The Capital Trail, a 2-day route around Edinburgh

One for the mountain bikers, a fantastic challenge: the the Capital Trail, a 2-day route around Edinburgh, either as part of an event each June, or to be ridden self-guided.

More information at Markus Stitz’s ‘Fearless and Unique’ site: https://fearlessandunique.wordpress.com/capital-trail/.

Markus is about to set off around the world (on a single-speed bike!). You can follow his adventures at https://fearlessandunique.wordpress.com/.

Fearless and Unique

 

The Ultimate Scottish C2C Guide

The Ultimate Scottish C2C GuideThe Ultimate Scottish C2C Guide is now available.

From the creators of the original C2C, this is a new cycle route through the Southern Uplands of Scotland, from coast to coast.

Linking Annan on the Solway Firth and South Queensferry on the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, the Scottish C2C is a 122 mile signed cycle route. It is a mix of country lanes, high quality cycle paths and seaside promenades with two challenging climbs, over the classic Devils Beef Tub and through the Moorfoot Hills before opening out onto a panoramic view of the Lothians, Edinburgh Castle, and the Firth of Forth. It finishes under the mighty Forth Bridge.

This is the complete guide, including maps, directions, attractions along the way, accommodation and much more.

Click here to get your copy.

 

 

Lake District cycle routes

Cycling in the Lake District - Crummock Water
Cycling in the Lake District – Crummock Water

There is fabulous cycling in the Lake District. Some, it’s true, are very hilly, and there are some significant challenges if you want to go over the mountain passes.

A Lake District Grand Tour by Mike Carden
A Lake District Grand Tour

I have cycled it myself, and my book is available here. I also have a separate website just on cycling in the Lake District, inspired by my ride and the book:

http://lakedistrictgrandtour.co.uk/

Lake District Ordnance Survey Tour Map

There are also less ambitious routes, and you can either find these for yourself using maps like the OS Tour Map for the Lake District and Cumbria.

Or you can use one of the available guide books.

Lake District Cycle Tours, CycleCity

CycleCity’s ‘Cycle Tours in the Lake District’ is a good one.

There is also ‘Cycling in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales’ from Vertebrate Books: most of the routes in that one are in the south east of Lakeland and the Dales, so it’s very good for those areas.

Goldeneye Lake District Mountain Bike Map

There is also excellent mountain biking of course. Goldeneye have an excellent map of mountain bike routes, and both Vertebrate and Cicerone have guide books. Vertebrate’s is more extensive, Cicerone’s is cheaper.

Don’t forget the Sustrans routes through Lakeland as well: the C2C, Reivers, Hadrian’s Cycleway, and Walney to Wear, all signposted and making very good bike routes.

Mountain biking in the Lake District - above Bassenthwaite Lake
Mountain biking in the Lake District – above Bassenthwaite Lake

Devon Coast to Coast maps and guide books

Devon Coast to Coast maps and guide books

Devon Coast to Coast Sustrans map 2012Sustrans have a map for the Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route. It is in the same style as the C2C and other long-distance route maps from Sustrans, printed on waterproof paper and in a waterproof case.

Devon Coast to Coast cycle guide

Excellent Books also have their Ultimate Guide to the Devon Coast to Coast ride, which also has full mapping, plus information about places you pass along the way, accommodation etc.

Sustrans also have their new small-scale cycle maps, and their North Devon and South Devon maps show the route.

North Devon Sustrans map

South Devon Sustrans map

Reivers Route

The Reivers Route –  a personal post from riding the Reivers Cycle Route

Reivers Route cycle map
Click here to go to the shop to order the map.

The Reivers Route used to be known as the ‘return C2C route’ but these days has competition in the Hadrian’s Cycleway. I cycled the Reivers Route a few years back with my wife and found it a wilder route than the C2C and Hadrian’s.

The route was pretty well signposted, but I would definitely recommend taking the official map.

The Reivers Route starts at Tynemouth (where the C2C finishes) and heads north west to Bellingham along country lanes.

It then becomes wilder as it runs through Kielder Forest. We opted not to take the forest track routes, since my wife was on a road bike. We did hear from other cyclists that some of the forest tracks were not as well signposted as they could have been, but that was some years ago now, so any comments on the current state of signposting thorugh Kielder Forest would be good.

The route came out of the forest and dropped down through Newcastleton. We had a quick stop off to see the fabulous Bewcastle Cross, and then headed down to Carlisle using the signposted country lanes.

From Carlisle, the road rises pretty steadily to Caldbeck, from where there are some quite entertaining (!) ups and downs to Bassenthwaite.

It’s then quite straightforward to Cockermouth where the route joins the Workington branch of the C2C. In Workington it turns south, running on cycleways almost all the way to the finish at Whitehaven on the slipway, exactly where the Whitehaven branch of the C2C starts.

Would I recommend it? Most definitely.

We’ve the map in the shop here, and this is a link:

Reivers Route cycle map
Reivers Route cycle map

 

Aberdeen to Shetland Sustrans map set

The Aberdeen to Shetland Sustrans map set

There are two maps in the Aberdeen to Shetland Sustrans set, and very good they are too. I’ve used the maps for part of the route, and only occasionally got lost.

First I cycled around Orkney, taking in the prehistoric sites and the lovely Italian Chapel along the way. The Sustrans maps are perfect for any sort of cycle tour of the Orkney Islands.

Orkney cycle ride
Orkney cycle ride

Then I crossed to John O’Groats, cycling along the north coast of the mainland to Tongue. The road along the coast is surprisingly hilly, and when I did it was very windy, but the views along the coast are wonderful.

Tongue
Tongue

From Tongue the road runs south on what must be one of my favourite stretches of cycling road. Rising past the most northerly of the Munros, past lakes and tarns amongst the heather, and dropping down through forest. The road then runs alongside the River … at … And then there is one of the most amazing of youth hostels: Carbisdale Castle. I thoroughly recommend it.

Carbisdale Castle
Carbisdale Castle

From there, the signposted route runs on down via the Black Isle to Inverness. All very scenic!

I haven’t cycled from Inverness to Aberdeen, or on Shetland, so any comments appreciated.

Click below to link to buy the map at the shop.

Aberdeen to Shetland Sustrans Map

Lochs and Glens North cycle route

The Lochs and Glens North Sustrans cycle route

I’ve cycled a fair bit of the Lochs and Glens North Sustrans cycle route (route 7), though it’s about 4 years ago now, so any comments to update this appreciated.

I cycled from Inverness to just south of Pitlochry, before going off on The Salmon Run towards Perth.

First of all, it’s a fantastic route, with wonderful mountains around.

Parts are on road, generally the old main road which has been by-passed, and those sections are excellent.

Lochs and Glens route on the old A85 road
Lochs and Glens route on the old A85 road

There are other sections where a cycle-way has been built near or right next to the A85. A few of those sections had started to crumble a little when I was there, so I would be interested to know if holes have been patched.

Lochs and Glens cycle route through the Cairngorms
Lochs and Glens cycle route through the Cairngorms

I came across other cyclists doing LEJOG who were after speed rather than quiet and safe roads, and they were sticking to the A85. For someone like me where time was not of the essence, but a pleasurable cycle was, the Lochs and Glens North route was great.

The map was very well designed – no problems at all with finding the way. Which, if I’m honest, is unusual for me!

You can click here to link to the map itself:

Lochs & Glens North Map, Sustrans
Lochs & Glens North Map, Sustrans

 

The route links on to the Aberdeen to Shetland route at Inverness; to the Salmon Run heading to Perth; and from Glasgow to Lochs and Glens South.

New Zealand bike ride

New Zealand bike ride

Gap years are a great idea. It’s my ambition to have one.

So in the absence of my own, I gate-crashed part of my son Richard’s. Well, he had told me that he planned on a cycle tour of New Zealand, and how could I resist that?

So here’s what I learned – or at least a small part of it.

New Zealand is a beautiful country, with a friendly people and excellent cycling. Four weeks was long enough to get a flavour of the country, north and south islands, but an extra couple of weeks (or months?) would be better!

I can recommend the following as good cycling places from personal experience: the Bay of Islands, Coromandel Peninsula, Giant Redwoods Mountain Bike Centre at Rotorua, the 42 Traverse at the Tongariro National Park, the West coast from Fox Glacier to Wanaka via the Haast Pass. The following were recommended to us while we were there, but we ran out of time: the Queen Charlotte Track, and Wanaka to Queenstown via the Crown Range. We didn’t cycle in Aukland itself, but we were pleased not to. It seemed very busy, very hilly, seemingly not at all cycle friendly.

We stayed in excellent quality official Youth Hostels (http://www.yha.co.nz), and there is also a variety of private ones, though the official ones are usually more geared up for cyclists.

Guide books: Cycline New Zealand Cycling Guide has the best maps, and though they don’t cover all of New Zealand, they covered most of the areas we wanted to visit. It has limited other information, and some descriptions not entirely clear. Lonely Planet‘s Cycling New Zealand has the best information by far on places to stay and to visit, but the maps are not very clear. As a recommendation – use the Lonely Planet guide to plan roughly where to go, and take the Cycline guide with you – the maps are good enough to use on the ground.

When to go: late October was OK for north island, but would have been a bit cold in south island. The south gets cold again around March/April. Roads are busiest in the school holidays – Christmas to mid January.

We hired bikes in New Zealand, rather than take our own. Generally that was fine, though at two places the bikes on offer were of a poor standard. Highly recommended though is Natural High Bicycle Rentals of Christchurch: we were able to pick up bikes at Nelson (arranged over the internet) and drop them off in Queenstown, using a bus to take us as far as Fox Glacier. I don’t know if Natural High have been badly affected by the earthquake; if so, my heart goes out to them, and I’d encourage cyclists to use them, so as to help Christchurch back on to its feet.

And if (when?) you go, don’t just cycle – walk and kayak at Abel Tasman National Park, and walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Would I go again? Oh yes. Bring on that gap year.