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Book Reviews

Cycling Travel Journal by Claire Mason

Cycling Travel  JournalThe Cycling Travel Journal is not a book to read but a travel journal that you can use to record a travelogue of your cycle tour. After cycling more than 20,000 kms from London to Japan, Claire collaborated with her friend and artist Anna Butler to create a cycling-specific journal. Based on her own experiences of life on the road, it is designed and organised to help you quickly, and creatively capture your own adventures allowing you to tell your own story.

The journal is nicely organised with an initial world map to indicate your route, a page for a packing list and then individual double pages for each day of your tour which includes a small section for the date, distance, weather, location, start - finish and funnily 'Best meal of the day', surely when you are cycletouring isn't every meal the best meal of the day :-). In between each double lined page there are either some grid or blank pages for extended daily notes or sketches. In all there are 24 dated pages which is fine for a 4 week tour but should you be on a longer tour you could easily use the grid or blank pages and just add in your own headings. The lines are printed in a faint grey which still makes it possible to draw sketches on the pages without the lines seeming intrusive.

At the back of the journal there are a couple of pages of recipes and a section for recording the contact details of people that you have met on your tour and more importantly a section for emergency contact details. On a couple of the pages there are some small envelopes for storing mementos such as ticket stubs etc. which is a nice touch. The whole thing is nicely bound in a sensible dark green cover with a contrasting rubber band to kept everything together.

This is more that just a notebook or journal as it contains some lovely illustrations and little quotations to inspire you as you journey. In the past on our tours we have written our notes in just a very basic note book but by using this lovely journal it certainly would make that travelogue seem something much more special. I am sure that this journal would certainly appeal to anyone who enjoys writing a touring journal and drawing illustrations as they go along and it would certainly make a nice little present to any aspiring cycle tourist.

The Cycling Travel Journal is available from Punctures and Panniers.

A Lake District Grand Tour by Mike Carden

A lake District Grand tour is the third of Mike's cycling adventures. This time his talkative steed Scott has been put into a well earned retirement and with a new bike he is joined by his long suffering son Richard who not only has to put up with his father being directionally challenged but he frequently finds himself getting cold as he patiently waits at the crest of each climb for his dad to arrive.

On this grand tour Mike takes us to all of the lakes, meres and waters of the lake district as well as to its extremities north, east, south and west. Mike's charming and easily readable style has you cycling alongside as he paints a wonderful picture of the differing landscapes of the Lake District in to which he weaves the history of the Lakeland fells and its surroundings. Something new for this book is an accompanying website this has details of all the routes with maps, pictures and links to the many places outlined in the book.

As ever Mike's sense of humour comes through from the 'Sleeping Policeman' on High street which had me thinking of speeding fellwalkers, to the pies OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS and his account of him zig zagging his way up the 25% & 30% inclines of the Hardknot and Wrynose passes which did make me giggle as it brought back so many memories of doing hill climbs and that urge not to let them beat you. I have also been that person "Push down those pedals, heart thumping, breath in gasps, push, push. Andddd...stopppp".

As you turn the pages it is easy to see Mike's love of the lake district which he has now made his home and his personal account of the 2008 Lakeland flood is quite touching. If this book doesn't get you itching to get your bike over to the lake district and explore it I don't know what will!

A Lake District Grand Tour is available from Bike Ride Maps.

A Bit Scottish by Mike Carden

A Bit Scott-ish imageAfter reading ‘The Full English I was sincerely hoping there would be a Scottish sequel and here it is ‘A Bit Scott-ish’!

Mike again teams up with his talkative two-wheeled friend ‘Scott’ to travel the length of Scotland in search of nature, whiskey miniatures and a desire to keep his vitamin C levels up by a quest for Lemon drizzle cake! Mike cycles from the Orkney Islands in the north, across the flow country, through the Scottish highlands past Stirling and Edinburgh, before crossing the lowland border country to finish at Berwick-upon-Tweed, the finishing point of his previous trip.

With Mike’s engaging and witty style you are soon travelling alongside him as he takes on the mountains, copes with the elements of a Scottish summer and being directionally challenged. Intermingled with the descriptions of the wonderful scenery, Mike weaves in the history of the places he visits. From the Italian chapel built by Italian POW’s in the second world war in the Orkney islands, through the history of the Highland clearances, the Jacobite rebellion to the exploits of the famous Scottish heroes, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. Not only is it a cycle travelogue it is nearly a mini potted history of Scotland.

Well Mike certainly has done it again, a most enjoyable read. It certainly encouraged us to think about another tour through Scotland!

A Bit Scottish is available from Bike Ride Maps.



Cycling in Southern France by Richard Peace

Southern France book imageThis is a full colour spiral bound guidebook to a wide selection of leisure routes in Southern France from and including the Loire, covering the whole area down to the Mediterranean.

The guide includes maps, details of distances, terrain and attractions along the way for each ride with plenty of photos to give a flavour of what to expect. This guide could be a great resource for choosing and planning, as well as actually doing the rides.

There is a good opening introduction to cycling in France with information on the types of roads and paths, getting there, weather and what accommodation to expect as well as the all important explanations of the rules of the road such as the ‘priority from the right rule.

The routes described vary from some long distance routes to short easy day rides and areas with several circular are based on the ‘voies vertes’ and véloroutes’. Each route has a route info section with route distances, route advice, details of where to find more detailed maps, guides and websites for further reading.

Although we haven’t cycled any of the routes, the guide could certainly be useful in planning a tour in southern France. It would certainly give you an ideas for routes that could easily be linked together and certainly useful if you were basing yourself in a certain area and were looking to do some day rides.

Cycling in Southern France is available from Excellent Books.

The Full English by Mike Carden

The Full English"Engaging, Informative, Entertaining", well they weren't wrong! When the opening pages started with Mike having a conversation with his bike called 'Scott' I realised that this wasn't going to be any ordinary cycle travelogue. Mike's easy reading and descriptive style has you riding alongside him from the start. This witty account had me giggling out loud many a time, from 'Terry the Druid' to 'Beryl' at the bizarre guest house in Alnmouth and the case of the 'missing sausages'!

Any cyclists will empathise with Mike as he copes with rain, missing signposts, aching legs, hill climbs, being 'discombobulated' and the ubiquitous rant at the worst of overtaking drivers.

As you journey from Portland to Berwick, Mike takes you through the delights of 12 counties and the English countryside, past some of the great castles, abbeys and ancient towns in England. As he does so, he nicely weaves in his passion for history, with historical asides that intrigue your enough to make you want to visit the places for yourself.

Engaging it certainly was and as Mike pedalled towards Berwick I kind of found myself secretly hoping he wouldn't stop and would carry on to John O'Groats. 'The Full English' is well worth a read and Mike, I can't wait for 'The Full Scottish' the sequel.

The Full English is available from Bike Ride Maps.



Crap Cycle Lanes - Warrington Cycle Campaign

Crap Cyle Lanes"Probably the worst cycle lanes in the world (Well, the UK, at any rate), exposed in full colour. Offences from all over England and Wales. Local authorities are named and shamed, with photographic evidence and sentencing recommendations."

If you have enjoyed cycling the excellent cycle lanes in Holland or Denmark, you will be amazed at just how wrong we can get it here in the UK. Following the success of the Warrington Cycle Campaigns 'Cycle Facility of the Month' page, they have now brought out the book.

If you want a good giggle at the expense of UK cycle lane planners, have good look at this gem. It has some cracking examples and some of the comments will crease you up.

Crap Cycle Lanes is available from Eye Books with royalties going to the Cycling Defence Fund.