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If you're stuck in lockdown hell, curl up with Lost Lanes North and dream of a few corners of heaven.
In the natural order of things, the cyclist is content to spend the dark evenings of winter with a pile of maps and guide books, planning summer adventures in the knowledge that the cold and wet daytime training miles will be rewarded in due course.
Who'd have thought we'd also be spending our summer dreaming of better times? It's a good job, then, that Jack Thurston has come along with the latest volume of Lost Lanes. It's the fourth in the series, after the original Lost Lanes, Lost Lanes Wales and Lost Lanes West (which we reviewed here) and follows the same successful format.
That is to say, it includes 30 carefully planned rides and six of the more unusual and quirky organised events in the region, illustrated with specially-drawn maps and full-colour photographs. These have been taken mostly by Jack Thurston himself, who certainly has an eye for a dramatic scene. You can almost smell the air in his Lakeland shots.
As you might expect, the rides are divided into chapters centred around different parts of the north of England. These cover Cumbria, Lancashire, the Yorkshire Dales, West and South Yorkshire, the North Yorkshire Moors and Wolds and the North East of England. My nearest ride is the 'Roof of England', 77km long, 1,479m of climbing and the only route in the book to get the maximum 'very challenging' rating. If that's not enough, like many of the rides, it can be linked with others to make multi-day tours.
The same rides are also grouped into themes: 'Best for Wild Camping, 'Best for Families', 'Best for History' and of course 'Best for Pubs', to name a few. There's also a healthy emphasis on tea and cake.
Thurston wisely steers clear of the 'turn left at the post office' approach to his descriptions, instead acting as an entertaining and informative guide to the history, geography and culture of the areas you will pass through. It reads hardly like a book about cycling at all (some of the routes don't even include bikes in the photos!) but the ride is always the main thing; and from Thurston's point of view, the further off the beaten track, the better (though it's hard to think of the Hardknott Pass as a 'lost lane'). Several of the rides venture onto the 'rough stuff', though rarely into mountain biking/carrying territory – and if it does, you will be warned.
Admirably, Thurston has made it possible to start nearly every ride at a railway station – no mean achievement given the depleted nature of our public transport system. There's also plenty of practical information, including where to find refreshments, select restaurants and the nearest bike shop. There's a chapter on touring craft which is worth reading even if you are an experienced rider. It never does any harm to review the basics!
The maps are attractive too, though if this was a geography exam they might be marked down for a lack of a key and a little arrow pointing north. Also, the contrast could have been better between the colour used to mark the route and the surrounding contours in a couple of cases. This is minor stuff really; and the idea is to mark the routes onto your own maps and/or download the gps files from the lostlanes.co.uk website.
Lost Lanes North offers a little portal into the wider world at a time when many of us can only get out and ride in our heads. It's well worth the door fee.
Another lovely book in the Lost Lanes series – enjoy the read, even if you can't ride the rides
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Lost Lanes North
Size tested: 256 pages
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?
Here's what it says on the jacket:
Jack Thurston takes you on a tour of the lost lanes and forgotten byways of Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and County Durham. In 36 rides, from gentle spins to multi-day adventures, cycle the quietest country roads and traffic-free trails, taking in majestic fells, shimmering lakes and wild coastlines.
Lost Lanes North combines engaging travel writing with stunning photography and will inspire everyone, from experienced cyclists to beginners and families with young children.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Published by Wild Things Publishing Ltd, Bath
The book includes everything you need to know to follow and enjoy the included rides, with lots of background information and practical tips.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good writing, plenty of interesting details, lovely photographs.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Some of the maps could have done with more contrast between the colour used to show the route and the background.
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
Lost Lanes North is a very attractive book, well written, thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,