03 May 2010

Routing it out: Two new London guidebooks

There's no money in writing cycle guide books. I have this joke about my 50 Quirky Bike Rides in England and Wales: "With the royalties, I've bought a pied à terre in Borough Market. Er, no, not a pied à terre, what's the word...? Pomme de terre, that's it..."

So it's no surprise that there's surprisingly few good books on London cycling routes. But two new ones have recently come out: The London Cycling Guide (New Holland, 224pp, £10.99) by Tom Bogdanowicz, and 25 London Cycle Routes (downloadable e-book, 108pp, £6.95) by London Cyclist blogger Andreas Kambanis.

Tom's (top right) is the more comprehensive, with 30 routes plus a few family-friendly park circuits, more information on each ride, and forty-odd pages of general up-to-date info about cycling in London, buying a bike, fixing a puncture and so on. Andreas's (bottom right) has the benefit of live links within the PDF, and the full set of GPS coordinates that you can feed to your iPhone or whatever.

Both are clearly set out and their routes easy to follow. Tom's is clearly a team effort, produced with the input of borough groups, and publishing house resources; he's strong on detail, history and architecture, and he took the well-bike-populated photos himself. Andreas's is more personal and quirky, and he utilises Flickr images, which are more atmospheric but lack bikes. Both base their maps on open-source material (OpenStreetMap and OpenCycleMap respectively).

If facts and detail are important to you, go for Tom's book: there are a few slips in Andreas's (Ham House is in the wrong place, Brydges Place is 33 not 15 inches wide, and that's a funny looking sheep on page 32, for instance). But you may prefer his lively and personal approach to Tom's more traditional, guidebooky style.

All the routes look fun, though, and any in either book will be rewarding - Tom's routes tend to explore one geographical area, while Andreas's tend to the more thematic.

Are either of these the London guidebook we've been waiting for, then? Well, no, obviously. That's going to be my 50 Quirky Bike Rides in London.

No, just joking. It's too much work for a potato.

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