By: Simon Weir
Spiral bound 208 pages
215mm x 150mm Published: 2013 by AA Publishing ISBN: 9780749573966 RRP: £12.99
The Automobile Association has been providing assistance and advice to British motorists since 1905 and is a trusted name in driving circles.
RiDE, meanwhile, is a magazine held in high esteem among bikers.
I had high hopes for Bikers’ Britain, a collaboration between these two excellent entities, and I was not disappointed.
Sized to fit in a tank bag, with a spiral binding allowing it to lie flat when opened at any page, the book has been designed to go along for the ride as well as for route planning at home.
There’s a foreword from Charley Boorman of Long Way Round fame, but the bulk of the material has been edited by RiDE Deputy Editor Simon Weir, compiled from contributions by readers and extensively tested by the magazine’s staff (it’s a lousy job, but someone’s got to do it).
Some tips for touring — especially useful if you haven’t ridden in a group before — are presented before you get into the meat of the book.
There are 68 routes in total, divided into regions: South and Central England, Wales, The North and Midlands, and Scotland. (No ferry crossings required). Each section opens with a longer four- or six-day tour designed to showcase the best the area has to offer, followed by several all-day, half-day or even half-hour offerings.
Some routes are circular, while others will get you from A to B. This allows you to construct your own tour or shorter trip, or simply work a nice road or two into your journey.
Route names range from the prosaic (“Beverley to Malton (B1248), does exactly what it says on the tin”) to the lyrical: how about the “Tree-Lined Rollercoaster” ride or even the “Hypnotic Cocktail”?
Each route takes up a double-page spread and opens with a description of the ride and the surrounding area. These are not only entertaining, but go a long way towards helping you enjoy the ride by hinting at the types of road to be found and warning of trouble spots.
Alternatives to particularly challenging roads are given, and there are suggestions for petrol stops — vital in the wilder parts of Scotland.
Fact boxes list local sights and food stops to suit all tastes and wallets, from traditional greasy spoons to seafood restaurants and from castles to caves. The “Links well with” box suggests local roads to join on to the ride, helping you to put your own route together.
The top of the right-hand page gives the mileage and the type of route (loop, tour, “A” road). There’s a map of the route on the right side and a turn-by-turn text guide on the left. For longer routes, the maps can be slightly too small to be of use, and I get on better with the “turn left at the church” style of direction anyway.
Atmospheric photos of riders and roads (one chap in a yellow helmet seems to get about a bit) show off the varied landscapes and different riding experiences the country has to offer. At the end of the book, there’s a section on “Crossing the Country”, which suggests some non-motorway routes for longer distances, making for slightly slower but much more pleasurable journeys, as well as a useful chart showing times and distances between major towns.
The final route, for the ambitious traveller, is a four-day trip from Lands End to John O’Groats.
As a frequent weekend and leisure traveller (though never, of course, as frequent as I’d like), I recognised a few of the routes, and found the descriptions accurate enough to reassure me about the quality of the unknown rides.
Bikers’ Britain aims to get Britain’s bikers out exploring and enjoying themselves, and it’s certainly filled me with the urge to roam. It’s a useful manual for planning and carrying out bike trips within England, Scotland and Wales, with a sufficiently engaging style and enough interesting tidbits to make it fun for armchair travellers all over the world.