CYCLING IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
By Richard Barrett
Published by Cicerone 2016
Paperback gloss laminated
If not everyone agrees that the Lake District has the finest scenery in England, it is certainly the top contender in the eyes of an awful lot of people. Water, mountain and rugged pastures and woods combine to produce a landscape that few can match. The cycling is hilly - that is the whole point - but there are a surprising number of road routes that offer a wide variety of ways to get the best out of the area. It is the range of routes and the alternatives that Richard Barrett suggests that make this a useful addition to the library of touring cyclists.
The centre piece of the guide is a well-designed and imaginatively presented tour of the Lake District. Starting at Ambleside and taking in Threlkeld, Keswick, Buttermere, Cockermouth, the western edge of the National Park, Wast Water, Eskdale, making a return to Ambleside with a strenuous passage over Hardknott and Wrynose Passes or a more southerly excursion via Coniston Water and Hawkshead, you’ll get to see the best of the whole.
Each of the stages of the grand tour has two routes to chose from. For example, form Ambleside to Troutbeck (the one near Threlkeld) could go over the Kirkstone Pass or take a longer route via Shap. Interestingly the former is fifteen miles shorter and has around 250 metres less ascent - the high passes may sometimes be the “easiest” way in statistical terms.
Reviewed by Steve Dyster
Few cyclists will select routes primarily on how easy they are. It is to the credit of this guide that, even someone who knows the Lake District well felt a twinge of envy that he’d not thought of taking some of these ways before. Notes on history, natural and human, and the grand tour alternatives make it easy to build one’s own tour based on interest and desire for legwork. Having said that, there are few routes that will not get your heart pumping and your legs nicely warmed-up. If you want easier stuff, e.bike hire is increasingly widely available.
A series of day rides are also described, aiming to cover many of the finest stretches of road. And this is fundamentally a road touring guide. There are many places in the Lakes where narrow tyres will not go and others where even a rugged old tourer will need more pushing than pedalling; this guide is all cyclable on a road bike. There are other guides for those seeking downhill thrills or rugged rough-stuff touring.
The day rides range from 15 to 42 miles, with some suitable for combining into a longer day. As with the grand tour, there are excellent maps and directions, as well as downloadable .gpx files.
The author also covers, though in less detail, the route of the Fred Whitton Challenge. For those not Whitton-aware, he describes this as a “must-do sportive.” There is also do it yourself option. It is, in fact, a brutal ride in which cyclists battle against gravity only to form a short alliance with their former enemy, lasting until they fall out again at the base of the next pass. All a big challenge and jolly satisfying for those cycling it all or sitting at the top of Hardknott watching them climb.
Full guidance is given on how to get to the different starting points for all the various rides, what to take, preparation of bike and self, and where to stay. There is particularly pertinent advice about braking on steep descents and gearing for ascents - aimed mainly at those cycling in the hills for the first time.
I particularly admired the attitude shown to personal preparation; “To enjoy your ride and prevent each day becoming a personal challenge ….” Richard Barrett’s guide will take you through spectacular scenery, be fit enough to enjoy it and give yourself time to take in some local goodies at the cafes en route.
REVIEW PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2016