Book Review: Bike Rides In and Around York

Authour: David Mitchell
Publisher: Independently published
Published: 2021
ISBN: ‎ 979-8522748043
Available as paperback from the author’s website Hedgehog Cycling.

Campaign member Radu Chirvasuta kindly supplied us with this review of a new book featuring, as it’s title suggests, bike rides in and around York.

I’m passionate about cycling, maps, and exploring York and the countryside around it so from the outset I knew that a book like this would interest me as soon as I found out that it’s hot off the press. This serves as a disclosure too before I endeavour to sketch my review.

Practical, varied, up to date, well researched and witty, David Mitchell’s guide is guaranteed to expand your cycling universe in and around York. Having been an avid, regular cyclist for years, I’ve discovered multiple options for routes and roads to explore and details of interest about the places those routes introduce me to.

In terms of structure, the book is organised into introduction followed by four parts plus a brief history of York: 

  • Part 1: City Tour presents a 10 km loop of York from the Museum Gardens, essentially a trip across centuries guided by the author’s comprehensive notes.
  • Part 2: Family Bike Rides includes 3 largely traffic-free routes that take advantage of the Way of the Roses plus the Solar System Way. Although each is more than 30 km long by virtue of being there and back the same way, it is easy to turn round and return to York sooner if needs must. I’ve cycled these routes myself several times and I would have also chosen them for the family section. For a ride with kids or with beginners the most suitable would be the traffic free section of the Solar System Way, the initial section of the Beningbrough Hall route by the Ouse and the Dunnington to Stamford Bridge section, although going past Hagg Wood can be muddy.
  • Part 3: Road Bike Rides has really caught my attention as it includes some very interesting loops I’ve not considered before despite cycling regularly on longer road rides. The range of distances, terrain, and scenery is varied, with at least one route heading out of York in each of the four compass points. East is most well represented – for very good reasons in my opinion – but I reckon there is something for everyone in this collection of routes. I share the author’s opinion that the descent into Waterdale (Thixendale) is fantastic (page 152) and that multimodal travel is advantageous when planning routes. Hence on the Harrogate ride doing a leg of the journey via train is an option (page 126). 
  • Part 4: Mountain Bike Rides is the part I’m not in a position to comment on, as Mountain biking is a discipline I’ve only dabbled in. Nevertheless, the choice of locations is inspired, especially with regards to Yearsley Moor and Sutton Bank, among my favourites for walks. The options offered are varied, with the North of York forming the majority.
  • A bonus brief history of York, which makes for a bird’s-eye view that can be easily read in one sitting even if you’re not a history buff.

The book packs more than 200 figures (227 in total), quite compact in size and very effective at whetting the appetite for the scenery, landmarks and wildlife encountered en route. 

Impressive knowledge displayed on history, wildlife, railways, monasticism, all highly relevant when attempting to understand York and the area around it. For instance, while reviewing this book I’ve once more cycled past the ruins of Kirkham Priory and now knowing more about its background it felt like my self-propelled journey was more meaningful and interactive.

The descriptive and practical character of the book dovetails nicely with the author’s musings and observations, including humorous snippets. I’ll include some for a flavour, but other gems await the diligent reader: the blackbirds of Tang Hall walk ‘with steps inspired by Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks’ (page 70); a tangential reference to the author’s undisclosable weekly Danish pastry intake (page 138).

It would be nice to see a synopsis 2-page table with the trip overviews of all the rides for a quick glance at the routes on offer might provide a useful addition. 

In addition to the qualitative difficulty of each route and the main hills, the trip overview box could benefit from a total elevation figure as a quantitative reflection of the climbing to be expected. (See tip below for a way to find these)

The road bike rides section could include another ride on the shorter side to bridge the gap between the 33km Tour de Tadcaster and the 68km Pocklington ride. 

Last but not least, had I read this book sooner, I’d have performed much better in one of the lockdown cycling quizzes organised by the York Cycle Campaign!

Elevation Tip

The total elevation of the route can be found online, albeit by taking a detour, via the link at the end of each route. Type the link manually in your browser of choice and then either: 

  • Follow the link to the Plotaroute version of the route and find the elevation and other route stats there or 
  • Download the route in either a GPX, FIT or TCX format and upload it to one of the many route planners on the market. Some route planners offer wireless sync with a cycle computer with navigation capabilities, thus minimising the challenges of riding the routes for the first time.

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