Troubador The Unicyclist, the Vicar and the Paediatrician

Released: 01/05/2013

ISBN: 9781780885155

Format: Paperback

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The Unicyclist, the Vicar and the Paediatrician


Hi, I’m Joe. In the summer of 2011 I turned 16, and decided to mark this by cycling from Land’s End to John O’ Groats – on a unicycle. This book is the story of that journey and all that led up to it. The Unicyclist, the Vicar and the Paediatrician is the unique, heartwarming and true story of Joe, a teenage unicyclist, who sets out on his ultimate challenge: to travel the length of Britain on one wheel. He is accompanied on this incredible journey by his paediatrician father, Peter, desperate for a bit of father-son bonding; and by David, the sexagenarian vicar, complete with a broom strapped to his recumbent tricycle, transforming the endeavour into a pilgrimage on wheels. But almost from the beginning, the three are beset by problems: mechanical failures, broken handlebars, an unexpected ambulance ride. Can Joe and his companions overcome the crises that come their way, and make it to the finish line? This moving account, written jointly by Peter and Joe, follows this remarkable team as they battle against adversity and press on to reach their goal. From Joe’s earliest ventures into long-distance unicycling and months of training amidst the realities of family life and father-son communication, through to their enthusiastic start from Land’s End and the fateful day that followed, their journeys will delight, amuse, challenge and inspire you. Donations from sales will be made to the Lullaby Trust (Formerly the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths). This was one of the charities supported by the sponsored unicycle ride

Families First

Having a bit part of the story I was intrigued to read where I featured… actually I ended up being riveted and reading the whole thing in one sitting! It is a wonderfully inspirational story of how to change a dream into reality and all that that entails. The story is a lot more than just a tale of a ride from Lands End to John O’Groats it is the story of a journey.

I would recommend the book to anyone who feels the desire to do something in their life that is a challenge. Not just get on a unicycle and ride from the bottom to the top of Britain.

by Roger at

Peter's understated prose belies the tremendous accomplishment of cycling from Lands End to John o'Groats, whether on one wheel or three. But this book is about more than a cycling trip - it's a story of overcoming huge challenges both on and off the cycles, and how this touched the lives of the riders, their support, and those around them. Highly recommended.

by Kris Holm

3 generations on different numbers of wheels set out to complete lejog. It doesn't turn out as planned and the result is thought provoking.

by Margaret Sherborne

It’s not often that an ECHO article turns into a book. But the recent publication of The unicyclist, the vicar and paediatrician – travelling the length of Britain on one wheel sees an unusual Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge transformed into an absorbing read - with a poignant ending.

ECHO 359 (October 2011) told the tale of teenage Earlsdon unicyclist Joe Sidebotham, his paediatrician dad Peter (on two wheels) and their vicar and friend David Mayhew, who joined them riding a recumbent tricycle. But as with so many epic voyages, there was far more to it than just the journey – and the book is considerably more than just a standard travelogue. Authored jointly by Peter and Joe, whose entries are in the form of blog entries written as the ride unfolds (interspersed with his audio diary transcripts), it’s a moving account of an obsession turned into a major fundraising effort, as well as a battle against adversity.

ECHO’s reviewer found the work a little slow to get going – there’s quite a lot of detail early on about training rides, for example. But the necessary early character sketches are quite fun, including a couple of amusing (very short) chapters on father-son communication. Quite what the vicar thought of the description of him as a ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ character on his impressive new machine isn’t recorded. Peter muses to good effect on heroes and their values, parenthood, and the background to his work (including time spent in the slums of Phnom Penh with a Christian mission service team), which helps the reader understand the choice of charities for which the three riders fundraised.

Once the ride is underway, there’s not inconsiderable drama, almost from the start. This is described very well, and there’s a real depth of feeling to what Peter recounts as life-threatening illness puts in an appearance. The book has a degree of spiritual reflection without being ‘preachy’ or self-indulgent, as will as humour at the unexpected turn of events, elements which help to give the book a depth and a roundedness some travelogues lack.

Pulling off a description of the passing countryside without descending into ‘we saw x, then we saw y’ isn’t easy, but Peter and Joe just about pull it off – even if Peter admits that his son is over-fond of the adjective ‘nice’ at times (a fault of which Joe, to his credit, is self-deprecatingly aware). Liberally supplied with good-quality black-and-white photos, it’s an absorbing (and, at 140-odd pages, fairly quick) read. If you want to learn how to travel at several times the speed of light, or why the vicar carried a broom strapped to his tricycle, the book is available from Matador.

by Earlsdon Echo

What a journey! I have pedalled through your book from the relative comfort of a beach hut in Southwold. An incredible story - brought a tear to my eye!
It is inspiring to join a narrative that so naturally intertwines your faith with your family, friends and your paediatrics. Has made me reflect on my own journey...

...has also made me decide never to contemplate such a bike ride!!!

by Colin Dunkley

Peter Sidebotham with Joe Botham

Joe is a 6th form student at Blue Coat School in Coventry. He started unicycling in 2006, adding it to a wide range of hobbies. He plans to study maths with physics at university, and to keep up his unicycling on the side.

Peter is a father of two and a consultant paediatrician working in Warwickshire with academic interests in parenting and child health. While his professional work brings challenges, by far his hardest role has been learning to be a Dad.

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