Lost Lanes West is a lovely thing. If you bought it and did nothing other than leaf through it on the sofa, it'd still be worth the money for the interesting and information-packed descriptions of the riding, and the high-quality photography. You should go out and do the rides too, though. There's some fantastic riding in the West. We should know. Okay, we're biased.
- Pros: Great routes, interesting and informative write-ups, great photography
- Cons: Nothing really
The meat of this book is the 36 routes around the West that it contains: 30 researched, ridden and written up by the author, Jack Thurston of The Bike Show Podcast fame, and six other regular organised rides around the region. The West for the purposes of the book is Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset & Avon, Devon and Cornwall, with the routes spread pretty evenly through the region.
Some of the routes can be linked together into multi-day rides and they range from 'easy' to 'very challenging'. The shortest route is 26 miles and the longest 65 miles. Many of the routes have unsurfaced sections – these are lost lanes, after all – and although the routes can be ridden on pretty much any bike in good mechanical condition, many of them are going to be more fun on something that's a bit more orientated towards mixed surface riding: a touring bike or a gravel bike is ideal.
You probably don't want to be lugging the actual book round with you, so the companion website to the book has downloadable GPX navigation files and printable PDF route notes. You can print the route on the map from the website too.
Jack has clearly put a great deal of time and effort into researching and riding the 30 routes, and each one comes with a map, an elevation profile, a wealth of beautiful photography, a description that includes plenty of interesting facts and local colour, and a comprehensive list of suggestions for places to stop along the way. Specific points of interest are noted in the copy and marked on the map.
This would all be for naught if the routes themselves weren't any good, but there's some fantastic riding in the West, and given how well Jack's routes around Somerset tally with the roads I generally pick out myself when I'm of a mood to bimble in the lanes, I'm confident that every one of the 30 would be a fine day in the saddle. They're rides to savour: mostly small roads and often trails and unsurfaced link sections. It's not the kind of riding that you do quickly, partly because it's just not easy to ride fast, partly because it's a lot more fun at a more sedate pace. There's too much to see to get your head down.
If you have specific things you want to get out of a day (or days) on the bike then there's a section at the front where the rides are grouped thematically too. There's the best rides for overnighting, weekends away, gourmet eating, climbing, history, arts and culture, wild swimming, family riding, natural wonders and, of course, pubs. At the back is a smaller section of six organised rides, notable for the inclusion of Barry's Bristol Bash which includes, courtesy of the Hill Women's Institute, the best cake stop of any ride, ever.
Overall, Lost Lanes West is a joy. From cover to cover it's full of good riding, painstakingly researched and well documented. If you live in the West, or you like to visit, it's a great guidebook to have on the shelf. Even if you don't, it's worth having just for the evocative writing and the beautiful photography.
Painstakingly researched and beautifully presented guide to riding in the West
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Lost Lanes West
Size tested: Softback
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The third in the Lost Lanes series of cycling guidebooks is a celebration of cycling the West Country of England, taking in Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset & Avon, Devon and Cornwall. It takes the form of 30 original guided rides and six fantastic organised rides, with detailed ride descriptions, evocative photography and comprehensive online resources including GPX files for GPS navigators and smartphone apps and turn-by-turn route sheets. The rides include cycling across the wilds of Salisbury Plain to Stonehenge and Avebury, the contrasting landscapes of the Mendips and Somerset Levels, the narrow winding lanes of Exmoor and and Dartmoor, and breathtaking rides along the Cornish coast and around the Isle of Purbeck. The circular rides range from 40km to 105km and can all be done in a day, split over two days or linked together into longer, multi-day tours. There are recommendations for pubs, cafes and places to stay overnight, from boutique hotels to wild camping spots.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great for just leafing through or using as a basis for day rides or longer tours.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Well-researched routes, great photos.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At £16.99 it's not a cheap book but there's a lot of work gone into this and it's definitely worth the money.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Very well put together, very well written, very accessible. A very nice thing.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.