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Sustrans Traffic-Free Cycle Rides by Richard Peace makes a handy jumping-off point for any route or holiday planning, showcasing 150 almost entirely traffic-free routes on the National Cycle Network, though some do involve 'short sections on quiet roads or safe places to cross main roads where necessary'.
Each route is accompanied by information such as distances and ride features, as well as a basic map, but the book is designed to be used in conjunction with more detailed maps or a GPS rather than as a primary on-the-ground guide.
If you don't know much about Sustrans, the book includes a brief introduction to the organisation's aims and history, as well as that of the mighty National Cycle Network, plus a foreword by Paralympic gold medallist Dame Sarah Storey.
Most of the routes are given two pages, with the main text for each providing a little background to it, a flavour of what to expect and anything special to look out for along the way, along with a handy pictorial route map.
You also get information such as the nearest train station, the grade of the route, any terrain or access issues, local loop options, a couple of accommodation and food/drink suggestions, and nearby cycle hire details.
All the routes are signposted, as part of the National Cycle Network, and the descriptions and maps are helpful, but they aren't designed to be the only source of information, so you'll need more detailed routing in the form of a map or a GPS route when out and about. (The information panel for each route includes details of the full Sustrans map relevant to the area.)
There's a decent spread of routes across the UK, and the book is divided into regions to make planning easy. A map on the contents page shows all the regions and where to find them in the book, with a map showing the locations of the routes for that region at the start of each section.
Sustrans lists them as:
I used the book when staying away in a few areas and found it a useful resource for helping with the initial planning stages of a ride, though I was a bit disappointed with how few options there were in my immediate home turf.
It's fair to say that some areas of the UK have an embarrassment of riches in terms of traffic-free routes, while others – the Midlands, for example – struggle a little. But that's the very nature of the beast and part of the reason why Sustrans' work is so important.
That's also something to bear in mind if you do buy the book – at £15.99 it's on a par with similar guidebooks such as the Lost Lanes series, and you'll probably need to back it up with a paper map or gps mapping, but Sustrans is a charity and the money is going to support a good cause and the continuing improvement of cycling infrastructure in the UK.
As a guidebook for planning rides, rather than a detailed on-the-ground resource, it's spot on. What's more, it helps support a good cause and the future of traffic-free cycling.
An inspiring resource for planning quiet rides around the UK, and it supports a good cause
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sustrans Traffic-Free Cycle Rides Guidebook by Richard Peace
Size tested: 346pp
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?
Sustrans says: "Our bestselling guidebook brings together 150 of the UK's finest traffic-free* walking and cycling routes from across the country. This new edition (revised 2021) features a fantastic range of new traffic-free routes across the regions, offering a unique glimpse into the UK's remarkable landscapes, history, culture and architecture.
The rides range from the wild and ethereal mountain tracks of Snowdonia to fairy tale woodland trails through the Forest of Dean, and elegant city centre paths linking London's Royal Parks and palaces.
This book is for planning cycling days out and is best used alongside maps or GPS. All the routes are sign-posted.
*The majority of routes are entirely traffic-free, but some involve short sections on quiet roads or safe places to cross main roads where necessary."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Our guide to traffic-free cycle rides includes:
Maps and photographs
Routes for all ages and abilities, graded from easy to challenging
The best cycle-friendly places to stay, eat and drink along the way
Local bike hire centres and public transport links
Insightful advice on extending the rides or connecting to other nearby routes
Distance, terrain, gradient and surface quality information for each route
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's a great jumping-off point for ride planning in a given area.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I like the fact that it's supporting the work of Sustrans as a charity, plus it's a good overview of traffic-free and light traffic route options across the UK.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing really – it's not designed to replace a map or GPS route, so I can't criticise it for not providing enough on-the-ground information.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, particularly one with a family.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a very good resource for initial ride planning, particularly well suited to family or mixed ability rides, giving a good overview of what's out there.
About the tester
I usually ride: Liv Invite My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.