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West Yorkshire Mountain Biking - South Pennine Trails
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2012
I've a neat little collection of these pocket sized guides on my shelf now. On a post card inserted inside the front cover Vertebrate Publishing claim to publish Britain's best mountain bike guidebooks and I think they are probably right. I've seen snazzier books, but this is a format that genuinely works and they seem to be sticking to their formula: pocket sized, inspiring photos, great cover shots, decent quality maps, good route descriptions with accompanying maps and notes on shops and pubs en route, with the essential info bits at the start. They are producing a few books each year and now boast the range:

Lake District
Yorkshire Dales
North York Moors
West Yorkshire
Peak District
White Peak
South West
South East (2 vols)
And now West Yorkshire - South Pennine Trails.

Clearly there is a concentration around the centre of the country. One could argue that this is where some of the best biking is, but it's probably as much to do with the fact that their offices are based in Sheffield.

If I was to be critical of the book I would have preferred some bolder colours for the numbered squares on the initial orientation map indicating where each route that is covered in the book is located. The muted greys and greens blend in a bit too well with the background map making then difficult to spot. It's no biggie though.

I love the little summary box that accompanies each route, displaying the distance, ascent, time, profile, and a host of other useful bits of information. I wonder whether it might be nice to have these on a single double page spread at the back of the book as a quick reference point to decide on the type of route you fancy for the day?

Retails at £14.95 and provides excellent value for money - 23 routes, that's 65pence a route!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2012
I bought this book for 3 reasons:
1. I've read Benji's routes and other writing before in Singletrack Magazine and I enjoy the way he writes;
2. I live in Rochdale, so the rides are almost all easily accessible by me for a nice day out on the bike (albeit sometimes with a short drive first!)
3. I'd seen Vertbrate guidebooks before, at exhibitions and at my brother's (he's a walking nut) so I knew that the format would be easy to pick up and read.

I've not been disappointed. The book's written in an easy style, showcasing what the region has to offer to Mountain Bikers and what to expect from the rides. The rides themselves are clearly mapped out and the explanations are memorable. I mapped one ride out on my GPS phone app but as I followed the track I'd plotted, the words from the book came back to me as I rode. That's testament to the writing style, which is extremely helpful.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who's thinking of a few days out riding in West Yorks (or the Lancs/W. Yorks borders), whether bunched together or as separate day rides. You won't go far wrong.
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on 23 October 2012
I was initially very excited to finally have a list of trails around my area. I've only tried one trail so far - Mirfield & Dewsbury, the book promised me "some of the country's best secret singletrack" and "The Mirfield and Dewsbury route is reasonably all-year friendly". I was disappointed that this wasn't the case, the directions were slightly challenging to follow, there was masses of mud and no obvious trail at times. I'll be trying some more routes soon and still hope it's a worthwhile investment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2013
Another Great Guide - get all of them and work your way through them - I plan to in the future !
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Sorry but no this is not a good book in the series. I'm sure if it wasn't for the others (white/dark peak and north york) books Ive used in this excellent series. The book seems apologetic for offering any rides over 15-20km. (one ride at 30kms says sorry its so long!) Meaning that most of the rides are not worth getting out of bed for. Mtbikers regularly ride all day you know. And frankly While i loved the todmorden based loop The other two rides Ive tried have been extremely muddy and devoid of fun or challenging descents. Now don't tell me this is a bad area for trails i believe singletrack magazine is based in the calder valley.

This is an excellent series i just think some serious revision is needed here to bring this book up to scratch.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2012
I love mountain biking. It's a `release', it's about `me' time, about getting into the green stuff, about keeping fit and, most importantly, about that `idiot grin' feeling you get flying down a track on a bike.
I'm blessed living where I do, I've a couple of nice routes I do fairly regularly. But I wanted a bit more. With that in mind I bought West Yorkshire Mountain Biking by Benjamin Howarth, a guide to routes throughout the whole of West Yorkshire. I'll get round them all eventually, but surely there's no better way to judge a `guide' book than to get out and road-test it?
Or should I say, road, track, lane, bridleway-test it?
Well, I did. So here we are. A Friday off work, some glorious weather and my shiny, new book.

I decide on the `Norland' route. A quick hop along the canal to Sowerby Bridge and I'm at the start. The Calder Navigation towpath was the first place I rode my bike in anger back in 2008 when I decided to get back into mountain biking so at least I won't get lost before I even start. Hopefully.
In his overview, Benji describes the opening climb of this route as the `steepest and stupidest' in the whole book. Now, bear in mind this is a book about West Yorkshire so you know there's going to be more than a few hills in it. `Steepest and stupidest'.
Steep isn't the word. You always know you're going to struggle when you see an `Unsuitable for HGVs' sign at the start of a climb. Norland Road's should just read `unsuitable'.
Still, it was early in the ride, the opening blast along the towpath had got the legs going and, most importantly, there were two blokes working outside the garage halfway up the first stretch and they were watching my progress far too intently for me to even think about stopping until I was well out of their sight (it's a great training aid is `ego', far more effective than gel bars and isotonic drinks).
Truth is, I did eventually stop, albeit round a corner from my impromptu audience. I stopped three times. No shame in it, it's very, very steep and I'm 42 (any cynics can try a virtual climb through the wonders of that `streetview' thingy, if I had before I set off I'd almost certainly be on a different route).
But hey, stopping is fine. I just aim to do it less the next time I ride a particular route.
I stop, I don't get off, I just let my legs relax for a few seconds, then I count down '3,2,1' and I'm off. Hardly the cutting edge of sports psychology but it works for me.
There's a sharp turn halfway up, the way the road bends it's so steep I nearly pulled a wheelie. I didn't. And it's those little things that matter to the weekend warrior.
Onwards and upwards. The second part isn't as steep but this climb comes after around a kilometre so there's still work to do.
Once I was at the top it was time for my less than impressive map/book-reading skills to kick in, but with the helpful route narrative they only resulted in a 100m or so double-back.
Some kindly ramblers helpfully confirmed I was going the right way to find the singletrack.
And cracking singletrack it was. Smooth-rolling, I gathered some serious pace, all the while remembering the `mantras' I learnt on my lessons with the bearded guru Ed Oxley ([...], worth every penny folks, but that's for another article).
Chin up, legs open, elbows bent, relax hard. Wise words people, wise words. And they work.
What the book doesn't fully prepare you for fully is the fact that the descent gets very rocky, very quickly. Very, very rocky. Rattle your brain rocky. It's cracking stuff. And it tests me.
I passed, just. The sense of achievement I felt when I spilled out on a tarmac farm road at the bottom made every inch worthwhile. This is why people ride bikes in the `wild'.
It's great fun.
It's being 14 all over again, just with grey hair and a mortgage instead of spots and cider.

The unseasonably good weather we've had meant the trails were dry and fast. Another blast on the canal back the way I've come and it was climbing time again.

I recognise this as the current hill climb `challenge' on the Calderdale MTB forum. And I'd forgotten my stopwatch. Shame.
Anyway, setting a steady pace I'm off up again. For now, I'll compete against myself when I'm out and leave the competitive stuff to the `leg-shavers'.
I climb a dirt road, typical of the stuff we're blessed with round here. Rutted, studded with rocks, roots and old bricks. Great for technique, but hard work on the legs.
On my way, I overtook another rambler. I had a quick chat as I go by (yep, I was going that slowly).
I took a quick breather at the dog-leg turn at the halfway point. My rambler friend regained his lead as I did. 30 seconds went by and I was off and passing him again. Small victories people, take them where you can.
I got to the top of the climb to be greeted by a rather sweaty man in a black and Day-Glo green one-piece Lycra job emerging from the shrubs. It would appear the fell runners have gone all 1983 around here.
I was `up on t'moors' now. A kilometre or so of road and then the fun really started.
First up a blast through the heather. Nice and smooth but deep rutted trails. Next time I do this route, I'll stay up here a bit longer. There are loads of tracks and trails to explore. The view is incredible. You can see for miles.
And that's another reason we do this. You get to see just how much beauty there is on your doorstep. Sure beats concrete.

A quick word about the book at this point (this is a review right?).
I'm a long way into this route and, save for my not counting roads correctly early on, I've had no problems following the very simple directions that accompany each route.
You know Benji has ridden them because, in relatively few words, he tells you where to go.
Stating the obvious perhaps, they're directions after all, they should direct, but these really do.
The last thing you want to be doing when you're out and about is reaching into the backpack to study overly long and complicated stuff.
The book is compact and printed on decent, glossy paper (these things matter). It'll fit in the back pocket of your top or a pocket on your pack.
Each route starts with an introduction and an overview of the route that includes a graphical representation of distance and gradient. All the necessary figures are there along with travel details for getting there, grid references, parking and the like. All the stuff you could need. Benji even tells you were to get some scran.
You get an OS map and then there are those all-important directions. Clear and concise. Job done.

Back to the route. One more bit of road and I'm at the steepest and `gnarliest' bit of the ride. I go down a tarmac farm track and it gets steeper and steeper. A bit more road and then the icing on the cake.
The drop here starts with three or four 3-foot steps and then I career down what feels like a sheer drop of singletrack. Rocky and bumpy. And fast.
I enter the woods and there are some sweeping turns, almost like the berms you find at trial centres.
A map will tell you this is a bridleway apparently. I'd love to see a horse going down it. Actually, I wouldn't. It would be painful.
The last stretch is an abandoned railway line. I've done 20-odd dry miles and it's on the last couple of the route that we hit the first mud. It's that stinky black stuff that you know is more than just mud. Ignoring the mental images conjured up by that extra added ingredient I roll along without a care in the world.
And ride straight into some old dear's garden. She wasn't a problem but her bull terrier could have been. She smiled sweetly at the sweaty man on a bike now stood amongst her raised beds and helpfully showed me the turn I've missed.
Across the river and we're nearly done.
Now it's a mile or so down the A58 back into Sowerby Bridge. And it's all downhill. I'm slightly high at this time. I'm singing `Big A, Little A' by Crass. I do this quite often when I'm out. No, I don't know why either.
The route is done. Now back on the canal and we're on our way home.
There's a very steep but relatively short hill just before home. I genuinely didn't think I'd do it. I did. The elation of following and finishing the route got me up.

So that's one down, just 22 more to go. Worth every penny that book.
Cheers Benji.
Matt H
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