While the title, 20 Classic Sportive Rides in South East England, may not exactly trip off the tongue, it does what it says on the cover. And those 20 are a good mix of rides for beginner through to experienced, from 37 to 73 miles, and between 425 and 1420m of climbing – not bad in a part of the country where the highest point is 273m.
Speaking of which, that high point – Walbury Hill in Berkshire – is circumvented in Ride 6 'The Gibbet', and as it's in my backyard I can attest to the quality of route selection. The three rides around my area of Hampshire are almost exclusively on the type of quiet roads I choose for club runs, with only one rare section of A-road begging a re-route (Route 5, Stage 4, avoiding Sutton Scotney in favour of Stoke Charity, if you must know). If the other 17 rides are routed to a similar standard I'd have no concerns setting off knowing it wasn't going to be a stressful lorry-fest.
It's this high level of curation that typifies the book – clearly the author has pored over maps and spent a lot of time designing experiences to be remembered, not regretted.
The maps are of a high standard, with clear start/end points, alternative start/ends where sensible, and also links where you can join up two rides to make for a really big day out. Each ride has an elevation graph cross-referenced to the main map, so you can understand where the climbs lie relative to the pubs and cafes – sorry, feed stations – that are also marked and described.
Photographs abound, whetting the appetite to enjoy the sunshine, views and apparently car-free roads that define the book's subject area (no guarantee is made, however). The route descriptions use turn arrows and bolded place names, possibly to help a glycogen-depleted brain make sense of where to head next.
There's a comprehensive list of bike shops to be found along the way, including website and phone details, as well as A&E departments for if things go really askance. The first 16 pages form a pretty comprehensive guide to 'sportive' cycling, much of which will be old hat to experienced cyclists but should prove most helpful for someone setting out into the sport.
At £12.95 it's not the cheapest cycling guidebook out there, but the information contained within and the confidence it should inspire to get out on unknown roads makes it worthwhile. The publisher maintains a list of updates to the rides on its website, so should a pub close, a road appear or change, or a hill become higher, you should be able to find out in advance. It also asks purchasers to submit any updates they may find – an admirable crowdsourcing of detail. You create a free account on its website, register your purchase, then will be emailed any route updates that come out.
The book is also available electronically under the ePub format, and for Amazon Kindle (the Kindle version can't be printed, though). You can also buy the hardcopy and ePub versions in one bundle for £19.42. Many, many electronic devices support the ePub format; you can check the details and functionality on the publisher's website.
These days many people are planning routes online and following them using GPS devices. Inevitable 'back in MY day we made do wi' a stone etching' pub-bore opinions rear up at the first mention of map vs GPS, but there is no doubt using GPS navigation speeds rides along and removes the interminable stop-get-map-out-orient-map-look-at-map-scratch-head faff of yesteryear. To this end, and perhaps counter-intuitively, the publisher makes GPX files available through the members area, free, for all 20 rides.
While those out for a fast time will go straight for the GPX on the Garmin, I can see a lot of these guides being tucked into a Carradice saddlebag for the quintessential day out on a bike, replete with pub lunch and cake stop. There is something nice about slowly working through a paper guidebook, ticking off rides done until it's a dog-eared, sports drink-splattered, rain-swollen tome reflecting 100 well-earned ascents and many more miles of memories.
It's a bit hard to leave your Strava training log on the coffee table or workbench as a discussion starter, but a casually/deliberately positioned guidebook positively begs visitors to pick it up and thumb through.
Overall, this is a well-researched, well-laid-out guidebook, packed full of information for the beginner and experienced cyclist alike. For the price of two decent coffees and cake, this book and associated GPX files empower you to get out on about 100 hours of high-quality cycling. That's about 13p per hour. What else can you do for 13p an hour?
Note: Among many other cycling guide titles the publisher sells a companion volume, the imaginatively-titled 20 Classic Sportive Rides in South West England.
A well-researched, well-laid-out guidebook, packed full of information for the beginner and experienced cyclist alike
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: 20 Classic Sportive Rides in South East England by Colin Dennis
Size tested: 128pp
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bar-bag or pocket-sized guide to longer rides across the South East of the UK, packed full of local info for the fast and not-so-fast.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Publisher: Cicerone Press
Imprint: Cicerone Press
Publication date: 5 Mar 2015
Edition: 1st edition.
Product dimensions: 118mm (w) x 172mm (h) x 10mm (d)
Seems sturdy enough
Excellent. As an analogue way for getting from A to B it can't be faulted. GPX is the icing on the cake.
Seems fairly robust.
With the free GPX files and updates, it's cracking value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. Can't fault it, with the exception of a few roads I might have changed based on my own local opinion.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quality of mapping and obvious attention to detail.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
For the price of two decent coffees and cake, this book empowers you to get out on about 100 hours of high-quality cycling. That's about 13p per hour. What else can you do for 13p an hour?
About the tester
I usually ride: Charge Juicer My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, and Dutch bike pootling