How Hard?

Is there any way of telling how tough a route is going to be just by looking at it on the map? I know you can work out how long it is by using string or a map measurer and converting it using the scale of the map, but what about how much climbing there will be and how technical it will be?
Jim, email

Firstly, rather than using a piece of string or map measurer, which are both very accurate, why not just count the amount of squares that the route passes through this’ll normally get you close enough and is a lot less work. Secondly, regarding amount of climbing, assuming the route is circular, simply count the contour lines crossed (check first whether these represent 10m or 5m gaps) and then divide the total by two. In other words, if you cross 2,200m of contour lines (220 lines on a typical OS Landranger), then 1,100m of these will be up, and 1,100m down. An even easier way is to plan your route on mapping software such as MemoryMap or Anquet, and let the computer do all the sums for you. As for how technical it is, sadly, no. You’re on your own on this one.

Whistler without pain

My partner and I are going to British Columbia next year to visit her relatives. I’d like to spend a few days at Whistler, but she thinks it’ll all be too full-on. Is there enough to keep us occupied if we don’t want to grab big air or ride North Shore type stuff?
Andy Frobisher, email

There sure is. In fact, you could just ride cross-country the whole time you’re there if you really want, and if you can afford a guide for the day, they’ll take you to some amazing places. But in all honesty, the bike park itself is not that extreme — just good. Even runs like the infamous
A-Line can be ridden with both wheels firmly in contact with dust if you’d prefer. Sure, you can ride some really serious stuff if you want to, but don’t be put off: the whole Whistler experience is just magic.

Walk the walk

I have now started to work out my own routes in my local area. My problem is that one or two of the best bridleways can’t be joined without using footpaths. So is it legal to walk your bike on a footpath to link up two legal trails?
Simon Kidd, email

It’s probably wise to follow the guidance of IMBA UK here, which suggests that someone walking a bike is, in law, a pedestrian, and therefore legal. But IMBA also suggests that cyclists should recognise the sensitivities of walkers and land-owners, and use footpaths in groups of no more than three persons. The key issue really is to make sure that you do walk and not ride, no matter how tempting it may be. And it’s best not to share your routes with others unless you’re confident they’ll walk these sections too.