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The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner

8
£9.95

VERDICT:

8
10
Information-dense map with a vast network of UK traffic-free or low-traffic routes
Vast network of traffic-free routes on one map
The whole UK on one map
Great adjunct to online planners
Over-reliant on Sustrans network
Needs more minor roads
Sheer amount of detail can be confusing
Weight: 
130g

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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With almost all the UK's cycle routes on one double-sided map, The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner is a really useful companion to online map systems for longer rides.

Online route-planning sites are great, but sometimes you need a bigger view than they provide. The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner gives you that wide-angle view. The Route Planner gathers all the UK's designated cycling routes into one map, from the Sustrans National Cycle Network to less-publicised routes like Swans Way in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The only significant network I can think of that's missing is the National Byway, perhaps because its routing on minor roads doesn't fit the Route Planner's traffic-free emphasis.

2023 The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner 4th Edition - map detail 3.jpg

Unlike a lot of online maps, railway lines and stations are clearly shown here so you can plan train-assisted rides too. Canalside paths are also marked in three degrees of usability: no cycling, NCN cycle route and possibly cycleable.

I do like that 'possibly'. For me, the most memorable rides involve an element of exploration. That can be just riding a new route, but it's exciting to head down a road and not be sure it's actually passable.

If you like a little bit more certainty, you might find the UK Cycle Route Planner is over-reliant on the Sustrans National Cycle Network. Even Sustrans itself has admitted some of the network isn't fit for purpose, and while some of the worst sections have been removed from the official network there's still a high degree of uncertainty when it comes to just what sort of surface quality you should expect. Some of the tracks marked on here are barely passable by mountain bike. For example, there's a section of the Icknield Way south-west of Thetford – marked here among 'cyclable national trails & signed mountain bike routes' – that was six inches deep in sand when I tried to ride it a few years ago.

2023 The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner 4th Edition - map detail 2.jpg

On the other hand, one of my local trails, Worsted Street Roman Road, is marked as a mountain bike track when it's quite doable on a hybrid or a road bike with 28mm tyres, especially in dry weather.

> 4 reasons why your next bike should be a touring bike

Relying on the Sustrans network brings another problem – that it ignores enormous numbers of great minor roads. The UK's best cycling is on minor roads, because the vast majority of them have proper hard surfaces (albeit battered ones after 13 years of Tory neglect) but very little traffic as drivers stick to A and B roads.

> GPS cycle route planning made easy – how to plan and follow a bike route

The Planner does have some roads marked as 'suggested minor road links' and this is something I'd like to see a lot more of, though I suspect marking all of them would make many areas almost into solid masses of purple. Maybe Excellent Books can set up a method of people submitting approved routes, or use heatmaps from Garmin or Strava that in my experience tend to do a good job of steering away from the busiest roads.

2023 The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner 4th Edition - map detail 1.jpg

It could be I'm asking for serious scope creep here. The UK Cycle Route Planner focuses on traffic-free routes and does about as good a job as it's possible to do of collecting them all on one map.

Conclusions

I don't think more route information could be crammed into a single map without it having to be unfeasibly large. If your cycling life involves planning longer rides, this map could be a big help.

Who should buy the UK Cycle Route Planner?

If you want to plan longer routes than is easily feasible on a typical online map tool, this is for you.

Verdict

Information-dense map with a vast network of UK traffic-free or low-traffic routes

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: The Ultimate UK Cycle Route Planner 4th Edition

Size tested: n/a

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?

Excellent Books says:

All of the UK's signed cycle routes together on one map – National Cycle Network and other waymarked cycle routes. Double-sided to cover England, Wales and Scotland.

Brings all of the UK's signed cycle routes together on one map.

Uses the outstanding quality and detail of Times Comprehensive Atlas mapping, Sustrans' National Cycle Network and other popular cycle trails are featured and defined – traffic free or on road.

Family cyclists will love the listed traffic free trails.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Page Size: 120 x 240 mm

Publisher: Excellent Books

Edition: 4th edition, January 2023

Binding: Sheet map (folded)

Illustrations: Colour mapping

Weight: 120g

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Tidily printed and folded with the cover neatly glued on.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Delivers a bunch of useful information in one big ol' map.

Rate the product for durability:
 
3/10

It's made from paper so best not used as an impromptu umbrella, groundsheet or shield against gunfire.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
6/10

Paper construction helps keep the gram-count down.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
6/10

Well-finished edges seem to reduce risk of paper cuts.

Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

Other cycling-orientated paper maps are in the same ballpark, but just a tenner to have all this information in one place is a bargain!

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Lots of route possibilities in one gert big map.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Lack of National Byway; more recommended minor roads would be good.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

As far as I can tell the UK Cycle Route Planner is unique. Other cycling-orientated paper maps are in the same ballpark.

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

This is a very good idea, well executed.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 56  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 100kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

Add new comment

82 comments

Avatar
a1white | 1 year ago
3 likes

is this thread still going?

[reads to the end of the thread...].
Yep, we're on to the Nazi part of the discussion now cool

Avatar
perce replied to a1white | 1 year ago
0 likes

Doesn't seem to have much to do with cycling if you ask me.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to perce | 1 year ago
4 likes
perce wrote:

Doesn't seem to have much to do with cycling if you ask me.

Have you never come across the Strauss-Howe generational theory of history, better known as the four cycles?

I apologise for my part in the hijacking of the thread but I do think it's important that when such pernicious alt-right lies as "the Nazis were all socialists" raise their heads they should be challenged whatever the forum, even at the risk of derailing the discussion.

Avatar
perce replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
3 likes

No need to apologise - I'm just off to my local ghetto to see if I can get a bottle of leftie kool-aid.

Avatar
perce replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

I usually just skim through his comments. Having read them properly I take your point.

Avatar
Sniffer replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
3 likes

There is a ridiculous article written by Peter Hitchens a Mail columnist that I believe Nigel will have read.

https://twitter.com/marshall_proEU/status/1636316829474865157?t=s2id4pm4...

I suspect he just wanted to import this into this forum as a Troll tactic to create a shitstorm.

While I sometimes agree that ridiculous arguments need to be knocked down, in this case, with his tactics so transparent, maybe it isn't worth the interaction.

PS the twitter thread kind of sums up the tactic.

Avatar
perce | 1 year ago
3 likes

Well I liked the review anyway.

Avatar
mark1a | 1 year ago
1 like

I've been busy since yesterday, have I missed anything?

Avatar
peted76 replied to mark1a | 1 year ago
2 likes
mark1a wrote:

I've been busy since yesterday, have I missed anything?

Avatar
wtjs | 1 year ago
9 likes

Back to the original point. This map is just what I want and road.cc has told me about it. You have to be a certain type of person to complain about a useful review!

Avatar
perce replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
1 like

Yep, very good review I thought. Added to my Christmas list.

Avatar
wtjs replied to perce | 1 year ago
2 likes

Added to my Christmas list
Wow! That is really heavy duty patience!

Avatar
perce replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
2 likes

Well as a proud Yorkshireman every penny in my pocket is a prisoner.

Avatar
a1white replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
1 like

Yep, I've ordered it. Looks great  1

Avatar
BalladOfStruth | 1 year ago
11 likes

Wow! A 54-comment thread for a cycle route planner. It must really be somethi-

Oh for fucks sake...

Avatar
Andrewbanshee | 1 year ago
4 likes

I read the comments for any feedback on the review of the route planner ..

Avatar
the little onion | 1 year ago
10 likes

Anything that relies heavily on Sustrans is going to be useless. They are an absolute abomination that either needs disbanding or radical reform. There is a section of their "national cycling network" near me that is 10 miles of muddy path, which ends in two flights of stairs. I believe there are sections that are only usable on fat bikes at low tide!

 

if it isn't usable by an 8 year old on 28mm tyres on a wet Tuesday in February, it shouldn't be classed as a cycling route 

Avatar
Andrewbanshee replied to the little onion | 1 year ago
6 likes

In the UK there seems to be at least 2 classes of cycle routes. One is for leisure cycling, which seems to be the main type for Sustrans. The other is put your life in someone else's hands. Neither really get you to where you want to go safely or for commuting, in a timely manner.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to the little onion | 1 year ago
4 likes

"notional cycle network".

As to Sustrans generally - they seem (at least near me) to have improved ... slightly.  The issues seemed to be at the top and their eagerness - nay desperation - to get their name on anything, no matter the quality.

They now talk the talk at least.  Still always keep a wary eye on their efforts though.

If you're close / friendly enough to e.g. councils to be able to influence things (as opposed to shouting ineffectively from the sidelines) there is a strong chance you'll be corrupted.  Or rather become too sympathetic to the "but we can't change things for the majority (drivers)" view".  Doing "something rather than nothing" where the "something" is actually a complete waste of money or even counterproductive.

Unsurprisingly Sustrans (not actually a cycling organisation) have often provided what is actually pedestrian infra, assuming that a few cyclists will mix in and all will be fine.  That is a common view - but effectively guarantees there won't be many cyclists.  It's not comfortable for many of either mode to mix - they have their own requirements and need their own appropriate spaces.

Avatar
Dadams7378 | 1 year ago
6 likes

'13 Years of Tory neglect'.  Really?  So labour administrations have prioritised the maintenance of our minor road networks have they?  Presumably in the opinion of the reviewer, all badly repaired minor roads are the responsibility of conservative councils, whilst those maintained by labour or Lib Dem councils are pothole free and billiard table smooth?  I don't disagree that our roads suffer in comparison to those in certain of our European neighbours, but to equate this to politics is cheap.  Can I therefore respectfully suggest the reviewer keeps their ill-informed political preferences out of cycling reviews?

Avatar
mctrials23 replied to Dadams7378 | 1 year ago
8 likes

I dislike the tories as much as most but its an overused cheap shot for sure. We didn't live in a utopia before they gained power and I doubt we will live in one after Labour have had a few years in power either. 

Avatar
Rich_cb replied to mctrials23 | 1 year ago
0 likes

Fortunately we don't have to wait that long to see what life would be like under a Labour government.

Simply cast your eyes westward past Offa's Dyke and gaze in wonder at the socialist utopia.

The NHS is working perfectly, the education system continues to climb world rankings, roads are perfectly maintained and the people are joyful.

Alternatively, health, education and virtually all public services are objectively worse.

Stevenson won't let inconvenient facts get in the way of his little rants though.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
8 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

Stevenson won't let inconvenient facts get in the way of his little rants though.

You certainly haven't let the inconvenient fact of Wales' budget allocation being cut by £1.6 billion (22%) in real terms by the UK government get in the way of yours.

Avatar
Simon E replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
5 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

Simply cast your eyes westward past Offa's Dyke and gaze in wonder at the socialist utopia.

It may be very far from perfect - like every administration, ever - but the Welsh government has, within the restrictions placed by Westminster, attempted positive steps that those Tory bastards in London would never even contemplate.

But since you have repeatedly voted for the most despicable bunch of incompetent, law-breaking, moneygrabbing shysters, grifters and morons in living memory AND the worst economic & political decision that anyone can think of you really don't have a leg to stand on.

However, I agree with Dadams7378 that the laughable provision of cycling infrastructure in the UK is not just the Tories' fault. Mind you, the recent cut to the active travel budget (cause for celebration among Tories and gammons everywhere) is yet another blow to any hopes of getting anything done. Funny how there's lots of money for guns and bombs and £27 billion for new roads, most of which will only make things worse, but people who want to cycle can get into arguments on a measly shared path or be directed miles out of their way down some shitty lane.

Avatar
Rich_cb replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
0 likes

Such as?

Don't fall for the recent road building announcement.

Half the schemes will go ahead under a different mechanism and the Welsh Government are already backtracking furiously on the overall idea.

They've also recently slashed bus funding and have announced they will not be matching the free child care recently announced for England.

You might not like the Conservatives but try living under the alternative. Worse public services compared to England despite higher levels of funding.

Why on earth should I vote for Labour when that is what they've been delivering to Wales for over 25 years?

Avatar
Simon E replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
2 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

Don't fall for the recent road building announcement.

I'm not talking about that.

If you want to talk bus funding then Shropshire (in England) is a not-so-fine example, public services cut and cut and cut, bus services run down over the last decade or more by a Conservative-led administration that reeks of corruption and is, to cite just one example, desperate to build a £100million+ road for which they don't have the money and can't justify it.

Rich_cb wrote:

You might not like the Conservatives but try living under the alternative.

I've lived under the alternative and stand by my assertion. None of the alternatives are anywhere near as shit as the Tories. The Thatcher/Major years were shitty enough but this lot are far worse. Perhaps all the so-called austerity measures, countless scandals, bare-faced lies, privatisation and accompanying hatchet job on public services, culture wars, food banks, bonfire of employment rights and human rights etc don't bother you but we've not had anything this bad since before WW II. Perhaps 1930s-style policies (and pandering to the far-right) is working out better for you than for the rest of us.

Avatar
Rich_cb replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
1 like

Here come the tired 1930s tropes.

Read a history book.

Seriously.

If you think a country which welcomed 1/2 million immigrants last year from mostly non white countries, which has a Prime minister from an ethnic minority and the most diverse and representative cabinet in Europe is in anyway similar to the far right regimes of the 1930s then you're merely demonstrating your own ignorance of history.

I live in Wales, we've had a Labour government since 1997.
The NHS is markedly worse than the English NHS.
The education system likewise.
There is no additional support for childcare costs here.

This is all despite funding being 20% higher per head of population.

Why would I not vote for a Conservative party that is doing a better job of delivering public services with significantly fewer resources?

Welsh Labour are incompetent, complacent and, in many cases, corrupt.

Avatar
Simon E replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
4 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

Here come the tired 1930s tropes.

Sorry to burst your bubble but they're not 'tired' at all.

Rich_cb wrote:

Why would I not vote for a Conservative party that is doing a better job of delivering public services with significantly fewer resources? Welsh Labour are incompetent, complacent and, in many cases, corrupt.

If you think that Welsh Labour is more corrupt than the Tories then you really haven't been paying attention. The Tory corruption across the whole of the UK is far, far deeper, more entrenched and damaging than anything that the Senedd could even begin to contemplate. And how you can even pretend that they're delivering decent public services is quite beyond my comprehension.

If you keep believing the crap such as that Small Boats are the problem and Rwanda is the solution, swallow the myth of the Daily Mail being a newspaper and quietly turn a blind eye to everything else that's falling apart then I'm sure everything will seem to be just fine.

Avatar
Rich_cb replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
0 likes

The Conservatives are delivering better public services than Welsh Labour.

Look up NHS waiting lists, A+E waiting times and PISA rankings if you want objective evidence of this.

If you want evidence of Welsh Labour corruption look up the NRW timber deals, the Green Man farm deal and meetings beforehand and the land sales prior to the Cardiff development plan.

The 1930s tropes are not just tired, they're positively exhausted, usually rolled out by those with no other argument to make.

You didn't address a single one of my points which undermine your sad attempt at a Godwin .

Avatar
60kg lean keen ... replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
2 likes

Well said, and I live in Wales, yes there are problems but the Tories are not the fix they calim to be!

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