10 Cycling Challenges Across The UK and Ireland
Cycling is one of the oldest fitness methods and over 3 million bikes are sold in the UK every year from the old reliable to the new fangled electric bikes. The joy of a bike is that the potential is only really limited by your imagination and bikes are used for all sorts from the hustle and bustle of the daily commute to cycling tours and holidays.
It’s no secret that we love a fitness challenge here at Luchos and we’ve looked at a slew of fitness challenges throughout the year across a variety of sports and it’s about time we looked at some of the most exciting and unique cycling challenges coming up in 2023 as we start to head into a jam packed summer. If you are just looking for somewhere cool to ride this year, we had a bucketload of lists on the best cycling routes across the UK for you to check out. If marathons are more your speed, please feel free to check out our list of unique marathons for beginners or our list of fitness challenges in 2023 to learn more about what’s coming up on the sporting calendar.
London to Paris
When looking for a long distance fitness challenge in the UK, London to Paris is quite a popular one whether you are on 2 feet or 2 wheels! Recently, Luchos friend Danielle Harris completed the London2Paris challenge on foot before running the Paris marathon so check out her socials to see her journey that was fraught with cycling challenges and obstacles!
Getting back to cycling however, the London to Paris is a popular challenge undertaken by keen cyclists as well as those dipping their toes into long distance riding. As it is often taken up, there are a variety of different routes available depending on how long you want the ride to be and how many days you wish to spend. Beginner routes break the course down into several days and there are plenty of blogs and forums available to find the best route for your needs and desires. If you are looking for something to help you get started, check out https://london2paris.co.uk/ which has a dedicated forum for discussion of the best routes and things to expect during your journey as well as a lot of detailed information on what to bring and how to best tackle the journey.
Tour O The Borders – Sunday 3rd September 2023
If you are looking for a more typical road sportive, Tour O The Borders is one of the very best in the UK. The course is a closed road sportive taking place in the beautiful Scottish Borders on Sunday 3 September 2023, starting and finishing in the historic town of Peebles. The course provides an active cycling challenge for most cycling enthusiasts with several stiff hills along the trail but provide rewarding views and an incredible cycling experience.
If you’ve tried the full course before, you might be interested in giving it another go as the 120KM course is revamped for 2023 while the shorter 88KM ‘Challenge’ course stays the same so there is plenty to check out in 2023. The course is always well supervised and managed by the excellent team so if you are looking for a more advanced sportive to test yourself, give it a go this year – https://tourotheborders.com/event-info/
The Cotswolds Classic – Saturday 19th August 2023
The Cotswolds is a lovely place to be and it’s even better on a bike. The picturesque views and stunning wildlife make it an ideal place for a long ride in the country and the Cotswolds Classic provides a great opportunity to try just that with multiple routes allowing for challenging climbs and fast descents over the rolling hills.
The Cotswolds Classic is designed specifically to suit all riders and to provide a decent entry point into longer distance cycling. With three routes to choose from and nothing too technical, these events are great for anyone who is just getting into cycling challenges, for those who are veterans of the sport, or for those of us who simply love to cycle. With routes starting at 59 KM and going up to a major 118 KM, there is a little something for everyone in the rolling hills.
C2C (Sea to Sea)
The Sea to Sea (C2C) is a popular coast to coast ride from the west to the east and one of the more traditional cycling challenges in the UK. Challengers often dip their back wheel into the Irish Sea on the west coast and then dip their front wheel into the North Sea on the east coast upon completion. The course can start at either Whitehaven or Workington, and has two possible endpoints on the North Sea coast in Sunderland or Tynemouth. Renowned for its gruelling gradients at times, this is an iconic course that packs a punch.
With this being a course you can undertake throughout the year, it is important that you keep an eye on updates concerning the course. Closures are common due to developments or just typical British weather so it is important to keep an eye on sources such as Sustrans to make sure your preferred route is available.
Salisbury Plain Summer Epic – 23rd July 2023
We all enjoy nice paved paths and trails but sometimes it pays to get off the beaten track. Glorious Gravel provides a high quality range of gravel routes throughout the UK but without a doubt, one of their best is the Salisbury Plain Summer Epic cycling challenge covering up to 129 KM with 65% of the distance being completely off-road. The route takes in a great variety of terrain and scenery including ancient sites, woodland and some of the best gravel sections on the Plain with long, flowing trails with lovely views of the rolling hills.
Riding on the gravel is such a different experience than riding on the paved roads and it is often a more real and natural experience. Off-road riding obviously brings with it a fair number of risks but this is accounted for by the exceptional team that provide full support along the course as well as having mechanics on hand to deal with any accidents if they should occur. If you are looking into off-road riding but are understandably nervous about it, give a supervised event a go to help keep your mind on the track and allow yourself to enjoy what is one of the more gruelling cycling challenges.
Go for the century
The vaunted centurion. Riding a century ride (a distance over 100 miles) is a treasured accolade of the experienced rider and one of the hardest cycling challenges. If you’ve never done it, this is the year to try it. It’s obviously not a venture to be taken lightly. Upwards of 8 hours in the saddle can be incredibly challenging on both body and mind so a lot of preparation is needed.
If you’re already a centurion, why not go the extra mile (or 100!)? Try a harder version somewhere mountainous to really give yourself a fitness challenge or maybe take up the double century cycling challenge. Over 10 to 16 hours in the saddle is a gruelling endeavour but if you want to really push yourself, it’s something worth considering if you think you are ready for it.
Less of a challenge and more just a way to treat yourself, gourmet cycling tours are becoming increasingly popular as a way to tour British tourist destinations. Gourmet tours are available throughout the UK in places such as Shropshire and provide a lovely holiday for a cyclist enthusiast. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, it’s worth trying out a cycling tour as you can often get quite a bit for your money, especially if you stay local to the UK.
The velodrome is the ultimate pantheon of speed and track cycling is continually the most popular cycling for people to watch. It is also the most likely form of cycling that you are to be unfamiliar with. Track cycling is a competitive field but it is quite limited in terms of general riders. The velodrome however is an iconic venue for many cycling enthusiasts and getting the chance to ride in a velodrome is one of those treasured memories and a frequent bucket list choice.
If you have never experienced the high-speed thrills of track cycling, this is the year to join in the fun. Most velodromes offer affordable taster sessions, usually with the hire of a fixed gear bike included in the price. With major track cycling events still to come in the horizon, give the velodrome a chance if you start to feel the call of the track.
Ride The Classic
The first Irish event on our list but that shouldn’t be seen as a slight on Irish cycling. Ireland is home to many great cycling trails and a load of great events throughout the year. This unique cycling challenge offers 3 different distances to suit different levels of expertise or experience! Ride The Classic is a one-of-a-kind leisure cycling event that takes you through East Galway’s lovely country lanes and bogs. Around one quarter of the course is made up of off-road segments on bog roads, farm paths, boreens, and manor estates.
Ride The Classic, Ireland’s only ‘classics’ style road race, provides riders a true taste of the gritty old northern European professional road races, an experience and unforgettable challenge like no other! Not one to be missed this year!
The Fred Whitton Challenge
The big one, a cycling challenge familiar to most cyclist enthusiasts, particularly those with a love of long distance riding and tricky ascents. The Wheelbase Fred Whitton Challenge is one of the most popular sports in the UK and is also famed as being particularly difficult. A charity event in honour of the late Fred Whitton, this event emphasises the spirit of a proper cycling challenge.
The Wheelbase Fred Whitton Cycling Challenge consists of a 112 mile sportive around the Lake District, starting at Grasmere and taking in climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott, Wrynose and Blea Tarn passes. This is a very tough route and going on rider feedback, it is the hardest one day ride in the UK with a 30% gradient and a distance that stretches over 98 miles.
Cycling is a great hobby and for many people, it is a lifelong passion. The feeling of a great ride in a new location can’t be matched and reaching heights or distances you never thought possible is all a part of the journey. A great number of the cycling challenges listed above will challenge even the most experienced cyclist but there is still plenty to go for even if you are a total novice. Start slow and keep riding.
For tips on how to stay fuelled for longer rides, check out our informative guide. If you are looking for more fitness challenges, we have you covered as well. For more information on cycling tours and some of the leading locations across Europe, we’ve got you more than covered. No matter where you head off, remember to enjoy it and the journey, don’t just focus on the destination. To ensure proper cycling nutrition for the longest rides, shop our delicious range of rapid impact cycling nutrition blocks.