TOUR DE MANCHE TOOLKIT
The Tour de Manche is a European Community supported cycle route that runs through Normandy, Brittany, Dorset and Devon. Its smaller sibling, Le Petit Tour de Manche misses out Devon and much of Brittany, Channel-hopping via Jersey. Having cycled the latter with the family – it was inevitable that one would come across Roy and Jacqui, from Signpost Cycling.
Roy & Jacqui Griffiths have been two of the leading lights in the development of the route on the English side of the Channel. At the recent Fiets en Wandelbeurs (Biking and Hiking Fair) in the Netherlands, the route came second in the Best Cycle Route category. Roy & Jacqui were there to promote it – voluntarily; both being keen promoters of cycle touring.
Roy told me, “I see this as port-to-port cycling. We wanted to produce a guide that would enable people to enjoy the journey along the English section, between Plymouth and Poole, at their own pace and in their own way.” So, the cycle route ‘toolkit’ has been developed and is now available for £19.95.
Roy pondered long on the format and how to get the blend that would be helpful to all sorts of cyclists. So, what has he come up with? Well, if you are expecting a jersey-pocket-sized book, you’ll be disappointed. Roy describes the guide as a “toolkit” comprising a 16 page A4 printed guide together with a PDF electronic version suitable for smartphones and tablets, two Sustrans cycling maps (South Devon and the Dorset Downs), downloadable GPS files for each of Roy’s suggested stages and for the route as a whole, with directions to town centres.
The printed guide (A4 size, makes it convenient if you want to carry a paper copy) is divided into nine stages, with a summary of the route, information about signage (though there are Tour de Manche signs, the route follows a number of different sections of the National Cycle Network), accommodation, refreshments, tourist information and so on. As an electronic document it will be easy to up-date and that is really important in these changing times. Usefully, major local events are listed – air shows, festivals, Tavistock Goose Fair and so on, along with tourist attractions.
There’s information on how to get to the start of your journey and how to get back there. Roy told me that this was a topic much discussed by Dutch cyclists at the Fiets en Wandelbeurs show. Roy discussed trains and cars only to find that many wanted to cycle to the start.
As for the paper maps? Well, I have used other maps in this series before and they are more than adequate for cycle touring. Landscape detail is more limited than on an OS 1:50 000 sheet, but lack of contours can be encouraging to some and hills don’t get lower by looking at them on a map. There’s lots of tourist information, cycle routes are clearly marked and they easily fit into a jersey pocket or a waterproof bag for clipping to a route-card holder on the bars. The scale is 1: 110000, so they cover a good area. The normal cost of these at the Sustrans shop is £4.99 each (as of Feb 2015). And, of course, unlike strip maps for routes, you have maps that cover much wider areas.
So, for the rest of your money you get up-to-date, downloadable files for your GPs device. Thus, the electronic enthusiast has the GPS, the paper lovers has their map; the former has their information on their tablet or smartphone and the latter an A4 printed guide; the belt and braces cycle-tourist has both. There’ll be no debate on the relative ways of carrying your maps and vital information here. Suffice it to say, that the aim was to allow an approach flexible enough to allow cyclists to approach their trip in a way convenient to them. It is not easy to see what more can be done to allow that. Whilst an app might aid the electronic enthusiast, the combination of the current materials and the built-in opportunity to keep it all up-to-date, will do just what it was intended to do.
Roy has divided the route into a nine stage option, a six day ride or a more challenging four day option. Those after a huge challenge could aim to do it in a day or a couple of eighty-milers. The fact is, that however you want to do it, this package gives you all you need to do to do it your way.
So, go and enjoy the English section of the Tour de Manche, whether gliding round the junctions and hoping your GPS does not run out of charge or stopping at the crossroads to consult the map without the care of where the next plug is … of course, you could always charge from a hub dynamo or a solar panel …. But that’s another story. In the meantime, Roy & Jacqui seem to have delivered the system they hoped for and it is certain that touring cyclists will appreciate the flexibility.
The pack is available for £19.95 from www.signpostcycling.co.uk/routeguide
More information on the Tour de Manche can be found at
Reviewed by Stephen Dyster
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED 2015
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