Published: 24th JANUARY 2024

Challenge rides in England 2024

Looking to get stuck into some long-distance cycling this year? We’ve put together a list of the most iconic challenge bike ride routes in England for inspiration.

Cyclist in blue jersey following group of other cyclists on gravel path through countryside

Cyclists on the Waskerley Way during a C2C (Sea to Sea) bike ride

These scenic and long-distance cycle routes are great for those wanting a challenge.
But if you’re looking for a more relaxed getaway. Or a fun day out with the family - not to worry.
You can split these routes into shorter sections. Take it slow and visit the many places of interest along the way.

Sea to Sea (C2C)

137 miles (221km) from Whitehaven or Workington to Sunderland, Wearside or Tynemouth

The C2C is often cycled from west to east. Tradition has many riders dipping their back wheel in the Irish Sea off the Cumbrian coast at the start. And celebrating with their front wheel in the North Sea at the finish line.
Between the wheel dips - a beautiful route through the northern Lake District and the Pennines. The picturesque market town of Keswick and the old railway paths of County Durham. Look out for the art trail that adorns the Consett-Sunderland Railway Path.
The C2C includes the highest point of the National Cycle Network at 2,000 feet atop Black Hill.

Great Western Way

167 miles (269km) from Bristol to London

Great Western Way gets its name from the railway designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The route begins in Bristol. Home to the great industrialist's Clifton Suspension Bridge and SS Great Britain. It finishes at Rotherhithe's Brunel Museum in London.
During the ride, look out for Caen Hill on the Kennet and Avon canal - an impressive 29 flight of locks rising 237 feet.
The green expanses of Richmond Park and Windsor Great Park are a breath of fresh air before the big city. But don't worry about big-city cycling; the route is on traffic-free paths and quiet roads.
Group of touring cyclists on tarmac path through grassy valley

Cycling through the Yorkshire Wolds on the Way of the Roses

Way of the Roses

171 miles (275km) from Morecambe to Bridlington

History and natural beauty combine in this route. The Way of the Roses links Lancashire and Yorkshire. Its name refers to the War of the Roses when the houses of the two counties fought for dominion.
Lancaster Castle. The ruins of Fountains Abbey. The historical city of York. The Viking battle site of Stamford Bridge. All appear on this heritage packed route.
It has it's natural sights too. The beautiful landscape of the Yorkshire Dales and the Forest of Bowland. A lot of the route is high and exposed. But it’s a small price to pay for the wonders along the way.

The Varsity Way

123 miles (198km) from Oxford to Cambridge

A route between two of the UK's most prestigious (and oldest) universities. The Varsity Way cycle route links Oxford and Cambridge. Beginning at the River Thames and ending at the River Cam.

Historic churches, country pubs, little villages. It is a meandering ride through the English countryside. Grafham water and Stewartby Lake are also great spots for wildlife watching.

With many manageable climbs, this route is one of the more gentle challenge rides on our list.

Group of touring cyclists on tarmac path  on cliff with white chalk to the side

On a bike ride on National Route 2 near Dover

South Coast West

139 miles (223km) from Dawlish to Brockenhurst

Coastal routes often mean rolling hills and the South Coast West cycle route is no exception. But with tough climbs brings stunning landscapes and sea views.
Areas of Natural Beauty abound on this ride. New Forest National Park. Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Dorset Downs. The Isle of Purbeck.
Cycling west to east, the final few miles are a welcome break for burning legs. Bournemouth's seafront is the start of a relaxed and flat end to the ride.

South Coast East

178 miles (286km) from Brockenhurst to Dover

A route full of maritime grandeur and history. Take in the naval dockyards of Southhampton and Portsmouth. Marvel at the mosaic remains of Fishbourne Roman Palace. Visit the Norman Cathedral of Chichester.
Through Brighton and Hove and then Eastbourne, the route hugs the coast. The eery open expanses of Romney Marsh and the Kent Downs are the final challenge of the ride before Dover’s chalky cliffs marks the journey's end.    
There's only one major climb which means for a flat and constant cycle. No hills means no downhill recovery time. But there's plenty of excuses to take a break on this beautiful coastal route. 
Deer crossing tarmac path in park while cyclist watches

A stag crosses the walking and cycling path in Richmond Park

Shakespeare Cycleway

167 miles (269km) from Stratford-upon-Avon to London

The route begins in the Bard's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. Ending at London's reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. It connects two historical locations - and two of England's greatest rivers and theatres.

The ride travels through quintessential English countryside. Some of the best "this sceptred isle" has to offer. The hills of Warwickshire and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It also combines two long-distance cycle routes. The West Midlands Cycle Route (Derby to Oxford). And the Thames Valley Cycle Route (Oxford to London).

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