How to write a cycling book.

Posted: April 4, 2017 · By: Dave Elton · Comments: 6
Under: Blog

In the beginning

I suppose I can trace things back to mid 1970’s north-west England for the beginnings of this story. Once into 2nd year of secondary school at Penketh High I was placed into a top grade class for English. Our teacher was an old RAF fighter pilot known affectionately as “Danny Clamp” (Mr Daniels), a guy that didn’t tolerate messing and under achievers. The “Clamp” was a procedure he used in which he used to clamp his thumb and forefinger onto an unsuspecting victim’s cheek or ear if they stepped out of line.

I was out of my depth in that class and spent a year dodging the clamp. We used to get spelling tests every Friday, not your normal parrot fashion, spell: “beach” or spell: “computer” NO. we had a list of 20 words to learn as well as their meanings, with such gems as an underground passage way “subterranean” or a valuable coin “sovereign”, you get the picture. Needless to say for someone who hated and still hates revision 9 s and 10 s out of 20 didn’t cut the mustard.

Forward two years and I was ready to start my final years in class “4-a-5”, the English class version of  the basement. I’d done a Blackpool in English soccer terms. From the Premier Division to league 2 and in record time. Step forward my next English teacher Mrs H. Norman. An attractive but no-nonsense Scouse woman in her early years of teaching. The plus side about being in the bottom classes was that we dodged Shakespeare and read classics like Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Importance of being Ernest. There was no stopping us. Come CSE and O level exam time I was double entered, doing both exams. Although I missed out on an O level pass I came mighty close and came within a whisker of a CSE grade 1, which will do. My belief in the English language had been re-ignited!

The beginnings on 2 wheels

Coming together

Jumping into the 21 st century the thought that I would some day become an author was still laughable. Although myself and Donnacha had got together to move KerryCycling forward it all seemed a long way away and even fanciful. I was enjoying the blog writing, but that was it. Then out the blue in the summer of 2015 we received an email from The Collins Press. They were impressed by the website and it’s content and wanted to know would we write a book about cycling routes in Kerry. Donnacha had actually mentioned that he would like a crack at a book before we got together, so here was the chance. So in autumn 2015 we signed the papers and started work.

Cycling Kerry: Great Road Routes

Work begins

We drew out a list and roughly mapped as many routes as we could. Then it was very much a case of putting your name to a route, riding it and finally writing about it as well as getting a few snaps and putting a map together. Initially we had about five routes in the first draft before the winter set in. There was really no point battling against the elements and risking bad or grey looking photos. Things started moving along nicely around March to April last year as we managed to get out a bit more and start whittling down the list.

At times the demand to go out and write about a route was difficult. For a blog I find that you occasionally find yourself in the right zone and it becomes easy to write. For a book you have to do it, especially when it’s fresh in the memory. My first big shock were my first drafts. I wrote them down and naively hoped that was that. Big mistake! For someone reading it, my first drafts were a jumbled mess! I had more or less put all my thoughts and vision down like I was re-riding the route. They needed lots of work. Although everything was there it just needed re-jigging and to be put into some kind of order.

The actual riding of the routes was a mixed bag. Some were done solo, some with club colleagues and we did just one together. The solo routes could be tough enough. There was plenty of stopping to take photos. A need to keep things alive in the mind as not to miss anything. I didn’t make things easy on myself as I got rid of my car, so on a few routes I was in the position of having to cycle from home, link into the route and cycle home again. So in some cases a moderate enough route felt like a suffer fest.

On top of the Conor Pass

My mistake

My best story was when I did the “Butter Road route”. Again I had to cycle a few kilometers to the start from home and got going on a glorious spring morning. The difficult part of this route is the start as you have to negotiate 4 quite steep hills on leaving Cordal. After getting over the hills and taking plenty of photos I headed towards Scartaglen and off to Currow where I had a long well-earned break. Now the previous week I had got an interview for a position in Abbeydorney. For some reason I was convinced the interview was in two days. Anyway I ambled home via Currens and arrived home at 14:20 looking forward to a well-earned cuppa. Next thing my phone reminder started bleeping telling me I had an interview in 10 minutes. I tried to contact the potential job, without success. So my only option was to jump back on the bike and cycle via bullock hill to Abbeydorney. I arrived close to an hour late in my kit, tired and sweaty. Needless to say the group doing the interview had gone home, though I did manage to apologise and redeem some self-respect!

On top of the Butter Road


Taking shape

After doing, in some cases, four drafts of each route our wonderful team of proof readers came in to play and polished things up a bit before the big milestone of September 1st, when we handed in our work both printed and electronically our publishers.

From then on it was a case of the cartographers working their magic on the maps, The Collins Press team doing their bit of proof reading and adjustments. Finally in early 2017 the publication went to print and we got our first copies in early March.

I have to say it’s a surreal experience and in some ways it still hasn’t sunk in. It’s a bit like someone else has done it. The release was a proud day on March 20th and it is nice to see it in the shops.

Finally we have the launch on April 7th and a small amount of radio and newspaper work.

A success?

The big question is “how well will it do?” A hard question to answer. The first print is of 2000 copies. If that lot gets sold then we’re doing well. If it brings people to Kerry, again it’s been successful. I’d judge it a big success if one day I’m out on the bike and see someone touring with their bags and panniers, and as I’m passing them I notice sticking out their back pocket…. that handy sized, green and red cycling book.

A good job done!

How to write a cycling book.: 6 Comments
  • Dave Flanagan
    5 years ago

    Best of luck with the book. I’m working on a cycling guide to the whole island at the moment and it’s a huge task. Must be a great feeling to have it done!

  • Donnacha Clifford
    5 years ago

    Thanks Dave and best of luck to you also. Good to have the book completed alright but still the adventure continues … :)

  • Mary o'Hara
    5 years ago

    Fantastic reading your journey – can’t wait to buy the book

  • Mary o'Hara
    5 years ago

    Are ye on Twitter..?

  • Donnacha Clifford
    5 years ago

    Thanks Mary, we are indeed. You can follow us on

  • Dave Elton
    5 years ago

    Many thanks Mary. I hope it’s an enjoyable read and you get to enjoy one or two of the routes.

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