Someone suggested that I was the wrong person to review this book. At first, I was a little unsure as to the reasons behind that statement, after all, I’ve been riding the hills and valleys of Wales for twenty years. I’ve mapped out numerous routes across the largely green and pleasant land and have gained an intimate knowledge of its nooks, crannies and hidden corners … which is quite obviously the reason why I’m not the right person to review this book. Cat on the other hand is the ideal person and is likely a prime example of the guides target audience, so over to Cat and her thoughts on Bikepacking Wales.
Bikepacking enthusiast, Emma Kingston enjoyed her first bikepacking adventure in Wales’s Elan Valley, where she’d spent many childhood holidays. Whilst heading out on her first solo bikepacking trip with mixed feelings of self-doubt and excitement, Emma says:
“For three wonderful days everything was blissfully simple. I didn’t have to think beyond my immediate needs, everything I needed to be self-reliant was strapped to my bike and nothing was more pressing than the present…I came home utterly elated.”
Since then, Emma has enjoyed many more bikepacking adventures and recently wrote this book: “Bikepacking Wales” aimed at delivering a series of bikepacking routes showcasing the beauty and diversity of the Welsh countryside. With routes graded easy, medium and hard, there really is something for everyone with an optional summit up Yr Wyddfa (Snowden) for the experienced bikepacker to a lovely trip around the Gower Peninsula that’s readily accessible even for the novice cycling adventurer. There are 18 multi-day routes taking in West Wales, South Wales and Bannau Brycheiniog, Mid Wales, North Wales and Eryri. This allows the adventurer to take in the likes of the Pembrokeshire coast, the Black Mountains, Trans Cambrian Way and the Triban Trail to name a few.
For each of the routes there is a nice introduction showcasing the history and culture of the area, an overview of the route, notes on the best, most appropriate time to ride it and any considerations to be taken into account. The book sets out options for food and water re-supply. It also offers some suggestions for accommodation in case wild camping isn’t for you or isn’t practical at the time. It’s jam packed full of information and hints and tips for the novice bikepacker such as planning and logistics, what to take with you, carrying your kit, wild camping and safety. It also covers etiquette including the countryside code, rights of way, leave no trace and environmental stewardship, which I think is really important.
The information in the book is very well laid out and whilst the maps in the book offer a general overview, the GPX files are freely available to download, which is a great addition. There are a series of stunning and inspiring photographs from the routes depicting the beautiful scenery and varying Welsh landscape. The book is a little big if you were thinking about taking it with you, but I’m not sure that’s the intention here. The only things I would change would be the size and style of the text, which could prove a little difficult to read and a slightly increased thickness of the paper.
There are a number of bikepacking and cycle route books available on the market, but none I’ve read to date have captured the history and culture of Wales quite like this one. It even talks about the Welsh language with some very useful translations. All the information provided in the book makes it really easy to prepare for and complete a solo bikepacking adventure, which, whilst enjoying bikepacking myself, I, like many others, have yet to complete one. Thanks to Emma and her book, there really are no more excuses for not giving it a go. Look out Wales, here we come! Edrychwch ar Gymru, dyma ni’n dod!
A big thank you to Cat for taking the time!