Customer Review

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Know what you are getting, 26 April 2013
This review is from: Lost Lanes: 36 Glorious Bike Rides in Southern England (London and the South-East) (Paperback)
Perhaps my 3-star rating is unfair, but I am disappointed by this book; it is not what I was expecting. I imagined it would consist of practical guidance to carefully-researched routes, with plenty of advice on such things as how to follow the routes without going off course.

Instead of being a practical guide it is much more of an armchair-travellers' book: it is filled with lots of nice photos of the "pretty girl in summer dress", "cat sleeping by an open fire", "village cricket watched from the village pub", type of cliché imagery. The text has a self-consciously poetic style (in which streams are always babbling or cool or limpid or some other evocative adjective) harking back to Merry Olde England, bolstered by plenty of anecdotes, local legends, and ancient history.

Each chapter is written as a record of a particular ride with friends, written in the first person plural (we set off full of anticipiation ... we stopped for a delightful cream tea ... we gazed dreamily across the landscape spread before us ... we quaffed a local ale ... we arrived home tired but happy) which gives no indication why a particular route was chosen or why a different route was avoided.

The maps in the book are so basic as to be almost useless for route-planning, and the detailed online ones are useless unless you want to be guided by a smartphone/GPS unit. But it's not even clear if the author wants you to follow his route anyway: it seems he just wants to give an evocative and inspirational account of beauties of different parts of the countryside, and then leave you to find your own way through it. There's nothing wrong with that, if that's what you want, but I was hoping for something different.

EDIT: Note that there is relevant further discussion in the Comments section. Also, although Amazon are currently offering this book at 9.59 (May 2013), I chose to buy it direct from the publisher at full price. Maybe I would have been more generous in my original review if I'd been thinking of it as a book costing under a tenner.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Apr 2013 09:00:02 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Apr 2013 09:03:23 BDT
dprs says:
The review is misleading.

Each chapter comes with a set of online resources: a detailed one page route summary sheet to print out and take with you (with special folds so it fits in your top pocket) or email to your phone, plus full ordnance survey mapping (including 1:25,000 and 1:50,000) to either print out, or save / email to your phone.

This is a really neat idea and means you don't have to take the whole book with you on a ride.

Posted on 28 Apr 2013 16:04:34 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Apr 2013 16:05:15 BDT
Jack says:
When it comes to the issue of route directions, the criticisms in this review are plain wrong. Each ride is accompanied by the following:

1. A printable route map using Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger mapping. As any cyclist knows, this is the best map series for touring.

2. A printable one page PDF file with turn by turn instructions for each ride, with distances and detailed turn instructions for following the route.

3. A GPX file for anyone who prefers to navigate using a GPS device or smartphone app.

No other cycling route guidebook provides more comprehensive instructions for how to follow the rides. To see an example, visit the website:

As the book's author, I have no problem if the prose style or the photography are not to the tastes of this reviewer, after all these things are wholly subjective. But it is quite unfair for the reviewer to make untruthful statements relating to the practical route navigation information that accompanies the book.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 May 2013 08:34:40 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 May 2013 18:08:23 BDT
JP says:
Well, as I said at the beginning of the review, perhaps I've been a bit unfair. To respond to Jack's three numbered points concerning maps:
(1) Yes, good OS maps are available online; but you don't need to buy this book to get access to them, so what is important here is the care with which the route has been worked out. This is not a point addressed by Jack's response to my review. (See below).
(2) I accept that I was mistaken here, but as other people have pointed out, there have been problems with the website. In my case, the map opened in full-screen mode, meaning that it was impossible to scroll down to the link to the PDF (scrolling just caused the map to scroll). I now willingly accept that detailed turn-by-turn directions are there.
(3) As I said in the review, "detailed online ones [maps] are useless unless you want to be guided by a smartphone/GPS unit", so responding by saying one can "navigate using a GPS device or smartphone app." hardly addresses the issue!

Apparently I did not get my main point across clearly. What I had hoped to find in the book was evidence that the routes were the result of research and trial-and-error, not just a record of a nice day out (which is how they read). I would have more confidence in the routes if the text said things like "do this loop clockwise, not anti-clockwise, because ...", "even though it may be inconvenient to get to, be sure to start this route at XXX, because ...", "although it will add a few miles to your ride, be sure to make the detour to XXX, because ..."

EDIT: May 2013.
OK, I've done one of the rides now (No. 4, 'The Fifth Continent', on Romney Marshes), with some deliberate diversions (see below) so I feel better-qualified to comment. I did get lost once or twice, but let's assume that was my fault, not the instructions. But the printable route-guide occupies 1 and a third pages of A4 paper, so it would have been easy to add a lot more detail, and still fit it on two sides of one sheet.
Let me give just one example that suggests that the route could have been better researched. At one point the notes read: "At the T-junction by a red brick house, look to your right for Fairfield church. To continue the ride, turn left, leaving Fairfield church behind you." In my opinion the notes should say something like: "There is no other church in the country like Fairfield. Fetch the key (the church is always kept locked) from wall outside the first house to your right, then cross the sheep-fields and the bridge over a little canal to get to the church. The interior is as unforgettable as the setting."

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2013 16:40:12 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Jun 2013 16:57:24 BDT
Jack says:
The way we have arranged the content is that the background information on the places features in the book itself (Fairfield Church is referenced briefly on p.67, including a note on how to borrow the key). The online materials are for navigation only. Start and end points are given in the book and it should be pretty clear from the book text and the turn-by-turn instructions whether loops are done clockwise or anticlockwise.

In the case of Ride No.4, it's one of the longer rides and one of the few where the route information exceeds one side of A4. The intention was to have it all on a single page for easy use, and this has been achieved for the vast majority of the rides. The practical ride information is available on the web but the intention is that it is only for people who have bought the book. We considered whether to require site registration & passwords etc to ensure only people who own the book can access the rides but have decided (for the time being) to take a more relaxed approach.

I can assure you that these routes are the result of careful research and trial and error. In many cases riding the routes, or close variations on them, a number of times. I've been riding the lanes of southern England for more than two decades and have drawn on a lot of information in maps and other sources to ensure that the routes are as good as they can be. In some cases I have made wrong turns and had to double back etc but I chose not to include details these in the text, instead I have tried to describe the best possible route and provide most inspiring and useful descriptions of my experiences exploring by bike.

It sounds as though what you prefer is a more traditional guidebook and I can recommend Nick Cotton's series published by the Ordnance Survey (which I used heavily myself in the 1990s). My intention with Lost Lanes has been to combine practical information with passion and inspiration that I think is lacking in many guidebooks.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jun 2013 19:57:53 BDT
Mr Punchbowl says:
Disappointing though that, even now, not all the instructions are there yet (e.g. #10). Not everyone has facilities for GPS.
Also, the URLs are incorrect. The additional level /routes/ must be inserted.

Posted on 22 Aug 2013 14:42:35 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Sep 2013 20:45:50 BDT
ballyhoo says:
Having done five of the rides in the book, on my Brompton, I love it. Yes, I sometimes make small blunders, and sometimes there are small blunders in the directions. No, I do not use gps. The format is fantastic, with access to materials separate from the delightful book. Reading the comments here leaves me dumbfounded... has JP not got a 'back' button on his browser? 1.3 pages should be rounded up to 2. WTF??
Further practical note: I do these routes with a printout of the OS map in an A4 plastic cover and a thumb compass, and find the turn-by-turn instructions quite useful also, but not essential if you can read a map. It's a good idea to have GPS, for example on a smartphone, as backup, especially if you have the google maps app and download the map for offline use beforehand. I do not understand the critique that 'the maps are useless' followed up with 'you can access OS maps without the book', or 'it's only useful with GPS'. Yes, the sketch maps in the book are perhaps just a little lacking in any information, but the practical materials that are available online more than make up.
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