Here is a great opportunity to combine two of the festive season's traditional pleasures: browsing through a 'coffee-table' book about your favourite activity, and dreaming about that epic cycling holiday that you will do one day. The Rides from the magazine Cyclist is a 'greatest hits' collection from the Big Rides feature that is often a highlight of the magazine.
Another year, another big book containing magnificent images of locations that many of us would like to experience. Cyclist's collection is themed around the Big Rides that have appeared in every issue of the magazine since it started five years ago. 'The plan is always the same: to find stunning, challenging routes in regions that aren't always familiar to cyclists, or to discover new twists on classic rides.'
It would be easy to think of reasons not to be interested in this book – because all 32 routes come from the first 50-ish issues of the magazine, so if you own a collection of those you might expect to have seen a good proportion of the book's material already.
To make matters worse, the magazine's website features those same rides, with several more pictures that do not appear in the printed magazine.
To cap it all, every year or so Cyclist publishes a MagBook of Big Rides, which reprints around a dozen rides from the previous year – so that is another chance to get hold of the same information. Well, nearly the same information, as sometimes one or two of the pictures are re-sized or moved a bit – perhaps to accommodate the different adverts.
However, there is a certain additional pleasure to be derived from viewing photographs on large format glossy paper, and from the feel of heavyweight stock. If a tourism board wanted to tempt you to visit their patch, they would use a book like this.
We know that the magazines, MagBooks and the website have virtually the same information about any given route, but the book is not just another reprint: clearly the rides are based on what has already been seen, but there are some significant differences.
At first glance it appears that the book actually loses quite a lot: the section on 'how we got there' has gone, which included the time-sensitive information and prices of flights and hotels. The piece on the 'Rider's Ride' (ie the bike used) is also absent, and of course there are no adverts.
The main article from the Cyclist journalists that describes their day out has been reworked: some of the information re-appears in the introduction to each ride, and even more in the greatly enhanced captions to each picture. And what pictures they are.
Anyone who has seen the magazine will know that they place great importance on good quality photographs – and in the book that treatment has been turned up a notch or two. This is a big book, and many of the images are given a full page, sometimes even more. Many of them reminded me of the pictures in the Mountains book – just with a lot less of the snow than Michael Blann managed to find.
The team at Cyclist wanted the book to 'serve as inspiration for anyone planning a road cycling trip abroad'. In this case 'abroad' largely means the main cycling nations of Europe (France, Spain, and Italy), and some of the islands that have found favour with cyclists, such as Mallorca and the Canary Islands. The closest thing to a ride on home soil is in the south-west of Ireland.
Many of the routes chosen are 'steeped in cycling history, having been the scene of epic battles from the Tour de France or other great races from the past', but there are an equal number of rides without that connection, just 'little-known gems that the cycling hordes have yet to discover'.
I agree with the sentiment that a book like this is more suited to providing the full motivational effect of the glorious images, rather than focusing on the practical details – in the hope that this will 'whet your appetite and inspire you to plan some cycling adventures of your own'.
Not everyone will want to follow their exact routes: partly this is because the rides are never less than challenging, and partly because they don't necessarily cover the roads that you would expect. The famous Sa Calobra climb is not included in the Mallorcan trip, for example, although it would be a simple extension from the proposed route; and they don't actually cover the whole of the Alpe d'Huez climb, preferring instead to use the altogether more scenic offshoots – although you will probably go and ride it anyway while you are there.
If you do want to follow their exact rides, there is new information about the route profile that appears alongside the basic map of the route – although you don't need to rely on that for guidance because each ride has a link to Garmin Connect for full GPS information, where you can download a .gps or .fit file. Here is the first one: cyclist.co.uk/ride1, and you can replace the '1' with any other number up to 32 to see the rest of them.
In many ways The Rides takes something that you already thought was a 'coffee table' book, Ultimate Étapes, for example, and takes it to a new level: it places even more emphasis on the imagery, and scales back on the written details.
Right now, the only place that you will find the book is in the magazine's online store (see the 'Contact' link above), or on their stand at any cycle show they attend.
The best of Cyclist's adventurous Big Rides in a bigger and glossier format
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road.cc test report
Make and model: The Rides
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for
From Dennis Publishing:
We've handpicked 32 of our most epic Big Rides and compiled them into this beautifully bound anthology. From the cobbles of Roubaix to the slopes of Stelvio, this limited edition coffee table book features spectacular rides from around the world, recast with unique content and stunning photography and printed on premium stock paper.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: The Rides
Author: Cyclist magazine
Publisher: Dennis Publishing
Date: October 2017
Reasonable value for the quality and quantity.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
A reminder of some great roads already ridden, and a wishlist of others yet to be ridden.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The knowledge that I have seen much of it before.
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 overall score
The book does exactly what it claims, although the more of Cyclist's material you have already, the less appealing it might be.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding