Book Review – Wild Cycling by Chris Sidwells

Wild Cycling

A pocket guide to 50 great rides off the beaten track in Britain

by Chris Sidwell

A. Reviewer: Nichiless Dey. European Cycling correspondent, physics teacher and cyclist of little renown!

i. For Anna ‘The Boss’ Magrath: CyclingShorts.cc (as, ahem, promised, he types sheepishly!)

A wildly inspiring adventure – from armchair to saddle

This book provides the perfect inspiration for you, the armchair-adventurer, to dream, to plan and to venture forth along the oft-hidden tracks, lanes & trails that crisscross much of Britain’s hidden and endlessly varied countryside.

What is Wild Cycling? I’ll let the author describe his vision. ‘… [wild cycling] can be a lot of things, from short ambles through country lanes, to … adventures in a far-off wilderness. For this renowned cycling author though, it specifically means ‘using bridleways, trails, and tiny lanes to explore [the British] countryside.’

Wild Cycling covers the whole of mainland Britain and is packed with looped routes suitable for all cyclists; be you a beginner with a yearning for childhood escapades or a hardened explorer, ruddy of cheek and windswept of beard.  You will be, I can guarantee, inspired to don the day pack and head out into the wild and stunningly picturesque scenery that fills the British mainland. Who knew that there was so much to explore on two wheels in this seemingly concrete, car fixated jungle.

 

Wild cycling encompasses all types of cycling adventure. As the book states, you will be guided along ‘short ambles through country lanes to off-the-grid bike adventures in a [not-so-far-off] wilderness’.

The fifty off-the-beaten-track rides are presented in full colour with the OS Landranger grid referenced start/finish point tabulated above the most accessible location name along with ride distance (km & miles), highest point (m) and approximate ride time (hours). There is a wonderfully descriptive yet pragmatic route commentary supported by the ever-popular snap-shot route map and elevation profile. The map is annotated and contains pointers to several easily spotted landmarks that will help guide you confidently on your way. It also indicates where the trail heads skywards – ever a worry for me!

These tracks are in no way prescriptive, indeed many offer additional loop suggestions, again embedded in the commentary, that may add further life to your day of exploration.

 

Wild Cycling covers the British mainland in ten chapters and fifty routes. It begins with a very useful piece on what you need. A cyclocross bike is Chris’s recommendation, however anything other than a high-end carbon racing beast will most probably do. Tyre choice will be your biggest decision and the book contains tried and tested suggestions. Having ridden three of these routes (34, 37 & 39*) I can personally vouch for the accuracy and usefulness of the advice given.  The final eight chapters neatly cover the country with between five and ten detailed routes for each region: The South & East, The South & West, Wales, The Midlands, The North (lots in Yorkshire!), The North-West, The North-East, and Scotland. The routes vary in length from less than ten to more than fifty miles, with most hovering in the twenty-to-thirty-mile zone. The trail surface and elevation… well, I wouldn’t wish to detract from your sense of discovery so I’ll let you find out yourself. It will be a magical journey.

*Huge thanks to the lady and her dog who found my Garmin on route 37 and waited patiently for me to ride back, in a state of panic.

 

In summary… From Chalk Cliffs and Curious Sound Mirrors in the south-east to Cape Wrath in the [glorious] north-west, the purity, beauty and essential wildness of these rides will ensure that over the years many of them will become classic – even legendary – cycling challenges. In the meantime, you will have a great deal of healthy and happy adventures. May you be blessed by tailwinds and blue skies as the beauty of Britain rolls out around you!

CyclingShorts.cc rating 10/10… one for the Christmas list too.

Out now in Paperback

 

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CyclingShorts.cc Rating

About the Author of Wild Cycling

Chris Sidwells is a renowned cycling journalist, photographer and editor who appears regularly in Cycling Weekly, and as a cycling pundit for several BBC local radio stations, including BBC Radio Sheffield during the Tour de Yorkshire. He has written seventeen books on cycling, covering every aspect of the sport and has contributed to, amongst others, Men’s Fitness, GQ, The Sunday Times, and The Guardian.

 

My thanks to Beth Wright of The Little Brown Book Group for providing my copy of the book.

Nichiless Dey

Nick Dey AKA Nichiless Dey AKA "The Prof" AKA....

Nick Dey AKA Nichiless Dey AKA "The Prof" AKA....

European Cycling Correspondent

European Cycling correspondent, physics & chemistry teacher and cyclist of little renown! (his words, in truth he is a cycling god!).

Enthusiast & Optimist-ish!

Review: Classic Cycling Race Routes: The Toughest 52 European Challenges

 

Classic Cycling Race Routes

The Toughest 52 European Challenges
by Chris Sidwells

Reviewed by Nick Dey

Classic Cycling Race Routes: The Toughest 52 European Challenges - By Chris Sidwells

Published: 15th October 2013

£25 hardback

AA Publishing in association with Garmin

An inspiring book to read and then to ride… if you dare!

This inspiring hardback book presents a selection of the most challenging and rewarding routes for road and racing cyclists. From the South Downs Epic and Tour of the Peak in the UK, to Paris-Roubaix in France and Tour of Flanders in Belgium, from Gruyere Cycling Tour in Switzerland and Tour of Lombardy in Italy to the San Sebastian Classic in Spain, this book is the ultimate motivation for cyclists who want to push themselves to the next level.

The fifty-two classic European cycling routes – one ride for each week of the year – selected to appear in this weighty A4 hard backed tome of well over two-hundred pages cater for the aspiring and experienced cyclist as well as those more romantically inclined, inspired as they are by the epic routes raced by the legends of the sport.

Experience an example… The Retro Ronde.The routes have derived their inspiration from the many professional races as well as the ever growing mass-participation events, the cyclosportives. Indeed the twenty-four routes that cover the UK and Ireland are exclusively ‘sportive in scope.  I’m ashamed to report that I have ridden only one … but can vouch for the books accuracy; I was indeed Flat Out in the Fens! Several of the European events feature in the World Cycling Tour: an age group series in which participants have the chance to qualify for and compete in an age-group final. You, yes you, could become a World Champion!

 

Route 34, pp148-150, covers the outstanding Retro Ronde*

I rode this in 2013 and am happy to state without hyperbole that it is my absolute favourite cycling experience, second to none – full review coming soon to Cycling Shorts (Ed. I promise!)

 

Here I am… climbing ‘The Wall’ Retro Ronde 2013

Here I am… climbing ‘The Wall’ Retro Ronde 2013

 

In the book the route distance is correctly stated as 100 km (I managed 112 km but did get myself lost taking in a few extra Heligen!) but the total climbing was very different to my experience. The book states 525 m however I managed 1200 m. To be fair to the author the organisers fine tune their route each year – and I did do the extra cobbled climbs! All the other information is accurate and succeeds in conveying the flavour of the experience. For experience the Retro Ronde certainly is! I shall be back every year – or as long as the old bike, and even older legs will allow. If you do plan on riding try to make a long weekend of it. The ‘Crit’, ahem, racing on the Saturday is wholly authentic yet rather tongue in cheek, and well worth the entry fee of €5!

Posing for the official photo at the start… the atmosphere was the best I have experienced.

Posing for the official photo at the start… the atmosphere was the best I have experienced.

 

So how does this fine book present the information?

The book in a nutshell …

  • 52 European cyclosportive and Grand Tour routes
  • Full-colour route maps with directions and elevation profiles
  • Advice on ride strategies and techniques
  • Tips on training, appropriate clothing, nutrition and fitness
  • All routes are available to download for your GPS cycling computer
  • Routes cover the UK & Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

The author suggests the reader takes two possible approaches, both of which allow them to make full use of the route information. The first, and Sidwells strongly suggests this as the most preferable avenue, is to take part in the official event for each route (if there is one) as, and I can only concur with him in this respect, …
“…the atmosphere and camaraderie of these events, where thousands of like-minded souls take part, all enjoying doing something they love, is incredible.”
Additionally, there is also more than enough information within the book to allow you to ride each route, or your own variation of it, independently of the official event and at any time of year. Words to the wise… check before you leave that roads are open!
Each route is clearly described and supported with often fascinating background information along with tantalising titbits of history; and who amongst us hasn’t unleashed the inner child and ridden a classic imagining the spectres of the greats; Coppi, Bobbet, Garin, et al, riding alongside?
There are maps and directions for each route, including profiles that clearly indicate where each hill is located along with rather useful yet often unsettling detail on how long and steep they are! The ever useful height gain is also presented.
In the words of the author, Chris Sidwells, “Enjoy the book, use it for planning and setting objectives, but above all get out and ride these routes. They represent some of the finest cycling experiences you could ever have.”
Classic Cycling Routes in a little more detail …
The introduction is extensive and covers three very important pre-ride requisites: Basic equipment – your bike, creating a training plan, and challenge-ride nutrition. There is a lot of very useful information here ranging from how to best use a GPS device (by Garmin) to the basics of creating a training plan.
The two-hundred pages devoted to the fifty two Race Routes traverse Europe through seven countries but with the majority set in the UK and Ireland.

The UK & Ireland section contains twenty-four routes, as listed below:
Etape Caledonia
The Cyclone
The Fred Whitton Challenge
Etape Pennines
The Ryedale Rumble
Etape du Dales
The Cheshire Cat
Tour of the Peak
The Shropshire Mynd
Flat Out in the Fens
Hell of the North Cotswolds
The Ups and Downs
The Lionheart
The New Forest Epic
The South Downs Epic
The Tour of Wessex
The Exmoor Beast
The Dartmore Classic
Cornwall Tor
Etape Cymru
The Dragon Ride
The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive
Tour of Sligo
Malin to Mizen

France:
Paris-Roubaix Challenge
Paris-Tours
Megève Mont Blanc
L’Ardéchoise Marathon
La Marmotte
Cinglés du Ventoux
Etape du Tour 2010

Belgium:
Tour of Flanders
Gent-Wevelgem
Retro Ronde
Grand Fondo Eddy Merckx
Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Holland
The Amstell Gold Race

Germany:
Vattenfall Cyclassics
Switzerland
Gruyére Cycling Tour
Alpenbrevet Platinum Tour

Italy:
Tour of Lombardy
Milan-San Remo
A Stage of the Tour of Italy
La Leggendaria Charly Gaul
Maratona dles Dolomites
La Pinarello Cycling Marathon
L’Eroica

Spain:
San Sebastian Classic
Quebrantahuesos
Val d’Aran Cycling Tour
A Stage of the Vuelta
La Pico del Veleta

Don’t forget… all routes in this book can be downloaded to your Garmin (the Edge 800 in my case) from the AA website.

AA Website

In conclusion…

As the book itself says, ‘the classic race routes selected here are not for the faint-hearted. Based on the best cyclosportive events in Europe and on stages of Grand Tours, they are much more than just pretty rides in the country. The fifty-two routes are serious mental and physical challenges (in the case of the Retro Ronde… the liver is called upon to do its bit too!) that require training and preparation. Yet each is accessible and achieved by many thousands of amateur cyclists each year.

Classic Cycling Race Routes allows you to cycle these rides at any time, either as preparation for the race events, or for the sheer joy and exhilaration of the challenge. For those rides that don’t have a dedicated cyclosportive route, the author has designed a ride a ride to reflect the demands and history of the race.

Each route contains a map with directions and an elevations and an elevation profile, and Chris Sidwells provides an overview combining ride strategy and techniques with the history of the race.

Practical and aspirational, Classic Cycling Race Routes will inspire a new generation of cyclists to push themselves to the extreme. You never know, the next Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish or Sir Bradley Wiggins may well be among them!

One for the rider as well as the reader + GPS routes = 100% Awarded our Star Buy Rating!
Cycling Shorts Star Rating Classic Cycling Race Routes By Chris Sidwells
Reviewed by: Nichiless ‘Nicky’ Dey.
Neunkirchen-Seelscheid, Germany


About the author

Chris Sidwells is an internationally-respected British cycling journalist and author, with nine books on cycling, ranging from biography through fitness and training to bike repair. His Complete Bike Book has been translated into twenty-four languages, and his Bike Repair Manual is about to reach its fifth edition. Tour Climbs and Race for Madmen were best sellers in their genre. His The Official Tour de France Recordshas the backing of Le Tour Itself. Most recently he has published The Long Race for Glory: How the British Came to Rule the Cycling World… the next book to be reviewed on Cycling Shorts. Chris’s words and photographs have graced the pages of Britain’s best-selling cycling  magazine Cycling Weekly (indeed he seems to appear in every issue,) and in all issues of Cycle Sport and Cycling Active, along with Cycling Fitness. He has also been published in Men’s Fitness, Cycling Plus, GQ, Running Fitness and the Sunday Times. Phew!

 

 

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