The Escape Artist: Life from the Saddle

Matt Seaton

Matt Seaton’s critically acclaimed memoir about his obsession for cycling and how that obsession was tamed.

For a time there were four bikes in Matt Seaton’s life. His evenings were spent ‘doing the miles’ on the roads out of south London and into the hills of the North Downs and Kent Weald. Weekends were taken up with track meets, time trials and road races – rides that took him from cold village halls at dawn and onto the empty bypasses of southern England.

With its rituals, its code of honour and its comradeship, cycling became a passion that bordered on possession. It was at once a world apart, private to its initiates and, through the races he rode in Belgium, Mallorca and Ireland, a passport to an international fraternity. But then marriage, children and his wife’s illness forced a reckoning with real life and, ultimately, a reappraisal of why cycling had become so compelling in the first place. Today, those bikes are scattered, sold, or gathering dust in an attic.

Wry, frank and elegiac, ‘The Escape Artist’ is a celebration of an amateur sport and the simple beauty of cycling. It is also a story about the passage from youth to adulthood, about what it means to give up something fiercely loved in return for a kind of wisdom.

Reviews of The Escape Artist: Life from the Saddle

    • ‘As poignant an elegy as I have ever read. I finished the last chapters of this book just before I went to sleep, and in the morning, with a swoop of grief in my guts, it was the first thing I thought of.’Toby Clements, Daily Telegraph
    • ‘Thoroughly tragic and almost brilliant. The Escape Artist is an achingly sad account of what Seaton now refers to as ‘my former life.’Robert MacFarlane, Observer
    • ‘A heart-stopping examination of how, why and for what we push ourselves to the edge. I never thought I’d cry about bikes and cycling. It is one of those rare books you could give to absolutely anyone – and one you’ll want to keep by you and read again and again.’Julie Myerson
    • ‘This book is, above all, about passion and loss. It’s about the passion of life at the very edge of athletic and mechanical achievement that is eventually lost to love of a wife and children, which in turn gives way to the loss of the wise and mother herself. I read and relished this book.’Jon Snow, Guardian