In 2002, on a whim, James Clarke persuaded five of his friends to cycle with him 1000 km down the Danube from Passau in Germany to Budapest in Hungary. One of them had just reached 70 years of age and none had cycled since his first childhood. They had six months to prepare.

The six are:
Harvey Tyson – author, travel writer and one of the longest-serving editors of The Star.
Richard Steyn – travel writer and respected book reviewer; proprietor of a South African travel website. He was editor of the Natal Witness for many years before succeeding Harvey as editor-in-chief of The Star.
Rex Gibson – author and travel writer. He edited the Rand Daily Mail and was, more recently, deputy editor-in-chief of The Star.
Peter Sullivan - recently retired editor-in-chief Independent Newspapers and an inveterate traveller who also writes about travel.
James Clarke – author, columnist and travel-writer for various journals.
Alan Calenborne – retired CEO of an international company involved in parking and tollgates – he is expedition photographer.


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The tour, which was a great success, was dubbed “the Tour de Farce” – a name that stuck. The tours are the subject of a book, Blazing Saddles, published by Jonathan Ball in 2007.


Clarke is their titular but not terribly successful L*E*A*D*E*R though he makes little fuss and tries hard to be modest about it.

In 2003, Tour de Farce II cycled across southwestern France to follow first the Dordogne westwards and then turn back eastwards along the Canal du Midi which joins the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.


Their adventures along the 350 year-old canal became popular reading in newspapers and magazines.

In 2004 they cycled down Tuscany and up Umbria in an attempt find a continuous cycle route across the thigh of Italy.


In 2005 Tour de Farce IV set out to cycle round the north coast of Ireland from near Belfast to Westport in the Republic. They met with the worst Irish weather in 40 years but managed 30km per litre of Guinness.

In 2006 they marked the 150th anniversary of Speke and Burton who set out from England to find the source of Africa’s most important river. The Tour de Farce marked the anniversary by setting out from Africa to find the source of England’s most important river – the Thames. They found it and then cycled all the way down the river, through London including areas where some inhabitants had never seen a white man before, to the North Sea.


In 2007 they cycled through Catalonia and then Andalusia in Spain.

In 2008 they “did” the Blue Coast of Portugal.

In 2009 they cycled through the Somme, then Normandy before taking a train across to Burgundy for a week of cycling through the winelands.

In 2010 they spent 10 days exploring Switzerland which they found amazingly gentle.

Their first 6 tours are recounted in hilarious Clarke style in his book Blazing Saddles - The truth behind the Tours de Farce. This was published by Jonathan Ball in 2007. Sadly this book is now out of print.

Fortunately an eBook version was published in 2011 with the title Blazing Bicycle Saddles.

Read chapter 1 of Blazing Bicycle Saddles.

James Clarke

James Clarke - Recalculating