i do receive the occasional disparaging e-mail, berating me for having an opinion, or more likely because mine differs from that of the correspondent. some, quite rightly, are pointing out errors in my writings, spelling, and a few asking if i would please consider using capital letters (no; it's a feature, not a bug). and every now and again, an e-mail arrives either asking me to quote for a washingmachine (honestly), or wishing to sell me vast quantities of electric motors. hence the disclaimer at the top of the page. but i'm pleased to say that the majority of correspondence is of the pleasant variety, and while i have no real complaint about either, it's the latter that is more welcome in my inbox.
however, all that may change from this point, though i'd rather hope not. under consideration is nick woodford's excellent book in the where to ride series describing fifty rides around london, as well as a few rides for kids. the book is a wonder to behold in all aspects of construct, sequence, illustration and direction, so you may well be wondering why it is that i would expect an influx of negative comment.
i have acres and acres of open ground, fabulous countryside, sleepy little singletrack lanes and the most amazing aspect over the atlantic you can have this far south. the sky is virtually unbroken for all 360 degrees, and i need only lift the bicycle from the bikeshed and take a few steps forward, and i am already out and about. in my brief experience of london, it isn't like that at all. i need only bring up the subject of this year's rapha hell of the north ride to underline what i mean. you may remember that i was not on the start line for that particular event because i got lost en-route to highgate, making it only as far as oxford street; a pathetic attempt.
this should be tempered by the knowledge that many of those attending the annual ride of the falling rain manage to get lost (well, sort of) en route to ardbeg distillery, but i would tender that it's a darned sight easier to find your way around an island of 3,500 folks than the backstreets of london. and then i wonder why anyone would want to go for a leisurely ride around london in the first place.
and that's what i figure might get me into trouble.
and i can see the point of any inbound hassle. how dare a long-haired scottish prat, who can't even find his way to the centre of the country's capital city, question the need for residents of that metropolis to enjoy pedalling their bicycles of an evening or, perchance, a weekend. it's a bit smug, not to say high and mighty, to flaunt my hebridean wide open spaces as if they are in any way superior to the scenery in the country's major conurbation. so i have decided not to compare anad contrast or even enter the comparative battleground. some of us choose to stay miles from anywhere, and some don't, or don't want, the option.
nick woodford's book is great; the spiral binding eases the need of misanthropes such as myself to keep it open at the page that is going to help me not get lost. the front cover opens out like a roger dean gatefold sleeve, showing an extended map of the london area with each numbered route placed in its geographical context; a very helpful feature for those totally ignorant of what goes where, and how to get there. tips and hints on how to use the book and an essentials checklist are well to the fore in the opening pages. excellent advice indeed, though i wonder whether perhaps nick may wish to avail himself of some of his own: 'it's a good idea to give your bike a clean'. now it may be that the opening photos of nick and his bicycle are not as clear as was hoped, but it doesn't look to me as shiny as the advice would suggest. a trivial matter, but pedantry needs to be upheld.
there is comprehensive detail on taking your bicycle on public transport, how to get by on the off-road sections, london underground, and for those out of town, such as myself, practical ways of transporting self and steed to london.
each ride is accompanied by a full page map, a linear illustration of the route profile and a smattering of appropriate photographs. the text is paragraphed at significant kilometres, in an at a glance format and in well-written descriptive text. comprehensive indeed. there is every chance that even i could manage to get from start to finish in any one of the rides therein, and that is no mean feat for one so bereft of a sense of direction. i am also rather impressed and somewhat ashamed to admit my earlier misgivings; there are some fine rides and particularly enjoyable scenery on show, and i really should have remembered the rather excellent ride out past crystal palace, that substituted for missing the rapha ride (thank you john). and for those with kids, there are some rides of under 4km for the little people in your life towards the back of the book.
i don't doubt that there are many living in the capital, blissfully unaware of the riding possibilities who, for a mere £14.95 could have their riding careers altered substantially for the better. and those who may have to work in london for a period, or visit for a brief passage of time, could gain much from this welcome addition to london's cycling literature.
just don't e-mail to inform of my fallibility; i have made myself aware of this through the preceding paragraphs. (strange to relate, the book is published by ba press in new south wales, australia; go figure).
nick woodford's 'where to ride in london' costs £14.95 and is available both online at cordee books and through good booksellers.
posted wednesday 22 september 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................