Sunday, 30 June 2019

Mind Is The Ride by Jet McDonald

Mind Is The Ride by Jet McDonald
Published in the UK by Unbound on the 16th May 2019.

2019 New Release Challenge read and one of my 2019 COYER Summer Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Jet McDonald cycled four thousand miles to India and back, he didn’t want to write a straightforward travel book. He wanted to go on an imaginative journey.

Mind is the Ride takes the reader on a physical and intellectual adventure from West to East using the components of a bike as a metaphor for philosophy, which is woven into the cyclist's experience. Each chapter is based around a single component, and as Jet travels he adds new parts and new philosophies until the bike is ‘built’; the ride to India is completed; and the relationship between mind, body and bicycle made apparent.

The age of the travelogue is over: today we need to travel inwardly to see the world with fresh eyes. Mind is the Ride is that journey, a pedal-powered antidote to the petrol-driven philosophies of the past.

Mind Is The Ride is an inspirational memoir of Bristolian Jet McDonald and his girlfriend Jen's epic cycle journey to India and back. Alongside a selection of travel anecdotes, mostly self deprecating, Jet uses this memoir to impart philosophical ideas about how we identify our places in the world and our sense of ourselves. The narrative is cleverly linked by way of each chapter explaining a particular bicycle part - the Saddle, the Head Tube, the Star Fangled Washer, ... - and how their connections can be seen to reflect society. I loved the gradual build-up of a bicycle diagram which ended each chapter. As each part is discussed, it is added to the diagram so, by the end of Mind Is The Ride, we have a completed journey and a complete bicycle.

I did struggle to understand some of the philosophical sections because I felt the book jumped around too much. It's perhaps ironic that a book which talks extensively about meditation and allowing our minds to focus more deeply, actually didn't do that itself. Trying to keep up the three narratives of the journey, the bicycle and the philosophy meant that one often seemed to me to be overly rushed. I do now have an extensive bibliography of other books to track down though. I did think some of the cycling metaphors were too forced, but several did get me giggling. I like McDonald's sense of humour.

However, I did appreciate the breadth of ideas that McDonald touched upon. Mind Is The Ride fits nicely in between other books I have recently read such as The Art Of Travel, Where The Wild Winds Are and In Love With The World. Most of all, I felt energised by reading Mind Is The Ride. McDonald's enthusiasm for cycling in all its forms from an alternative to the daily car commute, to a leisure activity, to a long-distance travel solution, is absolutely infectious. Personally my confidence levels put me far more at Danube cycle path level than Mumbai traffic warrior, but I'm now wanting to unfold my little bike and just get out riding somewhere!

Etsy Find!
by Temple Cycles in
Bristol, England

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Jet McDonald / Philosophical books / Books from England


  1. 4000 miles on a bicycle is just wow.

    1. I'd love to have the courage and fitness to undertake something like this myself!

  2. I'd say this would be an adventure worth writing about, and worth reading about.