I bought this book having bought 2 others in the series and found them very useful and informative. This one had promise but disappointingly only had a few routes near where we were staying in North Wales. We tried 2. One was in the Clowydian Range. This was made longer by chucking in a few extra loops along the Clowydian Way.. This route is a very muddy one, we rode it in winter. Nice enough though but certainly not massively technical. The next one we tried started in Capel Curig. It was a black route and we expected some great technical riding. It required compass and good map reading skills and shouldn't be done in poor weather. I think this route is particularly over-used. I suspect because of the lack of trails listed. There was lots of erosion, very boggy to the point of being unrideable long before Lake Cowlyd just over the stone footbridge. Eventually you can ride up this moorland when your tyres stop sinking after roughly 2/3 of the way up. As we descended to the lake, the trail became totally eroded. The descent was treacherous and unless you are an expert in trials biking, I mean this as no joke, I would not attempt to ride. We carried our bikes down and even that was tricky. Do not attempt to ride this section as you are in the middle of no-where and it'll be a long wait for the helicopter if you break a bone - which you will. The trail along the lake was again tricky and raised some smiles. The cafe on the return journey, just before the off-road section, only takes cash so be prepared. The cakes are lovely looking but we could only scrape enough for half a sandwich each. The off-road return was again particularly eroded and unless you can continuously pull wheelies and bunny-hops of at least 2ft high then you'll be walking every 30 seconds. It really was quicker to walk. I really think this route should be left alone to recover. It's a shame because it could be very good otherwise.
Generally this is an excellent guidebook but is let down in the details. Some of the problems are partly to do with the format of the series itself, in particular the grading of sections. Whilst it's hard to get a consensus, it's not too hard to be reasonably accurate. On one ride, a blue/easy ascent was unrideable for virtually its entire length whilst a black/difficult ascent noted as being a "ten minute hike-a-bike" was entirely rideable. This inconsistency means that you start to mistrust the guide. On a related note, the shade of blue used is too close to black to be easily distinguished - though this is a problem with all the VB guides and not related to the previous point.
We used the guide for a recent trip to mid-Wales which was an area new to us so we were more reliant on the descriptions in the book than would be usual. Let's just say we had a few detours! Some of this wasn't the book's fault: marker posts being uprooted and cast aside by local landowners or farmers for example, but obvious physical landmark signposts such as streams or rock outcrops at turning points were ignored in favour of these posts. Quite often what was described as "faint" was blindingly obvious and vice versa. I know the Snowdonia area very well and there are similar discrepancies there.
The routes chosen for the guide are good, we had the benefit of visiting after a prolonged dry spell so sections noted as being "boggy" were almost dry which does help in the pleasantness stakes. As other reviewers have noted, these aren't manicured trail centre rides, some get off and push is to be expected. They are none the worse for that. The estimated times for the routes are pretty well spot on, without rushing round the routes my GPS noted riding times as being at the bottom end of the range but our "extensions" and guide reading tended to add an hour or so.
In summary: well worth getting but don't rely on the estimation of the difficulty of any given section, best just to get out and ride the routes.
I love this series of guides and have ridden rides from them in the Lakes, Peaks, Dales and Wales. They are reasonably easy to follow and do all the research for you so that you can enjoy the best of a region.
My only complaint about this book in particular is that Wales is too big to have just a single book devoted to it. Surely North Wales deserves a guide all to itself for a start?
Wales Mountain Biking has the production values you would expect if you've ever read a Vertebrate Publishing mountain bike book in the past. Each route has a section of genuine OS map annotated with numbers that correspond to the accompanying description, and there are numerous action shot photographs illustrating some of the great views and technical riding sections you'll encounter on the routes. Each route has an altitude profile, stats on how much time to allow for the ride, and the all important details on cafe stops. The route directions are divided into small chunks to help make navigation easy and the small book size is convinient for throwing into a hydration pack.
Unlike many of the other Vertebrate guidebooks, which are centered around a single national park (or even part of one), this book takes on the ambitious task of covering all of Wales. The author's approach is to divide the country into three distinct regions: South Wales, Mid Wales and North Wales (and a bonus section over the border - the Long Mynd), with roughly seven routes in each. Each route could easily be described as a Welsh classic (although some are definitely very modern classics), and although I've not (yet) tried them all, the ones that I have, such as the Gap Road in the Brecon Beacons, the Gower and Snowdon Ranger's Path should be on every serious mountain bikers list. One feature of the book I particularly liked is the addition of small tips on how to make a day, or even a weekend, of a route.
So, why not five stars for the review? It's a matter of managing expectations. As a collection of classic routes in Wales, it's hard to imagine a better book. But, if you're comparing it to other Vertebrate books you might notice how many of the rides are pretty remote with no other routes close-by. This might make it harder to plan an extended break in one area based on this book, although there are groupings around Abergavenny and Builth Wells. So, in summary the book fits its description perfectly, but the broad nature might not be what some people are looking for.
Another month, and another brilliant mountain bike guide from Vertebrate Publishing. Wales Mountain Biking is the latest addition to what is rapidly becoming the definitive series of British MB guidebooks. Author Tom Hutton is the man behind the pull-out route guides in MBR magazine and has used his encyclopaedic knowledge of Welsh mountain bike trails to produce an authoritative volume.
Following the tried and tested Vertebrate formula, the guide breaks Wales down into three distinct areas and details twenty one rides that run the entire gamut from old favourites to the relatively obscure. The Brecon Beacons Gap Road ride will be familiar to many mbers, (it was in fact my first ever proper mountain bike ride way back in 1993), and the increasingly popular Doethie Valley makes an appearance in the Mid-Wales section, but there are less familiar areas covered too. The Preseli Hills and Llanbedr Hill are not well known for the quality of their singletrack, but that could all change thanks to this slim volume.
As you would expect from Tom Hutton, the route descriptions are comprehensive without being verbose. The maps are superb and there's a wealth of extra information contained in the route summaries that ensure that you don't miss any of the local colour, landmarks or historic sites. There's some real gut-busters included such as the 50km Berwyn Hills circuit but for those of a more leisurely bent, there are a number of introductory rides to tune you up for the epic ones.
A good guidebook should get you to the ride and round it without too much hassle, but this guide does this and a whole lot more. It has inspired me in the depths of this cold winter. All being well, I'll see you in the Doethie Valley or the Brecons or Carneddau next summer because this isn't a guide for the bookshelf, it should be stuffed in the top of a hydration pack while you enjoy the delights of some of the best mountain biking in the world.
If you are looking to do some amazing riding in Wales and you're fed up with the monotony of trail centres then you won't go far wrong with this book. Following this guide will take you to places you would never expect to see in the UK, from mountaintops to deep valleys and all surrounded by stunning scenery. Be warned though, this is real the thing, give yourself plenty of time for completing these routes, take a fully charged mobile phone, a hand full of cash and don't go alone.
This book is so easy to use and has bags of information including a very useful OS-map for you to follow with difficulty level grading marked along the way. I found that by plotting the routes from the book using digital mapping software (I like to use Memory Map) and uploading it to a GPS device it's virtually impossible to get lost! Having said that, I still carry a map and compass as gadgets have a habit of failing just when you need them.
The pictures in this guide are a really nice touch too and should give you a taster of each route with the added bonus of being able to see the profiles, which have also been included, to give you an idea of what your legs and lungs will endure.
Simply put, here is a collection of some utterly breathtaking rides, informative in an easy to use guide and I look forward to the next book.
Brilliant collection of wild Welsh rides, wether your a Wales newbie or a regular visitor, this book is filled to the brim of classic scenic and exhilarating rides the locals don't even know about, if you don't buy it your seriously missing out!