Bike travel author Anne Mustoe dies on bike tour in Syria

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One of the bicycling world's most articulate travel authors passed away recently on what she said was going to be her last around-the-world bike tour.

Anne Mustoe of Great Britain died in a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, on Nov. 10. She was 76.

The former girl's school headmistress started her around-the-world bicycle travels when she was 54. She circled the globe twice — once in each direction — and wrote 7 books about her adventures.

She got the idea to travel by bike when she saw a man pedaling a bicycle across a desert in northern India. She was riding in a passing train at the time.

According to an obituary in the London Times, she left her job at the girl's school and was given a Condor bicycle as a going away present. She covered about 100,000 miles on that bike before she died.

Around the world

She traveled westward for her first around-the-world solo bike journey in 1987. “A Bike Ride” told the story of that tour. She wrote about her second around-the-world bike ride in “Lone Traveller.” Writes the Times:

“The extra dimension with which Mustoe sustained her travels was that she followed historical routes: Roman roads across Europe; Alexander the Great’s route from Greece to the Indus Valley; Pakistan and India with the Moghuls and the Raj; and so on. Across the United States she followed the great pioneer trails, and undeterred by downpours, heat, political turmoil or amorous waiters, she promptly decided to do it all over again, in reverse direction.”

Mustoe last reported at her website that she had just bicycled across the southern tier of the US from San Diego to Savannah on her third around-the-world journey and was preparing to leave London to head westward in May 2009. That's the bike tour that ended in Syria.

Flat tire

Reading the FAQ at her website, essentially a Q&A with herself, I was amazed at how much of her travels were left to chance. In a day when bike travelers can carry GPS equipment and many obsess over every part of her bicycle, she didn't even know how to fix a flat tire.

“I've never mended a car, so why should I have to mend my bike? I pay someone to do it for me. I don't enjoy tinkering and I'm no good at it. But there's a serious reason too. In poorer parts of the world, the small sum of money I pay for a puncture repair is nothing to me, but to the man who earns it, it's dinner for his family. …

“So far, I've been lucky. I usually seem to have these problems outside a bike shop! I had a puncture just once out in the desert, in Colorado. But my luck held. In no time at all, a man appeared in a pick-up truck and drove me and my bike to a shop in Vernal, where I got the puncture repaired. I was cycling round the world at the time, so I didn't cheat. I hitched a lift back to the spot where the nail attacked me and started cycling again from there.”

No camping

She also goes into detail about the gear that she carries. Although it includes a sleepling bag and tarp, she doesn't carry a tent. She almost never camped.

“If there isn't a hotel, I have to rely on the kindness of local people, who always come up with a safe place for me to spend the night. I've slept in some funny accommodation – pilgrim shelters in Hindu temples, on the table in a station waiting room, seven-in-a-bed with Tadjik nomads (and when one turned over, the other six had to follow). I've even slept with the Chinese Army at a frontier post in the Pamirs. Being a lone woman has its advantages, as vulnerability brings out the protective in people and I'm obviously not a threat.”

Mustoe will surely be missed, but her travel writing could last for years. Her books are listed at her website and are all available for purchase.

First seen at Bike Bits, Adventure Cycling Association…

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    • Scallywag on May 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm
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    So sad to read that Anne has left this world, what a wonderful lady and what a mentor for
    widowed ladies like me. As I read her books I put myself in her shoes and shared her amazing travels.
    Such a loss, would so much loved to have met you Anne. Cycle on………….Dee

  1. Anne was the motivator behind My two bike ride around Tasmania with my daughters. I used her first book to plan my rides and they were the most challenged things I have done. I am very proud of my daughters and my survival, also I have great admiration for Anne ability to not only do the rides but to then write a most enjoyable account of these. To go doing what one loves in life is a very special thing. Anne will be sorely missed may her encouraging stories be her legacies and may others be inspired to ride to freedom of the soul. Thank you Anne you made a big difference in our lives. RIP.

    • Sheila Harman on July 18, 2019 at 6:19 am
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    I have been a fan of Anne’s for many years and was in many ways my inspiration to cycle solo through four European countries at present he tender age of 60. I have since done many more distance solo trips but never quite made it into Anne’s league. Recently I was wondering what has happened to her and was genuinely upset to find out she passed away 10 years ago. I never met her but would have loved to. I feel we might have had much in common, sharing a similar outlook on life. I feel in my heart that passing on whilst on another world trip would have been how she would have liked to have gone. Not in a care home with dementia or with an illness that prevented her from doing what she loved best.
    There is no doubt in my mind that she is up there with the great adventurers of all time.

    • Ron Taylor on March 29, 2021 at 11:09 am
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    Just bought her book “A Bike Ride”, truly an inspiration…

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