Naturally, I would say that – after all I wrote the book. I really am pleased with it and I genuinely do think it's one for the serious touring motorcyclist. But I also think it's important to emphasise how it differs from the original Bikers' Europe.
Now, I'm equally pleased with the first Bikers' Europe which came out in 2021. I'd been working on the idea for that book for several years, trying to get the AA (my publisher at the time) to pick up on it... but without success. So in the end, during the second of the Covid lockdowns, I decided to put it together myself and self-publish it.
I pretty quickly ran into a few problems. The first was time: I wanted to get the book out to coincide with the planned lifting of Covid restrictions in June. The other was cost: all the colour maps made it expensive to print. So I had to strike a balance, getting as much great riding in there as I could without making the end product too pricey – and without giving myself such a huge task that I couldn't hit the June deadline.
I knew I wanted to use the "Must-ride European motorcycle routes" tag line for the book, so I set out to pick my 50 favourite routes... and failed. There's just too much good riding. But I managed to limit myself to what I feel are the 60 routes every motorcyclist should ride.
As the book had to live up to the "must-ride" tag, that determined a portion of the content: it would look wrong if Route Napoleon, the B500, the Grossglockner, Stelvio Pass and a dozen or more of the famous European biking roads weren't in there. So part of the challenge was presenting them in a way that was fresh, with a bit of my own spin on them – because what would be the point of a book where everyone already knew all of the routes? But I couldn't mess with the classics too much because they still had to be recogniseable, not changed into something else.
So my chance to show off a bit was with the routes that went with the famous ones. Being original, they were my opportunity to share a few of my favourite less-well-known roads. But which ones to use? In the end, I opted to echo the big-name roads that underpinned the book. That meant picking the routes that used similar roads: generally two lane, mostly well-surfaced and, though there were one or two challenging stretches in there, for the most part the routes were laid back, comfortable daytrips. The kind of rides you'd happily tackle with your partner on the back of the bike. I was really pleased with the way it came together – I'm biased, but I think it's a great collection of rides.
But I still had this great big list of other routes. The ones that didn't make the cut... Ones I think are just as brilliant but make for a longer day in the saddle, or use some narrower or bumpier bits of tarmac. There are one or two I've ridden on adventure bikes that use unpaved roads. And there are the quirky dead-end roads that I only investigated because I'm a corner-hunting madman intent of finding the ultimate mountain road (and I know I'm not the only one...)
Plus I just ran out of space in Volume One. From Gallicia to the Ardeche to Thuringia, there were a handful of places I didn't have room for. I didn't have enough pages to feature Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily, never mind Slovenia. Given that these are the places where I've had some of the best rides in my 30 odd years of mucking about in Europe, I really felt that was an oversight that needed fixing.
So that's what Bikers' Europe: Hidden Gems is all about. It's very much a companion to Volume One. Between the two books all of my favourite rides in Western Europe – including the Mediterranean Islands – are served up in complete, rideable detail. There's a real mix from short, laid-back days to longer and more demanding ones, with plenty to suit both the first-time European tourist and the old-hands who could probably share a few secrets places of their own (ahem, if that's you, please get in touch – I'm always looking to learn more!).
I have plenty of copies in stock now – so if you'd like a signed copy, please order one here.