GREAT BRITISH ROAD RIDES GUIDE
Author: Clive Forth
Published by: Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4081 7943 7
Softback, 212 pages, including maps
“The Best of the UK in 55 bike Routes”. So runs the tag. Any book with such a title is inviting moans about omissions. With that out of the way, this is an interesting selection of rides in England, Wales and Scotland.
Clive Forth has been a cycling enthusiast from youth; a successful racer and is author of The Great British Mountain bike Trail Guide. He has also founded a training academy. Infer from this that in this guide speed, fitness and aiming for the personal best whilst cycling through the best of Britain’s countryside. Lines of sight and good asphalt surfaces are important.
In the introduction the author explains the paradigms within which he selected the routes. A desire for a mixture of shorter training rides within easy reach of major conurbations and longer, more challenging routes; easy accessibility (each ride starts at a railway station – a really positive point); the desire to, as far as possible, to avoid busy roads. A tough task.
Reviewed by KJT
The book is divided into geographical sections each with a selection of rides. An initial summary panel begins each ride, with detail of the main ascents alongside start point, distance and so on. A brief introduction with sound advice about terrain and precautions is followed by the route detail. This is almost solely directional, though where special care is needed it is highlighted – to the extent of advising on road position for the next turn. The more leisurely cyclist who wants more than a blast may well enjoy riding the routes, but will need to look elsewhere for more than a passing reference about what they might see. This is not a criticism – this book is primarily for those who feel the need for speed and are less likely to stop other than for refreshment – for which appropriate establishments are referred to.
At first glance, I wondered how this guide could be used on the road; too big for the rear pocket and to well-produced to invite rough treatment. It turns out that the routes are downloadable from the Bloomsbury website either as route cards or digital gpx files. This is a really good move and my copy will remain neat and tidy on the shelf.
One imagines that the routes close to major conurbations were the trickiest to design. However, for example, the two short routes from Tring, Hertfordhsire, combine good, relatively quiet roads, a fine climb with good views over Ivinghoe Beacon and the lovely Ashridge Estate, within easy reach by train of London.
More rural routes include some major challenges which could easily be adapted by the leisure and touring cyclist. Indeed, there are some I have ridden almost turn for turn (there is often little alternative in the Highlands). Equally, there are some ideas for rides in places I have not cycled before, though I may well adapt the route to include quieter, longer, poorer quality asphalt and more limited lines of sight.
In short, though this book is not aimed at the leisure cyclist, it can easily be adapted and may even be a source of inspiration to those who decide they want to go faster.
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2014