Gravel riding has burst onto the scene in the last few years as roadies venture off the smooth stuff onto the rocky roads and trails of the UK. As a result the number of off road events has increased so we decided to put together a list which’ll keep you entertained throughout autumn. Feel free to send us your suggestions and we can expand the list.
Fifty50: 19 September
“The Fifty50 is an unsupported, unmarshalled adventure, exploring the quiet roads, byways and bridleways in the Hope Valley and surrounding area.”
Situated near Sheffield the Fifty50 is a test of navigation, fitness and bike handling. It’s best described as an orienteering race on a bike. As you get to the start, you receive an envelope containing a route leading to a checkpoint at which you get another with a route to the finish. The route is roughly 30% off road and the organisers recommend use of a gravel, cyclocross or mountain bike. They do not include feed stations, instead encouraging you to buy food on the route to support local business and ‘contribute to the communities you are riding through’.
Raiders Gravel: 7-10 October
“A uniquely Scottish gravel adventure in the heart of the Galloway Forest Park.”
A new event for 2021 and it’s going to be a good one if the pre event press is anything to go by. The event is run over 3 stages which run across Galloway and Southern Ayreshire – think the Lake District but without tourists….with unrivalled gravels paths galore. The event pitches itself as “premium all -inclusive event” where you compete in teams of two. They even have a match making service where you can be paired up with another rider
Across 3 race stages riders explore the many corners of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere taking in the natural wonders, wildlife and serene outdoors. This premium all-inclusive event has the optimal mix of adventure, entertainment, culture and relaxation, guaranteeing an unforgettable time in Scotland. Raiders Gravel is a team event where riders enter and participate in teams of two. Join us for the inaugural edition from October 7th to 10th 2021.
Wild West Sussex Sportive: 10 October
“Quiet lanes, mixed terrain, sections of the South Downs way & a few tasty climbs makes this a classic off road sportive this Autumn.”
With 1,584m of elevation over just 73km, this event is as hard as it is beautiful. The race starts in Liphook and, true to form for gravel events, has a good knees up here afterwards. The route is fully marked, feed stops every 30km and has mechanical support so it’s less of an adventure than some of the others listed and more of a big event. You can also rent a bike if you’re new to gravel racing making it the perfect sportive for first timers.
Elan Valley MTB Challenge: 3 October
“The Elan Challenge is old school MTB at it’s best. Big climbs, fast flowy descents, technical descents and the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. This is what the purist class as ‘proper mountain biking’.”
Described as a ‘challenge’ not a race, this is known as a relaxed event based in the Elan Valley in Wales. There are two options with routes of 30k and 50k. The feed station is described as ‘legendary’ and the course is fully marked with first aid cover and a quad bike for emergencies. This is an event in the heart of the UK’s home of mountain biking and it’s bound to be a good one. I’m not sure what could make a feed station ‘legendary’ but it’s something I’d like to find out.
Battle on the Beach: 2-3 October
“One of the UK’s most unique cycling events”
The Battle on the Beach has been absent for a few years but is a classic on the off road calendar regularly attracting top riders from all over the UK. It’s a 3 lap route of 45km and is a full blooded race! This does not mean it’s not beginner friendly though as they change the route on the third lap to make sure less experienced riders stay safe. The laps are approximately 5km on the sand, 5km single-track and 5km double-track. This race is based in Wales, not too far from Swansea.
The 2021 course will be a total of 3 laps (or 2 laps for fun categories), total distance being approximately 45km.
Similar to the previous 3 events, Lap 3 will on a slightly different track after the beach section. This will ensure that the leaders have a clear run to the finish and more relaxed riders have less worry about fast riders approaching.
The Gravel Series, Hampshire: 13 November
“Our Gravel series is designed for ALL riders to come and give some off road riding a go. Whether you’ve done it plenty of times before, or this is your very first ride, it really doesn’t matter.”
This event is another inclusive classic in Hampshire taking in the famous South Downs Way. With fast sections in open country and rutted technical sections this route has something for everyone. The best, and most gravelish, thing about this race is that you get FREE BEER after. There are four routes from 20 to 50 kilometres and under 12s ride free so this truly is a race for everyone.
As you can see the range of events away from the road is on a spectrum between hard gravel races to one day adventures to multi day bikepacking in Scotland. Whatever your style off road racing has something for you and it’s a safe bet this scene will continue to grow rapidly over the next few years. Gravel racing is fun, inclusive and something that is definitely worth a try this winter!