been touring for many years in Europe, often on his own. Finally, in 1994, we decided to take a ride ourselves. I found a ride starting in Bordeaux and road over the Pyrenees into Spain. Great ride, but tough! As my uncle was already in his mid-60s we decided that we should look next time for flatter rides. I started looking into river routes. What I discovered was a wonderful network of rivers throughout Western Europe, based around Germany. These routes provides us with an opportunity to ride 400 miles or so over a 10 day average period, without vehicle competition, and see a variety of interesting sites along the way. The Rhine, the Danube, and the Elbe are at the core of these routes.


    These types of rides really don't exist in the U.S. There are a couple longer trail rides, like the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany in New York, or the unpaved C&O Canal trail from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh. However, most riding is on shorter trails or on roads. Also, distances between towns and sites are generally longer in the U.S.


    Europe river riding made the perfect trip for us! Also, all in all, the logistics of riding in Europe are not any tougher than touring away from home in the U.S., and in many ways easier. Europe is still more bike friendly, although we are rapidly improving riding opportunities within cities.

    Do you think that being from the USA that you bring a different perspective on what Europe has to offer?

    Of course, I enjoy travelling in a different country, different cultures, history, and especially food! As mentioned, I appreciate the special benefits of travelling in Europe compared to options in the U.S. It is great to be able to ride between multiple cities in a day, something you could never do in the U.S. unless a champion rider. Many of the riders we meet in Europe come from the country where we are riding, so I think they enjoy seeing Americans on the trail and sharing stories. They are sometimes surprised we would go so far to ride in their backyard, and I think they are proud of what their countries have to offer to riders.


    Also, from a site perspective, I studied European History at University, so am interested in many of the places we ride from a historic perspective. For example, there are many interesting sites related to the Second World War along rivers.

    So tell us about the book, your journey and who it is aimed at?

    Over the years many have asked me about my trips, and wonder how to take these trips themselves. Most are under the impression that it would be very difficult and costly. Most Americans I meet ride in Europe on organized rides, some quite expensive. I am a reasonably experienced traveller (100 countries over a 30 year period), so I decided to draw upon on that experience to write the book to try and open up this type of travel to a wider audience. The idea is to explain how to take these trips through an easy and cost-effective process. Part of what I do for a living is create business plans and strategies -- I approached the book a bit the same way. It is much more of a how-to book, very pragmatic, not much on stories of my favourite latte by a serene river cafe! It is also meant to be a companion guide. One book cannot do everything, unless it is gigantic. My book is meant to tell you how to go, what to bring, logistics, and ideas on 25 routes. The idea is to use the book to pick your route, and then get additional materials for that route. For example, the detailed books from the German Bikeline series, which go hand-in hand with my book routes. I also recommend general travel books for site/hotel/restaurant info. The other idea is that given the rivers (the ultimate route guides), the use of GPS, and the Bikeline map books, turn-by-turn guides are really not necessary for these trips, so I give general routes and good cities for overnight, but not detailed directions.


    Book available from Amazon Click Here

    As the whole journey was based around rivers, did you not encounter any hills, mountains along the way?

    We try and avoid them. Without hills, these rides are good for riders of all ages and abilities, even when carrying your own luggage. There are a few exceptions. For example, some of the Chateau areas along the Loire are just a bit hilly. Also, sometimes the route I recommend includes riding on more than one river, and maybe crossing the hills between river valleys. But generally, the idea of this book is to have flat routes.

    Which country did you enjoy the most and why?

    All in all, I would have to say Germany, since it has the best river trails in the world. You could argue that Germany became the economic and manufacturing power it did partly because of its readymade advanced internal transportation system -- its rivers. No other country has such a network of rivers and trails. I really enjoy adding other countries onto the rides, such as Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary, and the Czech Republic -- provide more variety to the diet! I have included the Po River ride in Italy, but I have not found many flat rides in Italy. In France, the only rides are the Loire and Mosel Rivers (short distance). Even the Canal de Midi trails are nice, but generally too short for my types of rides. I have not found any long (400-500km) mostly paved trails without traffic in the UK -- ideas?

    Why didn’t you go into Bosnia or Croatia?

    When I first started touring these countries were not really open to tourists. I have also not found the kind of route I have focused on. Would be great to have ideas! At this point, I tend to stick to the Bikeline routes, and still have about a dozen I have not tried yet.


    By the way, I am also a sailor, for 40 years now, and have sailed several times in the Med, but have not made it to Croatia, definitely on my list!

    You have 11 five star reviews…any plans to have a follow up book ‘Cycling Up Europe’s Mountains’?

    Great idea, maybe on a motor cycle!

    No in all seriousness are you planning to write any other cycling books?

    No plans at this point. I wrote about a subject I really know, from the perspective of someone who can take 10-14 days of vacation, like a normal American tourist, rather than someone who is lucky to be taking a few months off touring. Maybe someday I can write on Asia trips -- I did a three week trip from Saigon to Hanoi, and plan some further Asian rides ahead.

    Why do you use Amazon to sell the book, has it been a good outlet for sales?

    The problem with cycling books is it is a limited audience, and the larger publishing houses are really not interested. Online selling through Amazon provides a great opportunity for a niche book. My book is one of the top selling cycling books on Amazon without having a major publisher behind it. That is great, since Amazon of course dominates online book sales. The downside is my approach does not get you into bookstores. Amazon has been great, but would be nice if the bookstores would be more open to this type of book!


    Book available from Amazon Click Here

    Who or what is your cycling inspiration?

    My Uncle Harvey, 86 this year, and still able to ride 40 miles a day with packs.

    Have you achieved any cycle milestones and will you participate in any events?

    I ride in some events, like the Bike Virginia ride sometimes, with about 1500 riders, and annual event. I might like to ride across the U.S. one of these years, but honestly, riding from London to Moscow would be far more interesting! My next milestone -- taking my 7 year old on my next ride to Europe!

    Finally, if the world were completely cycle friendly, where would you go?

    I have driven across South Africa for a month, would be great to ride it, but not safe enough roads for me. But if could, Cape Town along the coast, then inland around Durban to Kruger National Park would be a blast! Another ride, which I will do in the next years, will be from Bangkok to Phuket, not many trails, but should be a nice trip. For an adventure, I highly recommend the Saigon to Hanoi ride I did, really fantastic.

    Share Your Thoughts And Comments