Hell on Two Wheels

When my son Keith recommended Amy Snyder’s book, Hell on Two Wheels, I was apprehensive. We share the same interests in books, but he is an avid cyclist and I know little about the sport. However, it turns out that the book is a very compelling eye-opening read, a darn-good story with no bike racing knowledge required. It is a thrilling tale about the most incredible sporting event you’ve never heard of — a 3,000-mile bike “Race Across America” (RAAM). It’s the ultimate in ultradistance cycling where mere survival may be the greatest victory.

To give this story some perspective, RAAM cyclists average 22 hours of racing each day during this mind-boggling gut-wrenching race. The leaders get by on 90 minutes or less of sleep per day. They are forbidden from taking shelter from the wind behind fellow racers or support vehicles. They ride alone. The race has been completed in just over eight days, but most of the racers are happy to do it in ten.  Do the math.

Mount Everest climber and three-time RAAM winner, Wolfgang Fasching, confessed, “Everest is more dangerous, but the RAAM is harder.”

Race Across America – RAAM [Photo John Evans (UK, 2007)]

To show the reader how difficult this could be, Amy Snyder dissects the 2009 race and the 28 racers who competed. In her Hell on Two Wheels, you will know in every part of your body and mind why this is the toughest endurance test in the world. You will share the racer’s pain, their sleep deprivation, hallucinations, joy, second-guessing, disappointments, and ecstasy as they ride their bikes from the Pacific to the Atlantic. You will intimately meet, admire and repulse at some very unique strong-willed men and women, unlike anyone you have ever known.

If you decide to read the book – and I hope you do – do not read ahead. In this book, Amy’s sports reporting skills shine. It’s the Kentucky Derby for eleven days. She’ll keep you up-to-date and in pleasurable suspense until the last racer finishes. I can guarantee that you will be both surprised and exhilarated by the results of this life-changing race and awed by each cyclist’s unrelenting determination to win.

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