South West Mountain Biking - Vertebrate Publishing Review

Review by John Horscroft
Friday 9th September 2011

I must, at the outset, declare an interest in this book as my ugly mug features heavily in the photographic content. But, hell, don't let that put you off because this is yet another excellent guide from the ever burgeoning Vertebrate Publishing mountain bike guide collection.


Covering Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Quantocks, there's enough riding in here to keep the visiting rider happy for many a summer. Collated in the usual logical and well-presented fashion that we've come to expect, the local knowledge of authors Nick Cotton and Tom Fenton is harnessed to the full. In the past I've been somewhat agnostic about the riding on Exmoor - too many wide, flat stony tracks, too little hair-raising downhill action. This guide provides the antidote by highlighting the excellent riding that can be found in Exmoor. The route descriptions are honest and forewarned is forearmed - the hard work is always rewarded with a sweet singletrack section. Dartmoor by contrast was a new experience for me and what an experience. There's a real sense of wilderness about the place and several of the rides, particularly Grimspound and Hound Tor, are real adventures in a truly remote setting. The technicality around Hound Tor itself makes the ride worthwhile.


The Quantocks are one of the most under-rated mountain biking areas in Britain and what they lack in scale, they more than make up for in variety. The area is home to innumerable bridlepaths and the four Quantock rides featured in the guide will familiarise the visiting rider with the general layout and encourage them to explore. Check out the Quantock's Extra Riding section which lists other hidden gems. Of particular note is Great Wood near Triscombe Stone which will particularly appeal to those who like their mountain biking a bit more gravity driven.


In practical terms, if you've used a Vertebrate Publishing guide before then you know the drill. Excellent route summaries, crystal clear Ordnance Survey maps, directions that are detailed without being fussy and include a wealth of local detail to encourage you to look beyond your front wheel. Add to that the altitude profile, refreshment stops, parking and other crucial info and it is the complete package. Authoritative, illustrated with typically brilliant photography and covering some of the best kept secrets in British mountain biking - what more could you ask.


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