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
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.
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!
What can one say if your editor says to you that we have been sent some techy kit to try out, and would you like to review it? Yes please?
Cycliq Fly6 is a high powered rear LED light unit, with a difference. There is a rear facing HD cam built into the sealed all weather lamp that records what’s happening behind you as you travel along on your bike ride, daily commute or just out with friends. Got your rear covered is what it says on the box.
There’s no need to worry about anything else once you have set up the lamp on your bike and done a quick test to make sure you have a decent field of view. Just remember to switch the light-unit on EVERY time you go out!
All the factual information you need about Fly6 is on their website cycliq.com. It’s an updated design from the original, so here at Cycling Shorts, we are simply going to take it out of the box, fit it to the bike, and run it for a week or so.
Firstly, at just shy under one-hundred-pounds, it seems a lot for a rear LED. Is it worth it? Let’s see.
It comes packaged all nice and neat in a stylish black and red box, padded with shaped foam to keep all the components secure during transit to the shop, or direct to the consumer via mail order.
Once opened, there is a quick set-up guide and notes about recent improvements from your customer feedback.
The lamp feels solid, robust and of a quality build. I liked the fact there were two mounting plates and bands to accommodate a multi-bike set-up. The rubber stretch mounts are more common-place these days and means you can easily remove the lamp should you park-up and leave your bike unattended, being an expensive bit of kit.
I fitted the lamp straight onto my Trek road bike without any problem. Using the aero-seat-post adapter, I found it sat perfectly square to the ground, the body design aligned to take a standard 71.5° rake.
Not knowing what sort of view would be recorded, I positioned the lamp as high as I could without it touching my small tool pouch that was sitting tightly under the saddle.
I found the re-designed mount plate difficult to handle. I’d clipped the lamp unit into the plate slot to check the fitting prior to mounting and couldn’t remove very easily at all. It certainly wasn’t going to come loose, which isn’t a bad thing. But it made me realise that fitting the two mount plates to my two bikes, probably wasn’t going to work as well as I imagined. Maybe they would free off slightly over time if I separate them from time-to-time.
To run the test, I first had to fully charge the built-in Lithium battery. Although it comes pre-charged I wanted to see how long it would take to re-charge and how long it would last, running at full LED power. You can reduce the out-put level several times to conserve energy, or reduce the glare that the main LED emits. [Via the Courtesy Dimmer, opposite the power button].
I plugged the unit into my laptop with the provided USB lead early afternoon. I’d read that the charge LED would go off once charged. Having used re-chargeable lights this Winter gone, I knew that they took a while to fully charge up at work plugged into the USB slot on my PC, and I was right. It was late evening before the LED extinguished. Ok, I’ll test the unit tomorrow then!
Setting off on my Sunday morning bike ride, I’d set the lamp to full power and off I went. Three and a-quarter hours later, back home I switched the unit off. The unit had created a folder on the media card and sliced the ride into ten-minute videos. So they were twelve time indexed files created. I’d noticed that the first hour or so files had already been deleted, not a problem as the unit is there to safeguard any footage of an incident an hour prior to an incident and an hour after the trigger has been set through the bike laying on the ground.
Aimed as a safety back-up device designed to tell a story of what you were doing prior to any incident, then this lamp is a great way of providing additional evidence after the event. You simply must use it on every occasion that you jump on your bike, especially if commuting through town where things can sometimes get a bit more demanding.
The footage the camera produced was of a decent quality to see how the bike ride unfolded. Coming in ten-minute bite size pieces, it provides great footage that can easily be shared amongst friends and family. The file sizes produced are around four-hundred and fifty megabits each, and on the supplied card will hold around eighteen full files.
The recommend free Video Editing software worked a treat too. I found it reasonably easy to cut a couple of pieces from two files and join them to make a short demo.
On my first full power test, I achieved five-and-three-quarter hours recording before the video switched off leaving only the light working. This should last for another hour before being fully depleted.
I would imagine a normal user would need to re-charge the unit twice a week to keep the video camera working on the loop.
On the whole, having used the Cycliq Fly6 for the past four weeks, I would recommend it for my main rear light. Although a bit pricey on my initial glance, considering the beneficial footage that this device records and stores, then it’s a price worth paying.
It may not be something that you would consider buying yourself when looking for a lamp for your bike. But it would make a great gift for someone, for those who are looking for additional safety for their loved ones when out riding the bike.
For more information on the Fly6 visit: www.Cycliq.com
Best price we can find online: www.amazon.co.uk
Spin part two. The reviews…
Ok. So “Spin” the show, was spun into something a tad more than it ought to have been. I’m saying no more about the show, but nothing is completely bad and in amongst some very quirky stuff, were some very interesting products indeed and what follows is a concise (for me) look at the best and the noteworthy if only…
Jivr (Jiver) was the first exhibit we saw and it definitely has the WOW factor. Yes, I said an electric bike has the Wow factor. It is a folder that packs down into a size as compact as a Brompton (yes, I know nothing folds like a Brompton…until this) up and back down again in 22 seconds… and that was me at my first attempt. Martin Piatkowski, its designer and head of the company can do it in about 18.
It is light too at a mere 10 Kilos, which when you consider that it houses a motor, a battery and a chain free drive system, that is pretty amazing. The company claim a top speed on its motor of 25 km/h which is governed to make it legal in the company’s widening market place. Jivr also clocked in at 30KM on one charge, which if you only use the motor to arrive at work without needing to change your sweaty shirt because you’ve been climbing hills, will do you just fine. Pedal the remainder or indeed all of your journey although, because of its direct drive (hidden in the single beam of 7005 aluminium) peddling looks odd….no chain rings.
A fast nimble little folding electric bike that is stylish (my partner Carol wants one) light enough and looks amazing, make this a serious contender to Brompton. Yes its more expensive, has a two hour reachable battery and high tech motor and drive system on board. But if you’re after a commuter for on and off the train and you’d like the extra help of a motor to help with your briefcase etc, then its very well worth a look. If you can push the boat out to £1,200 plus for a Brompton, then I would suggest that the hike up to 2K must be in you remit. Especially when you take into account their unique way of selling this brilliantly crowd funded initiative. Jivr will place 70 hand made bikes per month on the market. Getting one initially works like this; pay £99 deposit refundable in 48 hours if you change your mind. You then go on the waiting list. Each month the waiting list members will be given the opportunity of getting their machine on a first come first served basis. Pay your balance and away you go.
“You should buy this kit; it’s called Fat Lad at the Back”
“These shorts would be great for you; they are called Fat Lass at the Back”
“This top would suit you; you can buy it from Fat Lad at the Back”
People of all shapes and sizes often ask me for kit recommendations, but I am not sure if I can say any of those sentences out loud without losing friends, clients or offending someone!
Fat Lad at The Back was the nickname of Richard Bye, the founder of the company, and is a term of endearment. The company admit it is a touchy subject having the marmite effect – either you love it or hate it, but they bravely persevered.
Fat Lad at the Back (FLAB) is a sportswear brand born in Yorkshire, with the clothing manufactured by a family-run company in Italy. The Fat Lad brand was originally created for what their website calls “Mr Averages, MAMIL’s with a 44” chest and a 38” waist”, but it quickly became apparent that there were bigger cyclists so it introduced larger sizes including a Spare Tyre range for the larger build. A women’s range was soon created, which took into consideration women’s curves and comfort.
A Twitter conversation the morning of The London Bike Show suggested I should speak to FLAB at the show after a discussion about the lack of kit for women who are not “a flat chested size 8-12” with one rider asking “how can these new brands be “women’s” when the biggest chest size they do it a 14” and another saying “it is a huge barrier to women coming into the sport”.
I spoke to several designers of women’s cycling clothing at the show and did indeed find the largest size, called XL, was only a UK14-16. One designer I spoke with said unfortunately they just can justify the additional expenses needed to design, produce and hold stock of the larger sizes which are less popular.
Instead of just sizing up the clothing the FLAB garments have been redesigned so they properly fit and flatter different sizes of rider. Some items state the name boldly in large text across the garments, other are more subtle with just a small logo. I have to confess that having ‘Fat Lass at the Back’ across my bottom was a great training inspiration as I pedalled furiously to disprove the label!
I tried the Flabularse Shorts (RRP £49.99) and the short sleeved ladies Lanterne Rouge Jersey (RRP 49.99) both available from size 8 to size 26.
The shorts fitted well and had some nice details including a draw string for the waist and a soft stretchy panel across the tummy allowing you to pull them right up over the belly area. I normally wear bib shorts and think generally bibs are more flattering with smoother lines, but agree shorts certainly make toilet stops easier and mean there is no need to remove a jersey, which some riders may feel self-conscious about, especially if having to go al fresco! Unfortunately as there was no knot tied in the draw string it had been lost in the waistband prior to me wearing, but with a bit of fiddling I retrieved it. The shorts are black with flattering seams, a large logo on the leg and across the lower back. The pad was comfortable on long road rides, the mountain bike and on the turbo.
The jersey is noticeably longer than my other jerseys, this is great for us ladies who like to pull things down over our hips and bottom and there is certainly no chance of any bare flesh when standing upright. The colour changes gradually down the top with the darker, more flattering colours over the lower torso and brighter colours across the bust and shoulders drawing the eye away from the areas we are usually more self conscious about. The sleeves are loose and long with no restrictive bands. A zipped pocket is handy for your valuables and a full length zip is always a plus in jerseys of this price range.
Both items washed well and I would happily recommend them if I could find a polite way of doing so!
Fat Lad at The Back has become a community, not just a brand, with riders involved in the development of new products and social media filled with riders’ photos, comments and inspirational rides. The company encourages everyone to have a go, have fun and enjoy their sport.
When former rugby player Alastair Little was forced to cut his 25-year career short after a life-changing neck injury, he was devastated and soon piled on weight as his life spiralled towards depression. He managed to turn his life around after discovering a love for cycling. Riding with friends at Fat Lad at the Back, Alastair took to the road and after a few months he started to see the results, losing more than five stone and dramatically boosting his confidence.
Alastair said: “It was the motivation and help I received from the guys at FLAB which really inspired me to stick at it and lose the weight and not only that, I enjoyed the social aspect to cycling, and suddenly sport was bringing me back to life again.”
FLAB introduced Alastair to other, likeminded riders who taught him that he wasn’t alone.
FLAB Sportive – 8th May 2016
In a bid to further welcome novice cyclists, FLAB has introduced a new 25-mile event alongside its 50 and 75-mile distance sportives, taking place on the Yorkshire roads in May and in the Chiltern Hills in October. Looking after riders will be experienced FLAMbassadors riding in the sportives to encourage and support riders on the journey.
Fat Lad in Charge Richard Bye, who has 20 years’ experience cycling many of Yorkshire’s most recognised routes, said: “This year we have added a 25 miler as we hope to inspire some new riders who may fancy a sportive, but have never thought they could!”
“The food stops are also legendary and include black pudding scotch eggs and lots of other stuff which our fat Lads and Lasses like, as well as the usual fruit and flapjack based options. We also have a BBQ afterwards which went down really well last year, this means people hang about and chat and share rather than just getting in their cars and leaving.”
Richard went on to say “Since founding FLAB we have been overwhelmed by how many people have come to us saying how much confidence they’ve gained with our support”
You can enter the sportive here and can find FLAB on the web http://fatladattheback.com/ on Facebook and on Twitter
Established in 2013, a Northern-Irish based start up company called See.Sense, Kickstarter funded ICON intelligent lights.
I tested the rear ICON light which has two 95 lumen CREE LEDs and retails at £64.99.
The box contained 2 x rubber mounts, USB cable, the light and a simple, clear user guide.
The set of front and rear is £119.99 and the 30% brighter ICON+ is also available at £149.99 for the set.
ICON is primarily designed as a ‘to be seen’ light, giving up to 270 degrees of side visibility. This is ideal in urban environments. The front ICON has twin LED’s, one with a focused beam, and one with a dispersed beam. According to See.Sense 80% of accidents happen in daylight and the ICON is certainly bright enough to be visible in daylight.
So what is so clever about it…..?
Within 2 minutes of opening the package I had downloaded the app and connected the light with my iphone via Bluetooth. The app allows you to:
- Check your battery level
- Change from flashing light to constant
- Customise your lights to optimise your brightness/run-time using a simple slider
- Control multiple lights at once
- Set auto-on/off, which automatically turns off your light after 3 minutes of inactivity, or if you walk more than 3 metres from your light
- Turn on theft alert, the light will then send you an alert if anything or anyone disturbs your bike to a range of up to 15 metres
- Turn on crash alert, if you have a crash, ICON knows and will send a text to your nominated contact for help, which you can cancel if you are ok
- Download firmware and application updates as new features become available
The battery life is up to 15 hours (5hr charge) on flashing mode and on the light itself there is a mini LED to indicate battery level, green for 75%+ and red for less than 25%. The app gives a more accurate battery level and you can adjust the brightness of your light using the app, so it’s easy to maximise your battery life if you’re running low.
I am not sure I would ever adjust brightness/flashing with app myself, but it was fun initially dazzling the family!
See.Sense say the theft detection is ideal for the coffee stop, but would I leave my bike locked outside cafe with a £120 of lights still attached? And perhaps the alarm should be on the light, not the phone to scare away the thief? Having said that it worked and I did indeed get the alert when the light was moved.
I like the crash alert feature as I often ride alone, but the most impressive thing about the light is that it adapts to its environment, increasing its brightness and flash rate to keep you more visible in riskier situations such as junctions, roundabouts, filtering in traffic and to approaching car headlights. If you are in an urban setting, where there is a higher level of ambient lighting from street lighting and approaching cars at night, ICON will automatically adjust to be less bright. It is the only light in the world that can react to road junctions, filtering traffic, roundabouts and car headlights.
Even more intelligent is the fact that ICON will soon monitor your environment. It can monitor road surfaces, crashes, near-miss events, light levels, temperature levels and routes taken. With your permission data will be uploaded to the cloud and aggregated data can then be shared with councils to provide information for cycling infrastructure provision, pothole repairs and identify hot spot areas where there are a high frequency of ‘near-miss’ events and crashes.
Philip McAleese, CEO of See.Sense said, “It is our hope that ICON will help to ignite a cycling revolution. Not only does ICON enhance the cycling experience through improved safety and convenience, it also has the potential to empower cyclists to influence their cities through the use of highly accurate, crowd-sourced data. This can create smarter and better cities for everyone.”
It comes with a 12 month warranty and is weather sealed, the website actually shows it being dropped in a jug of water and mine has been soaked several times in winter rain and road spray with no adverse effects.
However after about 6 rides the on/off button became somewhat intermittent requiring a really hard press at an angle to switch the light on as if something is perhaps loose or out of alignment behind it.
The light itself is bulky and doesn’t have the aesthetic appeal of some of the other lights on the market; one rider even went so far as to call it ‘ugly’.
Overall it is bright, functional and easy to fit. It is certainly visible and I even received a couple of complaints about how bright it is! Gadget lovers will like the app and although I hope I never need it, I feel reassured by the crash alert. It will be interesting to see how much data See.Sense is able to collect in the future and how this is used, anything that improves the cycling infrastructure and safety must be a good thing.
Watch this space… Visit seesense.cc website.
According to the Chia Charge website the word Chia comes from the Mayan word for ‘strength’ and messengers could run all day with just a small handful of chia seeds! Apparently Aztec warriors survived on nothing but chia during conquests and Native Americans could march for 24 hours on a teaspoon of chia seeds! Modern day Tarahumara Indians in Mexico still carry chia with them during ultra runs through the desert.
I tried the Ultimate Chia Seed Bundle which is £10 delivered to your door. The bundle contains 1 Chia Charge Cacao & Cranberry Protein Bar, 1 Chia Charge Trail Mix, 1 Honey Trail Mix, 1 Original Flapjack with Sea Salt Flakes, 2 Mini Banana Flapjacks and 200g of Chia Seeds.
The trail mix didn’t make it to a trail, I demolished it as the desk and it was lovely. The seeds have been added successfully to smoothies and used as a breakfast topping and the website blog has lots of recipes to inspire you.
And…… I am now officially addicted to the flapjacks!
I have taken them on rides and counted the minutes until I can eat them! The full size flapjack was enough to fuel an 85km steady endurance ride, I ate it in two pieces, as at 80g and over 350 calories it is a substantial bar. The seeds keep you entertained for at least 30 minutes after eating the bars as they stick in your teeth, but I didn’t mind this as they gradually soften and it gave me something to take the mind of the miles! The bar travels well and didn’t become too hard despite the freezing temperatures.
My favourite is definitely the original flapjack with sea salt flakes, but the banana ones were delicious too and didn’t have that horrible artificial taste you often get with banana flavoured products; probably because there is nothing artificial about them. No flavourings, preservatives or colourings are added to the bars, just real sun dried bananas!
The protein bar is vegan, wheat free and made with cashews, sultanas, cranberries, dates, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, cacao powder, goji berries, cacao nibs, cacao butter and sea salt flakes – what’s not to like!?
Tim Taylor the man behind Chia Charge, a food technologist and runner says “It is my belief that food, in particular sports nutrition, should be more than just fuel to keep the body going. Having tried a few sport nutrition and energy products I came to the conclusion that whoever makes these things was at the back of the queue when taste buds were handed out! A few years ago I started developing my own formulations in the kitchen at home. I wanted to create food that tastes delicious and helps you perform, the result of which was Chia Charge”
Chia seeds are 20% protein, 20% omega 3, high in antioxidants and fibre as well as low in sugar. They have a mild, nutty flavour and give a controlled energy release and promote fast recovery.
I have already bought some more of the flapjacks which are perfect fuel with fast acting carbohydrates to give you an immediate burst of energy and more complex carbohydrates to sustain your energy levels. The protein and Omega 3 and 6 will aid recovery and the sea salt flakes will also help electrolyte replacement, but far more importantly they taste amazing!
Chia Charge stockist are listed on the website and include a good variety of running, outdoor and cycling shops as well as Ocado or you can buy direct from the website with free postage over £25.
There is a new, no added sugar, berry flapjack on the way and I would love to try the nut butters.
You can find Chia Charge on YouTube here on Twitter @runningtimt + @chiacharge and like on Facebook
The flapjack really is amazing, I keep eating it!!
10/10 for the original flapjack, definitely addicted
Does What it Says on the pack
10/10 yummy bars, a natural superfood and no rubbish added, great fuel for riding
9/10 a box of 20 is £32 with 3 extra free bars and free postage so comparable to other bars on the market, but the price does go down the more you buy so only £25/box if you buy 5 which is great value
9/10 2 varieties of flapjack with a new one on the way, protein bars, raw seeds, nut butters, trail mix and the option to buy a mixed pack to try everything out
Easy to Eat
8.5/10 although I found far too easy to eat and could eat a whole box they are larger than normal energy bars so I found half was plenty which means faffing around returning the other half to your pocket and they do start to crumble a little once opened. Having said that the mini size is perfect. The bars travelled well and didn’t go hard in the cold.
93% it gets our star buy rating!
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