Ernest Press is a long-standing producer of MTB route guides, being the home of almost legendary titles like Jeremy Ashcroft’s Mountain Bike Guide to The Lake District, The Howgills and the Yorkshire Dales, which is not only still in print but also still has 23in MTBs with bullmoose bars and top tube pads on the cover.
The slightly retro ethos runs through Ernest Press’s more recent guides too, like Mountain Bike Guide Dorset, written by local rider Colin Dennis. Dorset isn’t high on the list of usual MTB suspects, but it’s got a fair bit to offer. Half of it is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there’s a healthy network of rights of way.
The guide contains details of 33 routes, covering the whole county (which is divided into North, South, East and West within the book). Several of the routes have overlaps and can thus be easily combined into longer rides – these are clearly indicated in the text.
Each route is classified as Easy, Moderate or Hard. They’re inevitably slightly subjective and may well vary with conditions – until you’ve tried a couple you won’t really know how you compare with the author. Unfortunately the contents pages only list the routes by location, and the overview map doesn’t give any indication of grading, so if you want to quickly home in on, say, the Moderate routes you’re out of luck.
Every description gives a distance, the grading, which maps you’ll need, local facilities, a brief description of the prevailing terrain and a short introduction before the step-by-step directions. You’ll want to spend some time with the book and the appropriate OS map to figure out where the route goes on the map. The directions are well-served with grid references and the sketch maps have enough information to plot the route out on a real map. There’s not much else on them, though – you get junctions, major landmarks and numbers that reference the step-by-step directions, but that’s about it. There’s something to be said for simplicity, but we’ve got used to more comprehensive (or, ideally, actual OS) maps in guide books.
We’ve never come across a guide book that’s completely typo-free, and this one’s no exception. The author also displays a distracting fondness for exclamation marks, but we can hardly criticise the text for lacking enthusiasm.