Cicerone – Mountain Biking in the Lake District

Back when shell-suits and flock-of-seagulls hair weren’t things you winced at the bad memory of, I used to hop on the train and take my mountain bike up to the Lake District for week-long holidays at my Grandparents’ place. I wore my stripe of mud up my back with pride and I ate enough midges to keep my protein levels topped up, and life was excellent.

But alas I haven’t taken a bike up to the Lakes in years, favouring hikes and exploring on foot. But this little book has made me yearn, quite deeply in fact, to get back on the train (do they still let you travel with your bike in the guard’s coach?) and relive my youthful exuberance.

Full OS 1:50,000 maps for each route

I’ve come to expect great things from Cicerone’s guidebooks, and their new Mountain Biking in the Lake District lives up to that expectation. It is superb in detail and communication.

The book covers 24 routes, ranging from ‘short loops’ to ‘full day routes’, and each is graded as either ‘Medium’, ‘Hard’ or ‘Very Hard’. Note that there’s no ‘Easy’, so it assumes that you know which end of a bike is which, and how to get through mud and logs without damaging yourself in mysterious ways.

Each route is presented with a full Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 map upon which the route is overlayed with arrows and reference points which tie in with the written description. If you’re not able to read the countour system on an OS map, Cicerone have included a gradient graph for each ride.

Sod that, I'll take the bus...

These combined give a superb overall flavour of what’s involved in each ride. And if that wasn’t enough, you get a paragraph overview of each ride, for example:

A short, flat road spin soon leads to a steep pull up Old Rake that will destroy cold legs. A quiet, grassy and fun bridleway soon returns you to the valley floor and another road section brings you to the Subberthwaite fells. Steep tarmac climbs and grassy descents are the order of the day here before you head off over Kirkby Moor. More quiet bridleways lead from Gawthwaite and meander back past Subberthwaite and above Blawith. A short climb soon leads to a fast and twisting white-knuckle descent over Woodland Fell. From here the route traverses the steep Knott before returning to Torver via a narrow tarmac lane.

With shedloads of large photos and a simple, easy to read layout, this book is a real delight.

If I had to nitpick, which I guess is kind of my job, then two things. Firstly, I’d like it spiral bound, so I could open it to a route page and stick it in a handlebar bag (mind you… I suppose that I wouldn’t use a handlebar bag on anything gnarly). That said, the book does have a ribbon page-mark, and it’s plastic laminated, so it’d be more than happy in a backpack.

The other nitpick (and I’m digging deep here) is that some of the parking recommendations aren’t suitable for groups or busy periods. Difficult to explain unless you can picture what I’m talking about, so take for example route number 11, which recommends you park at Far Sawrey Church. Now, I got married there, and I’m aware that the local pubs don’t like you parking in their car park, but the church road is, well, not exactly great as a parking spot if this book gets popular and hordes of bikers turn up for a ride…

Parking recommendation. Not for cissies.

Summary: This book lit the fire under my lazy old backside and made me want to get back on the bike in the Lakes. It is a superb, comprehensive and easy to follow guide. Not much more to say… top marks.

Price: £12.95
From: Cicerone

And don’t forget that GearWeAre members get a discount on ALL Cicerone books.

 Tags and search info for this review: This is a guidebook review. tests and reviews guidebooks, books, maps, outdoor gear and camping equipment.