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Great British Bike Rides: 40 Classic Routes for Road Cyclists is the follow up to Dave Barter’s first publication, Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder. The first, self-published, book was largely an anthology of blog posts that detailed Barter’s increasing obsession with cycling that developed when his running years were ended after injury. Great British Bike Rides is quite a different affair, the result of extensive research to put together 40 challenging routes throughout Britain. The rides are divided unequally between northern England, southern England, Scotland and Wales.
Carlton Bank… a great climb through a beautiful area, and you’ll be glad you chose this ride (Dave Barter)
The opening page for each route contains an introduction and an outline map that invariably details a shortcut option and the position of the ride on a map of Britain. Turn-by-turn directions (listed by section and cumulative distance in kilometres) are also given along with a more detailed overview illustration of the route and surrounding area credited to OpenStreetMap.
The 40 entries are categorised as either Moderate, Difficult, Serious or Extreme, as are the individual hills that make up every route. As well as a concise Route Description there is a page of Route Information for each ride that includes the route profile, hill analysis and, in greater detail, the highlight climbs – typically six.
There is also a lengthy preamble that includes a preface, introduction, general advice and instructions on how to make use of the various charts and figures.
Anyone can freely download the .gpx files for all of the routes from http://www.greatbritishbikerides.co.uk. They come with Waypoints to alert riders of the start and end points of each of the climbs, as well as pointing out potential places of interest along the route.
The book is illustrated with very many beautiful photographs, taken across all of the seasons, most of which contain a solitary cyclist set against the British countryside. Many of the photographs are the work of Dave Barter and his family, but some, including the cover photograph, are credited to Seb Rogers, whose photographs frequently appear on the cover of Cycling Plus.
If I had to make a gripe about the very detailed contents of this book it would be on the subject of gearing. Readers of his first book will surely remember Dave Barter’s account of his one road race win, a hill climb close to where he lives. But I am not convinced that everyone who reads this book will have the same ability on the many inclines that we are invited to attempt. I know I am not the strongest climber in the world, but I doubt there will be many riders out there who can, for instance, comfortably climb all six ascents listed in the North York Moors ride without a triple chainset. For that Yorkshire route Dave reckons your gearing should be ‘Compact’. I wimped out and fitted a mountain bike chainset and cassette to my steel tourer (thank you, downtube shifters) and still struggled. But perhaps that’s just me. Others who buy or receive their copy of GBBR may well be much stronger on hills. Just don’t say you weren’t warned
At the time of writing there are over 50 reviews on Amazon.co.uk, the majority of which give GBBR five stars. That’s what I would give, too. One minor criticism on Amazon is that the font used in the book is rather small; there is certainly a lot to cram in. (The same review calls GBBR a labour of love. I can’t disagree with that analysis.) A review in Cycling UK’s Cycle magazine also contains a nicely balanced, concise review that says something similar. Sadly, a misleading error crept in to the text of that review, written by Marketing Manager David Dowling: “Most rides are over 100 miles and hilly…” No they are not, thank goodness. In fact, only one is over 100 miles (Elan Valley in Wales). Someone has got their miles and kilometres a bit mixed up there.
At this point I should confess that my name is listed among the acknowledgements for Great British Bike Rides. With a very tight deadline immediately after I had finished work for a week’s holiday, I set about helping to proofread the text in the .pdf version Dave Barter had sent me (the two of us had been in contact after I reviewed his earlier book). I had barely enough time to check the North of England rides and a few others before the publisher’s deadline was reached. None of us spotted the compass roses printed the wrong way round – a review on Amazon would later point it out – but I don’t think in itself this will normally affect the number of stars given by most reviewers on Amazon.
Anyway, I thought I had better mention this (the possibility that I might not be an entirely impartial reviewer). It doesn’t change the fact that Great British Bike Rides is an excellent book that any serious – or indeed ‘extreme’ – British cyclist would surely be delighted to receive.
Great British Bike Rides 280 pages soft cover £25RRP (available for under £20 online)