Rough Ride Guide: South East - Bike Magic

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Rough Ride Guide: South East

  • Rough Ride Guide: Mountain Bike Rides to the South East
  • Max Darkins
  • Book £24.95; optional Maintenance section £4.95 (but see the BM special offer)
  • Rough Ride Guide
  • 00800 4321 3350

Another guide book has hit the shelves, but this one is a little bit different. Rather than being a book in the conventional sense, it’s a big ring-binder packed with loose-leaf pages. This has two main advantages. First, you can put more stuff in – there’s an optional maintenance section and the potential for more routes to supplement the 50 that are already in there, and any information that dates can readily be updated in the future. Second, you can take stuff out – nearly all the routes fit on one page so if you want to risk getting it all tatty you could take it with you.

It’s also more than just a guide book. Up the front you’ve got 40 pages of general information, from buying a bike to suspension set-up and diagnosis of aches and pains. Plus 20 pages of technique and skills stuff. There’s nothing here that isn’t covered in other publications, but if you haven’t already got a more general MTB book it’s well worth having. There are a couple of howlers in there – we’re told that your bars should be “about the same width as your shoulders” which would result in spectacularly narrow bars for most riders, and one of the advantages of 4-bar suspension is apparently that it “achieves long travel from a short travel shock” which isn’t actually a good thing. But it’s mostly fine and considerably more comprehensive than you might expect for a bonus section in a guide book.

The meat of any guide book, though, is of course the routes. There’s yet more added info in the route section, with navigation and trail etiquette advice. And then you’re into the substantial haul of 50 routes covering Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Surrey and both Sussexes. Oh, and the Isle of Wight. There’s a route index showing them all on a map, but there’s no indication of the grading on the index so if you’re looking for something easy you’ll have to do a bit of page-leafing.

Then again, the gradings are a little fluid as most rides have shortcut and/or extension options to make them a little easier or harder as you see fit, which is a neat touch. Every route is plotted out on proper OS map extracts with a simple and clear text description, plus the usual background details – getting to the start point, accommodation nearby, bike shops, pubs and cafes and so on. And of course there’s the essential height profile.

Rounding things off are descriptions of the Ridgeway and South Downs Way long-distance paths. In both cases, potential accommodation is listed at various distances along the route, so you can choose how many days you want to take over them.

And as if all that isn’t enough, there’s an appended guide to purpose-built and other trail centres in England, Scotland and Wales. Obviously the potential downside of all this extra content is that you’ll end up with a lot of duplication when you buy whatever region Rough Ride Guides tackle next – ideally they’d make route packs available that you can add to the binder you’ve already got.

Our review copy had the optional Maintenance section included, which again is very comprehensive and would stand up well as a book in its own right. If you don’t already have a maintenance book then it’s a fiver well spent.

Positives: Loads of routes, stacks of extra information, clear design

Negatives: Couple of debatable points in the general info, smattering of typos, not quite as good value if you’ve already got general MTB or maintenance books


We may have a couple of tiny niggles with the Rough Ride Guide, but when it comes down to it you’re getting shedloads of useful material alongside your huge pile of routes and it’s tough to argue with that. Obviously it may be duplication material that you’ve already got, which’ll skew the value somewhat – we’re assuming that you’re starting from scratch. But you can skew it the other way for the rest of the year with the publisher’s BM special offer.

Performance: 5
Value: 5
Overall: 5


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