Using the Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner
by Richard Peace, cycling journalist, guide book author, map designer: https://richardpeacecycling.com/
As a cycle guide publisher we’ve done quite a few shows in the past, displaying our range of cycle books and maps to the general public and it’s always interesting to get people’s reactions. The good ones make you feel like you are doing something right but the critical are often just as helpful.
It’s been very noticeable at the shows that many people pick up our Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner and once they have done so are extremely reluctant to put it down, studying it intensely and making ums and ahs of interest and enlightenment.
But why is it a different tale with some online reviews who occasionally criticise the map? Typical comments include ‘Not enough detail to follow correctly’ and ‘at best it is an indication of where cycle routes may be.’
So to clear up exactly what the planner is and isn’t and how it will hopefully keep on proving useful to buyers here’s a bit more background about the contents and how it we envisage it being used.
1. The Scale
With a scale of 1:588,000 this is an overview map for planning your routes so you can see how all the UK’s main leisure cycle routes are interconnected. So it’s not meant for navigation as you ride along.
It’s simply not possible to fit all the UK’s major cycle routes onto one map at a great level of detail – if you tried you would end up with an unmanageably large sheet of paper.
1080mm x 880mm is the unfolded sheet size and is as large as we wanted to go – any larger and it becomes too much of a handful to inspect when unfolded, especially if outdoors in the wind.
It folds down to the size of an OS Landranger map and so will handily fit in the map pocket of an outdoor type coat.
2. What Routes are Shown and Who is it Aimed at?
The UK Cycle Route Planner is aimed at leisure riders. The National Cycle Network (NCN) is shown in its entirety and stands out in bold red along. NCN route numbers are included. As the traffic-free sections (many are former railway lines converted to paths or upgraded canal towpaths) are amongst the most popular these are made to stand out in even broader red and white dashes.
There is more traffic-free info in the form of green numbers next to traffic-free sections. A separate box out names each numbered traffic-free section, allowing you to search out more detailed info online or in other guidebooks. There are 305 traffic-free sections listed and those that we know to be in rougher condition are indicated with red MB lettering to show that a mountain bike may be a wise choice on them, even though the gradients are likely to be unchallenging.
In addition to NCN routes the traffic-free numbering system also identifies easy going traffic-free trails that are not on the NCN but still legally cycleable, such as some sections of the Leeds-Liverpool canal or a route through the Forest of Dean.
More Challenging Routes
For those want more of a challenge the map also shows a selection of routes in dotted green lines. These are National Trails and other long distance off-road routes that allow bikes.
Examples include the Pennine Bridleway and the Moors to Sea route in the North Yorks Moors. If you want to know more about the kind of track used by these routes see the BikeRideMaps blog here on the routes in the South Pennines and northern Peak District.
A selection of long distance classics are also indicated on the map including the C2C, the Way of the Roses and the Devon Coast to Coast. The map also shows 46 regional signed routes that are still longer (often multi day) rides, fully signed on the ground but less well-known than the iconic long distance routes listed above.
Attractions En Route and Transport Links
To aid the ‘joining up’ of all the above routes the map also shows suggested minor road links and the lengthier sections of traffic-free route sometimes found alongside major roads.
The UK’s rail network and all stations are shown in full for those wanting to access their rides by train.
This allows you to make up your own bike tours; an almost infinite number of possibilities await…
Last but not least you can see where there are attractions on or near the cycle routes such as stately homes, castles, museums and many other historical sites.
3. So Just How Would You Use It?
We have had feedback from an End to End rider who said they took the map with them en route and found it invaluable. But it can also be used to discover day rides in your local area or a holiday area you don’t know that well or to make up your own multi-day rides.
As we always try and make clear to potential buyers, when out cycling you are likely to need a more detailed, larger scale map of the area you are riding in to aid you if you get lost en route.
Where the Planner comes into its own is allowing you to see easily and clearly at a glance all the many different types of route in any area of the UK you choose to look at.
That’s something we think no other publication will let you do.
Richard Peace is the author of many cycling guide books, including the best-selling C2C cycle guide, Cycling Northern France, Cycling Southern France and the Devon C2C cycle guide.
You can read more on the Excellent Books web page.