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Matt Carroll's Escape Routes

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against grown men shaving their legs. In fact I used to do it myself as a teenager- whipping out the razor before donning the Lycra skin-suit and heading off to the local time trial. But then my mum caught me- Bic in hand- and I had a rethink. To mark this monumental U-turn in my approach to cycling, I swapped my super-tight shorts for something slightly baggier- and part-ex’d my road bike for an On-One Pompetamine Alfine.


Instead of always pounding myself into the ground (for what?!), obsessing about what gear I was pushing, I looked up and realised that there’s a lot more to cycling than the number of miles you’ve notched up. This great country of ours is full of hidden treasures – historic sights, stunning views, idyllic olde worlde pubs and narrow lanes leading to villages with ridiculous names like Limpley Stoke and Bolton Percy (FYI these are real places). But when your ride is spent staring at your training partner’s back wheel, your chances of seeing any of this are minimal.
Matt Carroll's Escape Routes is Out Now!
So I decided to ditch the drop handlebars and super-skinny tyres, in a bid to enjoy cycling in the slow(er) lane. For me the Pompetamine was the perfect blend of practicality and trick bits: disc brakes, carbon seat-post and handlebars, hand-built wheels and a good old Brooks saddle, all arranged around a steel frame. And with an 8-speed, Shimano Alfine internal hub gear I had more than enough ratios to tackle the undulating English landscape – not that there are that many hills on my rides. Give it a go and see for yourself.

While I was at it, I binned the maps, too. Instead I would spend a year getting gloriously lost in a labyrinth of thatched cottages, farmers’ markets and assorted teashops – sniffing out a series of rides that showcase England in all its glory.
Matt Carroll's Escape Routes is Out Now!
The result is Escape Routes, my personal collection of unique bike rides, researched through a combination of following my nose, and opening my gob to get recommendations from locals.
Each of the routes begins and ends at a smart B&B or independent hotel, because – let’s face it – fluffy towels and good bathroom products are important. And the good news is that they’re all pretty short – around 15 miles – giving you more opportunity to stop, explore and sip the froth off a pint.

Put simply, this book is not about how fast you go – it’s about what you experience along the way. Each of the routes is themed, so you can pick one that matches your mood – whether you’re after hidden beaches, riverside rides, amazing views or just a good pub. My favourite is the one that begins in Freshford, near Bath. After cruising along a hidden, tree-lined valley, you end up in the gardens at Iford Manor, before continuing on (a slice-of-cake-later) to the Cross Guns at Avoncliff – an ancient pub right beside the canal. From here you pootle along waterfront, past brightly coloured narrowboats, before peeling off through Limpley Stoke to arrive back at Freshford after a leisurely 11 miles.
Matt Carroll's Escape Routes is Out Now!
Matt Carroll’s Escape Routes – A Handpicked Selection of Stunning Cycle Rides Around England, is published by Punk. Available from Amazon.co.uk

On-One Pompetamine bikes and frames are available to order here

Follow Matt’s adventures at Twitter.com/mattravel
Thanks to Julian Hanton for the pictures.

20 October 2011

Comments

  • RobertL

    you have inspired me beyond beleif, ive been all about grabbing myself as many bikes as possible in one year ive gathered together a collection of 8 bikes, including 3, 700 c bikes after reading this i decided what i was doing was pointless, having all these bikes means i caannot maintain them and upgrade them all nearly as much as id like, i am undecided as of yet but i will be selling of the vast majority of them and buying myself an alfine pompatime (i now see that one bike can do it all) , after all im in cycling for the joy you get when expoloring the english country side, thanks for this article was very inspiring