The Best UK Cycling Challenges, Events and Routes for your 2023 bucket list
As we head towards the end of 2022 at Swinnerton Cycles, we’re already looking forward to a new year of cycling adventures. Whether or not you’ve started crafting your New Year’s bucket list, we have put together some of the best cycling routes and events that we’re getting excited about in 2023.
Table of Contents
We’re starting big with the first of our top cycle routes and challenges for your 2023 bucket list, The Pennine Cycleway. This multi-day challenge is one of the most iconic cycle routes covering the North of England from top to bottom. The Pennine Cycleway is a whopping 327 miles (526km), taking you through four national parks. But with 7490m of elevation, it is considered one of the most challenging long cycles in the UK.
Starting in the heart of the Peak District in Derby, you will travel through the Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland and skirt the Lake District. The Pennine Cycleway is a stunning cycle route consisting of mountains, moors, lakes and historical monuments. You’ll often find yourself secluded to enjoy nature in its tranquillity but fear not, there are plenty of pubs, cafes and towns along the way to refuel.
As there are plenty of unpaved cycle paths, we recommend opting for your cyclocross, touring or mountain bike for this cycle, especially if you’re going on a bikepacking trip.
However, if you want to go with your gravel or road bike, there are alternative road routes to avoid muddy sections. Inexperienced long-distance riders or cyclists aiming to complete the challenge in record time, we recommend cycling with assistance or support vehicles.
To help plan your route, check out Komoot.
The Yorkshire Beast
If races are more your scene and you want something a bit challenging, why not attempt to beat the Beast in The Yorkshire Beast Sportive? The Yorkshire Beast consists of a figure of 8, starts and ends in Thirsk and covers the Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Moors over 203.2 miles (327km) with a massive elevation of 5,588m. Most people who have ridden the Beast have said it is one of the toughest sportives there is to do. If the mountainous route wasn’t challenging enough, you must make it back before The Beast catches you. If he does, you’re out. If you’re mad or fearless enough to take on this challenge, you can sign up now on the Velo29 website to enter the event on June 24th, 2023.
The North Coast 500
The North Coast 500 is the ultimate Scottish challenge to impress your cycling friends. The North Coast 500 is 510 miles and 10,632m in elevation, which takes you along the coast of the Scottish Highlands. The trip will take you at least a week, depending on your ambition and is a fantastic choice to put on the bucket list for your next bikepacking trip. Starting and ending in Inverness, you will follow some of the most epic coastal edges, mountains and passes. The North Coast 500 offers panoramic coastal views and fresh Scottish seafood at the fishing towns. To help plan your route, visit the Komoot website.
The Etape Caledonia is an iconic sportive event in Perthshire, Scotland. Choose between the 85 milers, circling Farragon Hill, Loch Tummel and Lock Rannoch or the 40 miler, which goes around Farragon hill and Loch Tummel. These closed-road routes take you through winding roads, tree-lined avenues, Lochs and mountains. The Etape Caledonia is a sell-out event, so get your tickets on the Lime Lights Sport website to secure your place for the 14th May 2023 event.
Ulster Canal Cycle Trail
The Ulster Cycle Trail starts in Maghery in Northern Ireland and passes through the Republic of Ireland, ending in Clones, taking you past the lowland lakes, forests and rushing rivers. Enjoy the great outdoors on this 49-mile (79.9 km) trail on cycle routes 95 and 91, with plenty of historic houses and tourist attractions to stop off at along the way.
For more information on the route, visit the Sustrans website.
Lap the Lough
Start your New Year’s the right way by signing up for Lap the Lough on January 1st 2023, for the cycling event around Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland on 27th August 2023, Bank Holiday weekend. The route is 89 miles (144 km) going anti-clockwise around Lough Neagh. Expect stunning views and regular food and drink stops every 20 miles. Go to Lap the Lough’s official website for more information and the registration form.
Route 42 is definitely one for the bucket list. You can’t go wrong in Wales for epic views and stunning scenery. It forms part of the fantastic Lôn Las Cymru route enabling you to travel up to Anglesey for an extended cycling bikepacking trip, spanning from South to North Wales.
However, if you’re only doing Route 42, start this 61.7 miles (99.3 km) route in Chepstow in South Wales and follow the road through the charming forest until you reach the Usk, then follow the Usk up to Abergavenny. Leave the Usk behind at Abergavenny and enter the majestic Brecon Beacons National Park. In the Beacons, you’ll go through the Vale of Ewyas and the hamlet of Capel-y-Ffin, where you’ll climb Gospel Pass, 542m (1,778ft), giving you a stunning view over the Wye Valley. From here, the route drops down to Glasbury, where the cycle path meets route eight and onto Lôn Las Cymru.
For more help planning your route, visit the Sustrans website.
The Wales Sportive
Enter one of the most comprehensive closed-road sportives in Wales. The Wales Sportive starts and ends in Tenby, Pembrokeshire and has an award-winning finish line. Depending on your ability, you can choose between the short 42-mile, medium 70-mile or long route at 112-mile. Discover the picturesque South Pembrokshire on this televised sportive on July 1st, 2023. To sign up, go to The Wales Sportive official website.
The South West
West Kenrow Way, Cornwall
Discover the rugged beauty of rural Cornwall on the West Kernow Way. The Kernow Way is 147.5 miles (237km) and is the perfect multi-day summer adventure getaway. Expect gravel tracks, clifftops, hidden coves, historical sites and remote inland moor while you discover the cape of Cornwall. Find the lost lanes while avoiding touristy hotspots and sample the famous Cornish cuisine in the picturesque harbour towns. The Kernow Way should take three to four days so you can enjoy the best that Cornwall has to offer.
Plan your route with the help of We Are Cycling UK.
Great Weston Ride
The Great Weston Ride is a fun and recreational ride that starts in Bristol and ends at Weston-super-Mare seafront going through the hilly Mendips and Somerset Levels. The 57-mile ride encourages families, regular riders, commuters and beginners to challenge themselves and takes place on July 23rd, 2023. Sign up via the Great Weston Ride official website.
The South and South East
Ride the Night London
If you’re looking to do a ride this year for a good cause and personal achievement, check out the Ride the Night in London happening on April 29th 2023. Depending on your ability, choose between 50 km or 100 km and ride the circular route from the start line in Surrey to central London and back. Join with 1000s of other women raising funds for Breast Cancer Now, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Ovarian Cancer Action.
Do your bit for the battle against cancer, and sign up on the Dream Challenges website.
The Wiltshire Classic
For a more rural sportive in the South, the UKCE Wiltshire Classic takes you over the South-West/ South-East border, taking you through Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire until, finally, return to the Wiltshire racecourse. Criss-cross over the rolling hills of Cranbourne Chase AONB and several Anglo-Saxon villages along the way.
The Wiltshire Classic is all about quiet country roads and time well spent in the great outdoors and enjoying the sleepy country villages and charming countryside. Depending on your ability, you can choose between three distances 117 km, 71 km and 49 km.
Enter now on the UK Cycling Events website to secure your place at the 18th March 2023 event.
King Alfred’s way
Experience 10,000 years of history on the 350 km loop around the historic Wessex, the historical Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Alfred the Great. Begin and end in Winchester, where Alfred is buried and see iconic monuments, including Stonehenge, Avebury stone circle, Iron Age hill forts, Farnham Castle, and Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals on the way.
Get away from the hustle and bustle in the Wiltshire rolling white chalk hills. The trail is ideal for gravel bikes; you can ride it over a few days as a bikepacking route. Plan your route with We Are Cycling UK.
The Entire UK
Land’s End to John O’Groats
And finally, the ultimate bucket list cycling challenge, Land’s End to John O’Grosts. Covering a whopping 1189 miles (1913 km) over greenways, national cycle paths and country roads, you can span the entire UK from the stunning beaches of Cornwall to the rugged Northern Scottish coast. You want a well-maintained touring bike or hybrid bike for this epic journey that can take up to two weeks to complete.
Plan your route on the Sustrans Website.
Choose the perfect bike for your next challenge, event or adventure at Swinnerton Cycles.
Firstly, you need the right equipment to prepare for these incredible challenges or events. Find your perfect bike here at Swinnerton Cycles. Whether you need a gravel bike, road bike, touring bike or mountain bike, we have everything you need to help you achieve your bucket list goals in 2023.