Whether you’ve just started cycling to work or are a seasoned club cyclist, at some point in your pedal-powered journey it’s only natural to seek out a cycling challenge to add to your calendar. The UK has a rich selection of sportives, charity cycle rides and gran fondos (opens in new tab) to sign up for. In fact, during the height of the season (April to September), it’s possible to take part in one every weekend.
But which events deserve to be on your bucket list? From an ideal introductory event that’s been taking place since 1976 to an ultra-distance epic that takes in most of a country, here are the best UK cycling events to sign up for.
Sidley London Revolution
Next event: 1-2 October 2022
Entries open now
London is home to a number of cycling events but the Revolution is its only weekend-long affair. Setting off from the Lee Valley Showground, the 157-mile (252km) loop takes participants through the heart of the city before linking up with some of the best lanes that the home counties have to offer. The two-day ride sees you spin your way through Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, spending the night in Windsor. Alternatively, you can sign up for the ultra edition and do it all in one gruelling hit.
Visit the Sidley London Revolution website (opens in new tab) | General entry from £125, ultra from £140, all-inclusive weekender from £210
Fred Whitton Challenge
Next event: 7 May 2023
When entries open: January 2023
Held since 1999, the Fred Whitton Challenge markets itself as the hardest route in the whole of the UK (although an equally punchy Welsh inclusion in our round-up could easily vie for the top spot). At 112 miles (180km) with 10,400ft (3,162m) of elevation gain, it’s a serious day in the saddle – the fastest complete it in around six hours, while it can take the average sportive rider almost twice as long. An event for those who don’t mind a bit of suffering, the route includes all the Lake District’s most famous passes (Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose, and Blea Tarn), and features an energy-sapping 30% gradient with 94 miles (151km) already in the legs. Entry is based on a ballot system, and priority is given to first-timers.
Visit the Fred Whitton Challenge website (opens in new tab) | £70
Next event: 14 May 2023
Entries open now
For a sportive with amazing scenery, it’s best to look to Scotland. The closed-road Etape Caledonia takes place on the outskirts of the Cairngorms and whether you opt for the 40- or 85-mile version, you’ll be treated to a smorgasbord of Scottish delights: lochs, forests and rolling mountain ranges. It tends to sell out quickly, so sign up before it’s too late.
Visit the Etape Caledonia website (opens in new tab) | £49 (40 miles), £84 (85 miles)
Next event: May 2023 (date TBC)
When entries open: November 2022 (date TBC)
The cycling equivalent of the London Marathon, RideLondon has quickly become a “must ride” event for any even semi-serious cyclist. The course shifted from the London 2012 Olympic-inspired Surrey hills to the flatter terrain of Essex for the 2022 edition, but it’s still a solid challenge and offers the chance to ride 100 miles (160km) on completely closed roads. it’s one of the most oversubscribed sportives around, so it’s worth entering the ballot as soon as it opens and crossing everything that you’ll be one of the lucky 20,000-plus people that gets to take part.
Visit the RideLondon website (opens in new tab)| Price TBC | Read our RideLondon guide
Tour Of Cambridgeshire
Next event: 2-4 June 2023
Entries open now
Want to add some competition into the equation? The Tour of Cambridgeshire hosts closed-road sportives that range from 50 to 100 miles, but it also holds a gran fondo and road race on the longer course. While you have to hold a racing licence to take part in the latter, the gran fondo is the amateur equivalent and is open to anyone aged over 19. It’s a certified event in the UCI Gran Fondo World Series, and if you finish in the top 20% of your age group, you’ll qualify for the 2023 UCI Gran Fondo World Championship in Glasgow and your shot at a world title.
Visit the Tour of Cambridgeshire website (opens in new tab)| Sportive from £40, gran fondo from £80
BHF London To Brighton
Next event: 18 June 2023
Ballot open now
While there are various events that take riders from the city to the seaside, this British Heart Foundation-organised one is the original. First staged in 1976, the relaxed 54-mile (87km) ride sets off from Clapham and ferries riders through the urban sprawl of south London and into the countryside of Surrey and Sussex before finishing on the beach in Brighton. Be warned – there’s a nasty sting in the tail at mile 50 where the course goes up and over Ditchling Beacon. At one mile long and with an average gradient of 10%, there’s no shame in joining the majority in getting off and walking your way to the top.
Visit the BHF London To Brighton website (opens in new tab) | £TBC
Next event: 18 June 2023
When entries open: Autumn
The Dragon Ride is Wales’s most notorious cycling event, and for good reason. The shortest route on offer is the 61-mile (98km) Macmillan 100, and things only get tougher from there. The most popular distance is the 132-mile (213km) Gran Fondo, which includes eight of the Brecon Beacons’ major climbs and 3,488m of elevation, but the hardest is the ominously named Dragon Devil. This follows the Gran Fondo route but throws an additional 50-mile (81km) loop out towards the Elan Valley into the mix for 183 miles (296km) and 4,614m elevation of hellishly hard riding.
Visit the Dragon Ride website (opens in new tab) | £TBC
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