CYCLING IN NORTHERN FRANCE
Author: Richard Peace and Andrew Stevenson
Publisheder : Excellent Books
Softback, 265 pages, spiral bound
Sixteen-ninety-five? For a guidebook? Well, this comes with a separate fold-out, waterproof map (with 1 : 200 000 strip maps of the eight recommended routes and detailed maps of town and city centres) in addition to two hundred and sixty-five pages of well-researched guidance written from the perspective of two leisure cyclist. Sounds like value for money to me.
A closer look does not contradict the initial impression.
A few years ago the elder sister to this volume was published. The younger sister bears a strong family resemblance. One gets the impression that the two authors have enjoyed the intervening years of riding and research. The good news is that Cycling in Southern France likely to be revised and up-dated.
Any selection of routes in a country as large and as friendly to cycling as France is likely open the authors up to cries that they have missed something out. Let us just say that Richard Peace and Andrew Stevenson have made the selection on the basis of experience and time spent in the saddle.
After a few pages of introductory information about cycling in France, how to get your bike about and the niceties of road signs and cycle paths, the book plunges into the routes. The next one hundred and forty pages cover eight selected multi-day routes. These are neatly shown on one of the two maps on the fold-out front cover. The second of the maps shows the Voies Vertes and signed Veloroute. The second half of the book covers these.
Five of the eight routes start at ferry ports (the Avenue Verte and Seine Valley route links Paris with either Dieppe - Avenue Verte - or Le Havre - Seine Valley), making them peculiarly convenient for British cyclists. Those arriving by air from other parts of the world may well need to use the rail network which is also shown on the maps.
Tours include areas of Brittany, Normandy, the Champagne, Burgundy and Lorraine and Alsace. Interestingly there is also a route from Boulogne to Lille, covering the oft ignored countryside of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais on the borders of Belgium.
Reviewed by KJT
Each route is divided into day rides, although advice is given on how to break the rides down into shorter sections if so desired. There is the usual summary information for each route and suggestions of what is not to be missed. The ride notes seem clear and the relief diagrams are clear, showing height, route surface and distance. In conjunction with the maps this should be more than enough to plan and navigate.The second half of the book covers signed routes, including Voies Vertes and on-road routes by Department, starting with Brittany and finishing with Alsace. There are indexing maps and more detailed maps of the main routes. Other are dealt with in text only. It should be noted that some of these routes are still under development and infrastructure might not be up to the expected standard throughout the route at present.Several of the routes run through major urban centres. An awareness of such routes is very helpful. I was embarrassed, as someone who considers themselves well-informed on cycle routes, to find that there were so many traffic free routes I knew nothing of. Some giving access into challenging countryside, such as the Ardennes and the Vosges, the whole forms an impressive and growing network.Yet France is such a vast country with so many miles of empty roads that it is easy to use alternative routes or to link the recommended routes to the Voies Vertes and the on road Veloroutes. It has always been a pleasure to cycle in France. This guide adds a thorough and up to date coverage of routes on and off road. It will be of use to any cyclist planning a tour, whether deciding to follow one of the recommendations or to find good ideas to travel on an independent itinerary.It is not a light-weight book, but the leisure cyclist will happily carry it in a pannier. The map is very useful, too, easily folding with care. I’d still be inclined to carry the Michelin or IGN maps, as the detail and breadth of those in the guide is limited. However, it should be possible to find one’s way along one of the routes with the guidebook and companion map alone.Even if you never get to go, you’ll have a good few hours of pleasure using this book to see what you are missing. Of course, coverage of such a huge area is likely to have limited depth of background history, geography, art and culture. They all get an appropriate mention and tourist information details are given. The cyclist who wants to be immersed in culture will want more, the leisure cyclist though, may be happy to roll along the routes in these pages and soak up local culture and cuisine in the cafes and markets along the way.There is a useful French-English bicycle glossary.One might use the Avenue Verte guide from Sustrans in conjunction with the routes from Dieppe in this book.www.excellentbooks.co.uk'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED 2014