I will generally look for pretty specific things when planning routes to cycle. Its difficult to define exactly what these criteria are, but broadly speaking I sit somewhere fairly equally between the need for carbon fibre and 1 in 3 gradients, and rolling 2km round the local park. While its always nice to challenge yourself a bit, a bike ride should be a relaxed affair and the sense of achievement and contented weariness at the end of the day is one of the positive side effects of getting this balance just right.
With this in mind I bought a copy of Jack Thurston's recently published book Lost Lanes - 36 idyllic bike rides around southern England. Jack presents The Bike Show on Resonance FM, so I know his attitude to cycling is quite closely aligned with mine. The text shows just that; an engaging and inspiring mix of social history, travelogue (it seems he rode most of these rides with various pals last Summer), and smatterings of detail giving a general impression of the route. URLs link to printable maps and digital GPS files, apparently, though I had some bother with this.
At the weekend I took a trip out to Kent with Mrs PR and my pal G to ride route number 1, and while there was a bit more 'Lost' than 'Lanes', the sections of the route we actually managed to find were smashing. I should say that the navigational issues were entirely mine.
Also worth mentioning are the brilliant pictures; cutesy villages, rolling meadows, dewy forests, babbling brooks and plenty of winding lanes. Indeed the whole palette of bygone English pastoralism is here, which is ultimately exactly what I'm looking for in a bike ride.
More of a review is here, too.