Changing Gears by Greg Foyster, A Pedal-Powered Detour from the Rat Race (Affirm Press)
Greg Foyster is a rider and a writer, a pedaller and a purveyor of prose. He is also a former advertising whizz who used to be dab hand at selling all manner of things, from utes to shower products.
Changing Gears has three elements running through it: it is the story of a long bike ride by two inexperienced cyclists, from Melbourne to Cairns via Tasmania; it is the stories of the people Greg and his partner Sophie meet on their travels – people shedding consumerist and materialistic lives; and it is the story of Greg and Sophie’s commitment to each other and to the cause of living by their principles.
Tone is all-important in a book like this and Foyster has done very well not to hector the reader. Changing Gears is informative without being overwhelming, and pensive without being ponderous. (It’s also quietly and self-effacingly humourous.)
Foyster sketches the principles of the characters he and Sophie meet, including a forest activist perched high up a tree, a loner walking the highways of the east coast the past 30 years, a founder of the Nimbin community, and a small-scale abattoir owner. They all have their own philosophies but Foyster keeps the chapters fairly short, thus maintaining the narrative and not leaving any room for preaching.
Given the book’s narrative arc is propelled by the long bike ride, it moves along at a steady rhythm. Given Foyster’s advertising background and the book’s aim to question consumerism, I was curious that he names the brand of his tent and of his laptop but not, seemingly, of his bike.
Disclaimer. My interest in Changing Gears stemmed from Greg Foyster contacting me out of the blue in January 2012. He had written some sample chapters of what was to eventually become Changing Gears and sought some critical feedback.
The sample chapter I commented upon was a very detailed account of a couple in rural Victoria living a hard life but one dedicated to being free from the shackles of consumerism. Their commitment was admirable but also a little intimidating.
As a writer it’s always interesting to see how similar ideas can be shaped differently. The final version of Changing Gears, with its lighter touch, sees Foyster changing gears and thus bound to find a broader readership.
Further reading: Greg’s blog