i really do want to, honestly, but the notion of riding around either britain's roads or even those on the continent in the company of one or two thousand others has never filled me with gleeful anticipation. no doubt it's as a result of participating in the annual 'ride of the falling rain' where i probably know more than just a few of my fellow pelotonese and certainly every centimetre of every road. of course, the other way of looking at it is that i'm a total wimp possessed of ant-social tendencies and a lack of velocipedinal skills in a group of more than four.
i will accept either as the correct answer.
my most recent experience of riding in what could legitimately be regarded as a peloton was a couple of years ago on the inaugural rapha retreat in southern provence. however, it wasn't long before both my ascending and descending inabilities were called into question. in this case i attributed it to journalistic licence; i was simply viewing the scenery at a more sedate pace than my compatriots. though i was unaware of it being the case in the latter instance, it's my experience that there are always one or two in a group of cyclists who have need of demonstrating their avowed superiority (even if it is subsequently proved to be missing altogether). i'm not one of them.
therefore, you really have to wonder why a self-confessed loner of a wimp has taken on the task of reviewing the latest book from the highly respected cicerone press consisting of twenty classic sportive rides in the south-east of england. for heaven's sake, just check out my geographical location to see just how apposite this might be.
but on the other hand, perhaps i'm the very person who should be reviewing this slim, but fastidious volume. for surely those who reside in the area will already be familiar with the highways and byeways described in glorious detail within? and in that case, they may be inclined to ride on experience as opposed to directed instruction.
the book opens with a brief precis of the popularity currently applied to the sportive (a genre of cycling now with its very own magazine), and doesn't take too long to point out that the south-east of england is amongst the most highly populated in the country. this makes quite a difference in terms of traffic density if you compare it to my own sunday morning ride. and perhaps rather obviously, if i do eventually decide that riding my bike in the south-east of england is the very fun thing i ought to do, i'll need somewhere to stay. colin dennis has thought of this for folks like me.
he's also paid close attention to the accessories i might like to take with me in case of mechanical malfeasance. i did however, manage a wry smile at the short paragraphs on how to ride on single-track lanes and over cattle grids.
it will surprise you not one whit that the book's 124 pages contain a total of twenty sportives including rides in sevenoaks, portsmouth, reigate, newbury, reading and brighton. i'd like to point out that, as a hebridean who has lived a sheltered life, i confess to having never heard of brockenhurst, theale or fleet. but then, folks living in those hitherto unknown regions have likely never heard of gartbreck, uiskentuie or kilchiaran.
though each ride contains a route overlaid on an ordnance survey map, the author does recommend acquiring a larger version. it's often hard to keep a paperback open at the correct page, never mind the strain on your eyesight when looking at an a5 sized graphic while straining every sinew climbing a large bump in the road. all are graded according to a scale originally met at the beginning of the book, and after a brief overview, a series of explicit directions and a course profile ought to safely get you from start to finish with little other than the danger of physical exertion in between.
the index at the back of the book offers a list of geographically relevant bike shops and cycle repair outfits, should any mechanicals of a nature outside your abilities occur, and each sportive ride has gpx files available for download. though i am under no illusion as to how hard it would be riding any of these twenty, even without a headwind, it strikes me that the really hard bit, for me at least, would be getting there in the first place.
but at least i now know where brockenhurst lives.
(there's a price in american dollars on the back cover; is there really a market for these routes from across the pond?)
thursday 19 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................