Great British Gravel Rides by Markus Stitz is another book from Vertebrate Publishing. I have to say up front that I’m not a gravel rider, I don’t even own a gravel bike. However lots of mountain bikers do ride gravel bikes these days, so hopefully this is of interest.
Markus Stitz might not be as well known outside of cycling as some, but he’s a remarkable rider, probably his biggest achievement being 34,000k around the world on a singlespeed mountain bike. Because, why make it easy by using gears? Great British Gravel Rides is his latest project.
What’s a Gravel Bike?
You probably know this, but if you’re new to the cycling world, gravel bikes usually have drop bars and from a distance can look like a road bike. They may have road (700c) sized wheels or smaller 650b wheels with wider tyres. Often the same bike can take either. The bars and front end in general are usually higher than on road bikes and some have short travel suspension forks. Most people will fit clipless (clip-in) pedals, whereas a lot of the same poeple may run flats on their mountain bikes.
A gravel bike does OK as a do-it-all bike if you have a couple of wheelsets, depending on your riding style. You could run slicks for the road on one set and then chunkier tyres on the other for the remote stuff. Most people will want a mountain bike as well if riding off-road is their main thing, wheras road riders may well want a gravel bike as well as their fast and painful road bike..!
Gravel? On a MTB website?
This book challenged a preconception I had that gravel is a bit, um, boring…
Looking at the routes described, some are the smooth gravel tracks I was expecting, however lots are remote and challenging and would be great on a mountain bike too.
Marcus Stitz has a decent list of off-road/gravel/adventure riding accomplishments and he’s got plenty of great people to contribute their favourite rides. Three names that stand out to me are Aneela McKenna (Instagram – mrsgowherescotland), Charlie Hobbs and of course Jo Burt. I’m not saying theirs are the best routes, just that they’ve done a lot for the sport or been in cycling for as long or longer than I have or both.
Markus describes the book as “a source of ideas to embark on your own journeys”, but there’s also a lot of helpful background info like route grades from ‘easy’ to ‘expert’, a ‘Why this book’ section, a bike choice section supported by Kinesis, how to prepare your bike, clothing and kit guide, safety and more.
The routes are grouped into Scotland, Northern England, Southern England and Wales with a bonus route at the end. Route maps are 3d so you can get a quick idea of the elevation gains and falls.
As usual from Vertebrate this book is well put together, although you’ll need to ride some of the routes to experience the book properly. Which is obviously it’s purpose… As with most guidebooks you need some map reading skills, not just the guidebook. Even with a GPS device and spare power, a map is an essential backup for if/when technology fails! Having said all this guidebooks are often inspiring, especially with photos like this one. You don’t have to own a ‘gravel bike’ to use the guide – an XC mountain bike will do a similar job, although if you’re using a more heavy duty mountain bike you’ll likely need to allow more time than on a gravel bike.
If you buy the book direct here you’ll help Vertebrate publish more of the same kind of quality. Vertebrate also cover climbing, walking, running, swimming, travel, adventure and wildlife.
Other Chasing Trails reviews of Vertebrate Publishing books:
Extreme Lakeland – Nadir Khan & Tom McNally
Pennine Bridleway - Hannah Collingridge
Chasing Trails isn’t paid or sponsored by Vertebrate Publishing.