From novelist Richard S. Wheeler, six-time Spur Award Winner and recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement:

This is a compelling story of a long bicycle ride, from the American Southwest to Central America. It is an interweaving of two journeys: one geographic and the other, interior and ethical. As we explore these pages we see a great adventure, planned and executed with a realistic grasp of the dangers and beauties awaiting the traveler. The gifted author’s story is absorbing, perceptive, and evocative. From the seat of a touring bicycle we see country and people close-up. We sense trouble as it arrives, magic when smiles greet the rider, and comfort in villages, cities, and landscapes. This is an elegant book brimming with photographs, wisely kept to black and white, offering a visual dessert.

Once Upon a Time on a Bicycle is too large to compress into genre and far more than an adventure. It is a love story.

Once Upon a Time on a Bicycle reviews by Barnes & Noble and Amazon readers†:

Two thumbs up to this wonderful book!

This man peddles to a different beat: I was expecting a trail book on how to navigate Pan America. It was way more than that – like a handbook on life, reflections and stories and a struggle to stay sane and alive. Having lost everything most dear to heart, he cashes out and peddles south. You’re along for the ride, and in his mind. You’re held captive by his unique writing style. And he puts himself out there – thus challenging you. Furthermore, his journey is beautifully written with fine detail, along with complimentary photos and a gear section at the very end. Indeed, it’s an eccentric book – that’s resourceful, provocative, and inspirational!


Once Upon a Time on a Bicycle struck the most positive and resonant of chords with me.

It’s relatable and timeless. I recently went through a stressful divorce and have a 16-year-old Ragnar (the author’s dog) named Fuddle, who is a patient and forgiving big sister to my human three-year-old daughter. After the divorce and a period of my own long-distance nomadness I landed, and on the first day in our new neighborhood Fuddle and I got out for a walk. We met a generous and genuine neighbor who, after a few dog-walk conversations, said, “I want to give you a book to read” and produced a copy of Once Upon a Time on a Bicycle saying, “I really think you’ll like and understand it.”

What he said could be the understatement of the year.

For the sake of us all, I hope Michael Russell is actively writing as I type this review.


This book was a wonderful surprise!

I bought this book not knowing what to expect. I liked the title and stormy cover image, but I did not anticipate a story that reads like a novel while also being a non-fiction adventure, illustrated travelogue, bicycle expedition journal, and inspiring personal drama. The concept is truly original. The story is compelling and well-written. The second time I read it I found all sorts of nuances I missed the first time. I really liked the ending, but I didn’t want it to end!


Outstanding! It is rare to find a book that defies classification and creates its own genre.


Absolute page turner! Couldn’t put it down and when it ended I wanted more! This book has something for almost everyone. If you’ve ever lost something or someone you cared dearly about and didn’t know how to “get over it” – if you are the adventurous type and want a good read about a “stranger in a strange land” – if you like the outdoors – this is the book for you. And if you are a tinkerer, mechanic, or bicycle gear head – there’s even the end of the book for those who are.

Russell does a fantastic job of linking the above into a story of one man’s “journey of necessity.” The scenes are so well crafted that you see the pictures at the end of each section and say: “I thought that’s what it looked like!” You’re not just reading the story – you are experiencing it along the way.


Chance meetings off the beaten path are often the most memorable. Such was my case five years ago in the remote West Texas town of Langtry, population 12. While pausing in Langtry on a regular family trip, we stumbled upon a cyclist, loaded to the max, pedaling across this country. After inquiring how far he intended to go, my five-minute hello turned into 30 minutes and 30 questions. His story captured my imagination, and I thought about him often after our encounter. Fast forward to present day and I have a copy of Once Upon a Time on a Bicycle in hand and in, of all places, Langtry, Texas.

We all face challenges on the road of life and we all handle them in different ways. The author faced his head on in the splendid solitude that only two wheels can provide. All readers can relate and enjoy this ride of healing.


I enjoyed reading this book. The passion present in the language and adventure inspired me. I like the way the author crafted the book in third-person. This was brave and more interesting than most first-person memoirs. It is clear to any reader that the narrator has a big heart. He would rather suffer, wander, question, and ultimately be uncertain, confused, unanswered, than be indifferent…. I respect a human willing to voice values on the page, willing to search, seek, and stand up for whatever he or she believes in, with integrity. The most moving part of the book is the narrator’s relationship with his past. This is the heart of the story. A human finding his life, his love not going as planned, and this human going on, riding on…. Trying to voice his feelings to people who may never listen. Realizing it is he who hears himself, he who chooses to keep moving, despite overwhelming doubt.


What a journey! AMAZING where he went!

I felt like I was along for the ride at times and looked forward to each new day. Really enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the people and scenery along the way. It was nice to have photographs included, also.

Was a bit disappointed actually to have the journey come to an end.

A good lesson in preparedness, determination, and believing in yourself.
This is a must-read for anyone on the merry-go-round of life who has ever considered dropping it all and just going away. . . .


Once Upon a Time on a Bicycle makes me want to take that really long bicycle ride I have been postponing until “the time is right.” The author doesn’t tell how it’s done, he shows how it’s done. It’s sad he went through something that made him have to start his life over again, but he totally committed to it and wouldn’t quit. For anyone who wants a real example of die hard motivation, this is it. (I don’t think I’d ride through some of the places he did, though, even [if] I wasn’t alone.) I usually buy eBooks but the layout of this book is so different I’m glad I bought the paperback.


An inspirational story with great tech info on cycling equipment.

I really enjoyed this book, soulfully written about an inspired journey “of necessity,” to quote the author. There are two sides to this book: the story side of the author and journey, and the equipment and technical information side. A must read if you are considering a journey on a bicycle. Very detailed information that is valuable in making your decisions about equipment and outfitting. I read it for the story side which I found inspirational in how the cyclist reflects on his experiences that brought him to making his journey.


I highly recommend this beautifully written, introspective journey. The author is a superb storyteller who left me wanting more of the adventure.

†  Reviews through August 2019. Extended reviews have been edited to ~150 words.

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