Remember the days when a mountain bike route guide was a thick little book with dodgy photos, iffy line drawings and sketch maps of dubious value? The routes weren't always all that rideable and the directions were either infuriatingly detailed or annoyingly vague.

Well, Tim Woodcock's books makes a refreshing change from this format. Woodcock has gone for bigger pages, full-colour 1:50,000 OS Maps and some nice colour photos. It's not just the presentation of the book that is modern - the 22 Dales and 21 Lakes routes are there based on their overall rideability rather than because they go to the top of prominent hills. He describes a range of routes from 10 to 70 km, split into fun, sport, and expert categories. Even the introduction section mentions recent advances like MTB helmets and SPDs. I've ridden several of the routes in the Dales book in the last few months and been very impressed. The routes are well-researched and descriptions are detailed when necessary but concise when routefinding is obvious. He even avoids the use of capitalised DO NOTs and AVOIDs in the text, one of my pet hates. It's all marked out on the maps anyway so you'd struggle to get lost unless the weather was particularly grim.

Woodcock reflects the trend towards routes with less carrying and more technical and singletrack riding, which clinches the "definitive area guide" trophy

from Jeremy Ashcroft's Lakes and Dales guides. Ashcroft's two classics are among the better old-style guides but appear very dated in comparison. Let's just hope more areas get the Tim Woodcock treatment in future.