MOUNTAIN BIKING IN SOUTHERN AND CENTRAL SCOTLAND
By Peter Edwards
Published by Cicerone
Softback in pvc sleeve
208pp including maps
A welcome guide encouraging adventurous off-road days out; most welcome and really useful.
If your heart sinks when guides to mountain-biking review the black routes at trail centres and adrenaline-filled descents at break-neck speed are the fare on offer, do not eschew this one. Trail-centres get a short section in, but are really about great days out on tracks, trails and paths, with a little road as is necessary to link the whole together.
No fear there'll not be plenty to get the blood-coursing through your veins with some strenuous riding to test endurance and skill, but you have a guide who has pedalled-the-pedal and hiked-the-bike. Get the picture … it is permissible to carry or walk your bike .… but the routes expect a good general level of fitness and some off-road skill or experience. The key to the selection, however, is not technical difficulty but the quality of the scenery and the cycling.
However, that does not mean that there will not be technical sections, some highly-technical, including steep rocky descents, or that riders should not expect very remote country, changeable weather and recognise that care and preparation are needed. The author offers advice on keeping safe - do not ignore these sections in your eagerness to reach the inspirational routes.
The twenty-one routes actually include an excursion from central Glasgow, but most explore the hills of Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders - one even suggests venturing into England! Some may be linked together, but many riders are likely to find one in a day enough. Route length is given in miles and hours. The latter does not include more than the shortest rest stop. Both give a feel for how long you’ll expect to be en route.
Taking a glimpse at the photographs will certainly inspire. Some may get the road tourers’ knees knocking or those familiar with rough-stuff shrugging their shoulders. Southern and Central Scotland is generally less remote than the the Highlands. Don’t underestimate it, though. Peter Edward’s guide uses a grading system of moderate, hard and very hard. You’ll notice there are no easy ones; a glance at the guide will show that there are moderate routes but expect to pay a expend some puff to gain your reward.
As well as advice on safety, there is some discussion of what mountain bike to use (routes have been ridden on full-suspension and hardtail with v-brakes and disc-brakes …. accommodation, emergency procedures, necessary gear and skills.
Most of the text is devoted to route description and directions, with an emphasis on surface, technical difficulties and the impact of prevailing weather conditions - particularly pertinent, given the remoteness of many of the routes.
Mapping is very strong - a reflection of the need for sound navigation - with OS 1:50 000 maps covering all routes. GPX files are available, but be prepared to use good old map and compass navigational skills, especially if the weather closes in. Route profiles often look frightening, but careful reading of the route detail is a better way to get a feel for what to expect - quality of surface and impact of weather conditions are crucial to progress on routes like these.
Fitting nicely into a jersey pocket this guide has all you need. Even a dyed-in-the-wool-road-tourer is likely to feel the urge to get out the the knobbly-tyres and head off into the wilderness for a ride …. well, probably a bike and hike …. and the keen rough-stuffer or off-roader will be licking their lips.
Update page for this guide www.cicerone.co.uk/747/updates
Reviewed by Steve Dyster