Tuesday Treats 143: Vertebrate Publishing

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Your once-a-week dose of retail therapy from Singletrack’s Premier Dealers, stockists and advertisers:

Tuesday Treats gives you a quality serving of independent bike retailing and a chance to WIN BIG in this week’s prize draw!

This week, we introduce: Vertebrate Publishing

A name familiar to many of you literate adventurers out there but a first time featured. These inspiring publishers, printers and distributors, serve up some quality chat and a neat box of treats. Over to Tori Halliday…

Wilbur (Office Security Manager) with the Vertebrate swag. Guess how many shots this took to capture?

We’re a book publisher from Sheffield. It all began in 2004 when Jon (the boss) wrote ‘Dark Peak Mountain Biking’, a guide to the best riding in our local area. We’ve now got well over a hundred books and ebooks including eighteen mountain bike guides, a couple of titles for roadies, and a range of award-winning mountaineering literature. We’re a team of nine, made up of cyclists, climbers, designers and pub enthusiasts.

An MD that actually rides. Managing Director Jon Barton.

What’s your current best-selling/hottest product?

Our best-selling guides at the moment are Dave Barter’s ‘Great British Bike Rides’ – a hit with Spandex warriors across the country and its MTB brother ‘Great Britain Mountain Biking’ by Tom Fenton and Andy McCandlish.

What’s your latest book?

‘Alps Mountain Biking’ is just out and has had a great reception (as you’d expect at this time of year!). It’s written by Steve Mallett, who runs Bike Alp in Samoëns and is a down-to-earth write up of the various hotspots in the Western Alps. Steve’s a really great guy and if you haven’t ridden round there then we can highly recommend going and staying with him for a week.

‘Alps Mountain Biking’ writer and guide Steve Mallett

You must get to do a fair bit of riding in the name of ‘work’ …

We couldn’t possibly publish a guidebook without checking the quality of the routes. As our guides cover everywhere from Dartmoor to Scotland, we’ve had to check out a fair chunk of the UK, all in the name of research of course. We’re not quite at London cabbie ‘knowledge’ standards, but we’d like to think we could point you at a decent ride or two in most areas.

Any recommendations?

John would probably point you at something big and rocky – the classic mountain routes of Helvellyn, Nan Bield or Snowdon maybe. Big, technical mountain days out. Tom’s a singletrack fan and a SouthernerTM, so he’d send you to the Quantocks, or the Lustleigh Cleave area of Dartmoor. Jon’s getting a bit old and stuck in his ways, so he’d suggest something local – probably a classic Ladybower loop with Cut Gate as an optional extra. They’re all in our guidebooks, hint, hint …

What’s the most important issue for you as mountain bikers at the moment?

Access. As a lot of us come from climbing backgrounds and know the importance of representation and lobbying of the powers that be (in climbing, we have the British Mountaineering Council fighting our corner, for example). We’re pretty lucky round here as we have Ride Sheffield doing great work on trail advocacy and local authority liaison in Sheffield and in the Peak. With Peak District MTB representing Peak locals specifically. It means that when the likes of Derbyshire County Council go out of their way to do something moronic, the mountain biker now has a voice – see the halt called to the works on Rushup Edge as an example (although it looks like the council have fiddled the recent ‘consultation’ in their favour after all!).

Sure, wheel size debates are important, but not as important as making sure our best trails don’t get sanitised! And then of course there’s the issue of whether we’ll see Scottish-style access south of the border … (We’d have to come up with a whole new range of guides – great!)

Who’s riding what then?

Tom’s a hardtail devotee, and has just swapped out his Stanton Slackline for its bigger-wheeled cousin the Switchback. So far so good. John’s riding a lesser-spotted Cotic Rocket which he values more than his children.

British climber Jerry Moffatt and his ghost writer 😉

What’s the future for guidebooks in the online world?

There’s obviously a lot of information on the internet about where and what to ride. It’s easy to find and easy to access and easy to share. There’s still a place for printed guides though – something with pictures and writing, put together by an experienced and knowledgeable author, that you can sit down and flick through when you’re in a Lake District pub without wi-fi. That said, we’ve started bringing out our guides as ebooks – most riders carry a smartphone these days, so it’s easy to stick a guidebook on that without having to carry anything extra.

Beyond that, who knows, maybe we’ll be able to get riding glasses with real-time directions, recommended cafes and Strava segments that appear on the lenses.

Senior Graphic Designer Rod Harrison in a quite shocking ‘inspiration gathering exercise’

We’d love to hear from you, and you can check us out at the following places:

Twitter, Facebook, our enewsletter (for receiving regular offers and news) and some of you might remember this reel we put together as part of showing off some of our local trails. We’re on vimeo too…

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Comments (2)

    Vertebrate make some great guide books. Mine have seen loads of use over the years. Well worth checking out if you’re going somewhere different and want to see where to ride.

    Always use the MTB guide books when heading somewhere new. New white peak book is great so can we expect some more updates?

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