The UK road network is not particularly cycling friendly, so with this guidebook we have gone to a lot of trouble to provide you with the best cycling routes available. Besides being traffic calmed or even traffic free, the route avoids rough surfaces as much as possible. Also, our focus is on routes which give you something extra. We guide you along those special landmarks, places of interest, the best countryside and last but not least the finest rides of southern England. It is all about sightseeing from your bicycle rather than going as fast as possible. With various gravel sections, the route is not ideal for racing bikes. The route is especially suitable for touring and/or hybrid bikes with semi-slick tyres and of course, you can use mountain bikes too!
The guidebook: content and artwork
The guidebook consists of 164 pages and comes in a handy format which fits in a standard front bag on your bicycle handlebars. This format originates from successful Dutch-style long-distance cycle guidebooks (dimensions: 12 x 22.5 cm, wiro bound along the long top edge).
The book features 24 route sections. Every individual section starts with an overview of the characteristics of the route section. You'll see how much distance you'll cycle traffic-free (35%; bike symbol) and how much distance you'll cycle on very quiet roads (58%; bird symbol). It also shows you how much distance you actually have to deal with any traffic (6%; symbol of one car = road with some traffic flow, 1%; symbol of two cars = main road on which an adjacent footpath is always available). The overview also shows all stations on the way (60 in total), so you can plan where to hop off and on trains. An elevation chart gives you a good idea about the terrain "to be conquered". Local visitor information, combined with attractive pictures and beautifully detailed line-drawings by artist Tom Pick from Sweden give you a further feel about the route ahead. An example of such a page is shown below.
Another important feature of the guidebook are the full directions for the whole route. Note this is only provided for the east-west cycling direction. The "telegram" style with symbols and abbreviations (full overview included in the guide) is written in such a way that you actually don't need to be able to read the maps. You can also always see at a glance how far it is to the next village, town or rural pub/cafe. For reasons of clarity, all distances in the guidebook are in kilometers. All way points of the directions are also marked on the maps. The book features various map scales to be able to deal with both rural and urban areas. Below a sample of two pages; one rural, one urban.
On the maps, you'll have noticed the round boxes with letters. These match with the letters on the facility listings pages in the back of the guidebook. This allows you to find accommodations and bike repair shops very quickly, where-ever you are. Accommodations for all levels of luxury are provided, so not just campsites, hostels and Bed & Breakfasts, but also some charismatic expensive hotels. Below a sample of such a listings-page. We show the very first page of these listings, as it explains you as well about how these pages provide pricing information, etc, etc.
Route Updates & Social Media: a route that is alive!
We check all listed facilities annually to see whether they are still open and send them annual reminders of their inclusion in the guidebook. You'll find any changes on the route updates page of this website. You can also have your eyes on the route and contact us about changes and new appearing route and accommodation options on the way. These contributions allow us to keep this information as up-to-date as possible, ensuring you'll have the latest information on route diversions and accommodation listings. A print button on the updates pages allows easy printing of all changes prior to departure. Experiences of other cyclists on the route can be found on our Feedback page, on Twitter and on Facebook.
Children, adjusted equipment and GPS-tracks
Traffic free route sections are extremely suitable for younger children and are clearly marked in the route overviews in the guidebook. On-road routes are suitable for children who are able to cycle according to the Bikeability Level 2 National Standard (cycling on quiet roads), but of course you'll have to limit yourself to a mileage that is suitable for them. The route as a whole provides a great adventure for families with teenagers, allowing you and your loved ones to enjoy a very special holiday with memories which will last for ever. To give you a better idea on how you can plan your adventure, please read our how-you-could-do-it page.
For those using tandems, recumbent bikes, tricycles and/or trailers, our Cycling for all section on this website provides invaluable information. GPS-tracks are made available for free for books ordered through this website and can also be ordered separately. These GPX-exchange files can be imported into the preferred App of your choice.
History of the route
Cycling Dutchman Eric van der Horst cycled and surveyed many routes in southern England, both professionally and just for fun. Over a period of six years he explored every possible area of southern England, giving him the unique knowledge (from experience) where traffic-calmed touring cycling is attractive, diverse and at its best (and also where it isn't!). With the demand from Dutch touring cyclists for a high quality tourist route in England established, the thinking started on how to create a route which is easy to get to for visitors from the continent, completely continuous and also meeting essential quality criteria.
Although the guidebook celebrates the achievements of the Sustrans National Cycle Network (the book uses large parts of routes 1, 3, 4, 26, 27, 32, 41 and 51), it was not simply a matter of following these routes. NCN-route sections can have a very poor surface, can still be on busy roads or can keep you deliberately away from a special attraction or view, as a result of local opposition against an official cycle route. There are also still gaps in various NCN-routes, with missing connections. All these issues needed addressing, as they wouldn't go down well with the original target group of Dutch touring cyclists who expect high standards.
The big jigsaw puzzle was challenging on various stretches on the way. In places like Medway, Greenwich, Central London, Bath, Cheddar, Bideford and Newquay we divised our own routes to include some fantastic landmarks and views, missed out by the official Sustrans Routes. Especially in the Westcountry, we made further efforts to include landmarks as Stonehenge, Tarr Steps and Tintagel Castle, providing two route options (our own and Sustrans' official National Cycle Network) over considerable distances. 65% of the routes takes you on established signposted National Cycle Network routes, for the remaining 35% we used our own creativity, sometimes navigating across terrain where Sustrans finds it difficult to negotiate an official signposted route. All this provides a unique added value to the route in the guidebook, as it is indeed completely continuous and takes you to places where the official signposted routes don't go.
The first publication of the route was in Dutch in 2011, followed by a much improved English language edition published in 2013. The Dutch guidebook sold out in 2015. To keep the project viable long-term, we ask Dutch cyclists now also to use the English language edition. They receive a Dutch-language brochure when ordering the book via our Dutch language website.
Of course, you can also now buy the book and receive the GPS-tracks of the route at no extra cost!