Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
Really disappointing! Contains next to no valuable information.
on 7 September 2015
I bought this book based on the number of very good reviews it has, expecting it to give me some good ideas for where to ride with my kids, but the reality is that it is completely useless!
The typical profile page is like something which predates the internet. There is a large amount of information telling you things that can be found in 30 seconds flat on Google or Tripadvisor, such as how long it might take to get to a location, whether you can get there by train and what the nearby pubs or bike shops are, but there is next to nothing about the actual riding you'll find when you get there.
A typical example, taken at random, has the following for Henley on Thames.....
Route Idea: Roads S through Harpsden Wood. Trails W through High Wood. Trails W to Rotherfield Peppard. Trails NW to Stoke Row, then on to Nott Wood and D481. Trails and roads back to Henley via Lower Highmoor, Bromsden Farm & Broadplay. Distance 28km.
Other than that, the only indication at all as to the type of riding available is "Great riding through Chiltern beechwoods, best in summer".
Is it singletrack? Is it technical? Who knows? You certainly won't find out from this guide! I can find a bridleway and read contour lines on an OS map without a problem, and now that they're all available online for free, I can easily go looking for potential places to ride anywhere in the country from my computer. What I can't know without local knowledge is what the actual trails are going to be like when I get there.... Is that moderate gradient bridleway a smoothly surfaced double width track through relatively wide spaced trees, or is it a dark, damp, rooty bit of singletrack through dense forest? This is what I was hoping this book would give me an indication of, but there's absolutely nothing at all to give you even a sense of the technical difficulty of the "routes" they suggest. My boys are perfectly happy going round the red routes at places like Swinley, so they're not complete novices, but finding the wrong couple of miles in the middle of a 12 mile ride can completely kill the day and potentially put them off riding natural trails.
Furthermore, thinking of my home riding in the Surrey Hills, you could ride for miles on boring fire roads with no way of knowing that some of the best trails in the country are within yards, but again this guide does absolutely nothing to help you out here beyond saying "to make sure you ride all the best bits, several companies offer guided rides".
This book could be made superb by the use of a bit of modern technology to provide an actual route shown on a map along with an easy/medium/hard rating, or to go one step better, a link to download a GPX file. As it stands though, it's just a collection of very superficial, often out of date information (talking about a new bike park being built in Esher due to open in 2011 which has already closed down, for example) which anyone could improve on given the ability to understand an OS map (which you would still need with this book anyway) and half an hour on the internet. Just start with an online OS mapping tool, find a roughly suitable looking area then google GPX tracks in that area...