The Global Cycling Guidebook from the Soigneur Agency will appeal to cyclists looking for inspiration and guidance for their next trip; for others, it will be a source of wonderful images and interesting writing. Either way, some part of it is sure to pique your interest and remind you that there are few better ways of seeing the world than on a bike.
Like many in this country, I paid no attention to the Soigneur website when it first started in 2012 – not least because it was written primarily in its native Dutch. However, in 2015 Soigneur took the decision to 'go international', which fortunately for us meant a change to English.
Twice a year there is a printed journal that shares a lot of content with the website, and from what I can tell it largely mirrors the website's alternative view of the sport of professional cycling, paying 'homage to the breadth of the sport, all over the world, both in writing and with photographs'. Actually, they could have written 'compelling writing' and 'stunning photographs' without being accused of hyperbole, as both are present in abundance.
I had always been impressed with the calibre of contributor to Soigneur, recognising many of the names from books that had been reviewed here: there was an article by Paul Maunder that turned out to be an excellent teaser for his book, and in another Herbie Sykes made good use of the research he had done for his book about the Giro.
Given that quality of writing and photography, I was intrigued when Soigneur announced issue one of the Soigneur Travel Series, the 'Global Cycling Guidebook'. It is based on one of the smaller categories of the website, that of Adventure. Of the eight regions covered, two are European, with the rest being North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, 'Down Under', and the Middle East.
It seems like an obvious idea: their cast of contributors 'have collected stories and information about the most interesting places in the world to ride bikes', so why not ask them 'to share their knowledge of their favourite spots'?
Each section starts with a few pages of 'Roads to ride', with the intention of 'inspiring your next adventure': this may share its name (and even author) with a category on the website, but in fact there is little overlap: the book is far more extensive – and had me itching to be there, which is the intention.
I was reminded of the equally captivating imagery in Escape by Bike; however, where 'Escape' moves on to practical advice about how to undertake such an adventure, 'Global' concentrates on what to do in 'Tips and hot spots'. Again, the title is borrowed from the website, but with a lot more guidance on the history of an area, the cultural highlights, some good places to eat and drink – and of course the odd recommended bike shop. Think Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, but tailored to a cyclist's interests.
There are a few recommended rides in each area, sometimes with input from a local professional, and normally categorised as easy, medium, or hard. The descriptions are brief and the maps rudimentary, but fortunately the routes are available on the Komoot mapping website if you want to take things further.
Coverage of each area is wrapped up with an appropriate essay: The Three Peaks, in the case of Yorkshire's pages. Of all the pages, the style of these essays is the most similar to the long-form articles that one would find in Soigneur's other media, so I wouldn't be surprised if a few eventually appeared elsewhere.
These essays were one of the highlights of the book for me, and I would understand if Soigneur wanted to give them a wider audience. Fear not, even with any such recycling, I can't see Soigneur getting anywhere close to the level of repetition achieved by Cyclist magazine in Rides.
Impressive attempt to highlight parts of the world that warrant being explored by bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Soigneur Global Cycling Guidebook
Size tested: n/a
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?
From Soigneur Agency:
"Cycling is the best way to get to know a place. On a bike, you travel through towns you would never otherwise visit and meet people you would never otherwise meet. You see more of the countryside than you ever could on foot and gain more intimate knowledge of it than you ever could in a car. Hemingway said it best. 'You have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.'
"Over the years, our writers and photographers have travelled all over the globe. From races in Rwanda to luxury holidays in Greece, city trips to the world's major metropolises to sportives in Taiwan's high alpine, they have seen the world from their bikes.
"Soigneur Global Cycling Guidebook; featuring 224 pages of our contributors' most inspiring travel stories and pictures on the best paper, bound in a beautiful hard-cover book."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Global Cycling Guidebook
Author: Soigneur Magazine
Publisher: Soigneur Agency
The pictures and the essays.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The layout can be cramped by the size of pages.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, selectively.
Use this box to explain your overall score
A good idea, well executed: lavish presentation, and there should be something for everyone in it.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,