If this year has proved anything, it’s that gravel is here to stay. Most bike manufacturers have at least one off-road-leaning offering in their armoury, and like the cyclocross boom from a few years ago, the discipline is firmly becoming part of the mainstream.
To quench this rising thirst for adventure-based pursuits, a number of gravel-focused sportives have started to crop up throughout the UK.
"To quench your thirst for adventure-based pursuits, a number of gravel-focused sportives have started to crop up throughout the UK"
Rather than a 100-mile slog around the lanes of the home counties, these new events utilise a brilliant network of bridleways and, in some cases, private estates, really putting you and your big-tyred bike to the test.
Here, we’ve selected the six best gravel events taking place in the UK this year. What’re you waiting for?!
When: 14 July
Where: Isle of Arran, Scotland
Route: 45 miles
Entry fee: £150.00
What started in the sunny climes of California has now found its way to the Scottish Isle of Arran. A combination of a gravel grinder and a mountain bike-style enduro (hence the name Grinduro), the event is a 45 mile mix of pavement and dirt.
Spectacular scenery litters the course, which includes coastal views during the descent from a cliff top to the shoreline. Finishing times aren’t based on overall time but on four timed segments that are between five-to-ten minutes in length, while the organisers have focused as much on the experience off the bike as the one on it.
Free camping, live music and great food combine with the cycling to give Grinduro a real festival atmosphere that’ll have you returning every year.
2) Yorkshire True Grit
When: 23-24 June
Where: Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Route(s): 20 miles, 40 miles, 60 miles
Entry fee(s): £20.00 (20 miles), £39.00 (40/60 miles)
Website: Yorkshire True Grit
The York Moors-based gravel weekender returns for a second year in 2018, with organisers promising an unrecognisable route and even more access to private estates.
There are three different routes available, with the toughest – ‘The Outlaw’ – a 60-mile course of gravel trails and singletrack that will be a true test of endurance and adventure. Meanwhile, ‘The Stampede’ (which takes place the day after and clocks in at 20 miles) is a good introduction to gravel riding if new to the discipline – or a nice leg loosener if you’ve completed one of the Saturday’s longer routes.
When: 23-24 June
Where: Cilycwm, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Route(s): 120km (80km and 40km)
Entry fee: £99.00
At 120km long and with 2,600m of climbing over two days in the heart of the Welsh valleys, Gritfest isn’t for the faint hearted. If this sounds like your cup of tea though, then the new Carmarthenshire-based weekend challenge is tough to beat when it comes to testing riding conditions in a picture-perfect location.
Day one will see riders traverse across undulating open landscapes and forests before finishing with a descent into ‘an unknown and hidden valley’, while the destination for day two is an old lead mine.
Like Scotland’s Grinduro, competitors are timed on special stages rather than for the whole event.
Out Of Office Dot Scot
4) Bombtrack Gran Fonduro
When: 29 September
Where: Tweed Valley, Scotland
Route(s): 60km, 100km
Entry fee: £60.00
Website: Gran Fonduro
Scotand’s oldest continuously inhabited house – Traquair House – has two fey features that are essential when visiting a historic landmark – a maze and a brewery. If you needed any more reasons to visit this majestic manor, then this year, it will also be event HQ for a new event called the Bombtrack Gran Fonduro (a combination of a gran fondo and enduro – can you see what they did there?).
Two routes are on offer – a 100km loop or the shorter 60-70km ride – but both will feature their fair share of singletrack, forest road climbs, gravel TT and short, sharp grinds.
The Tweed Valley backcountry is the setting for all of the action, with a CX, gravel of XC bike the recommended ride to tackle both courses.
5) Rapha Prestige
Entry fee: £60.00
As can be expected from a Rapha-organised challenge, the Prestige is the longest (160km) and toughest (unsupported and unmarshalled) in our roundup.
Although details are still underwraps, the event pits four-strong teams against each other in an all-day adventure where the only rules are that they start, finish and pass through several checkpoints (which are revealed 48 hours before the start) en route together. The rest is up to the participants.
What can be guaranteed though is that this will be an adventure like no other, and the lanes and climbs of the Cotswolds will make it one to remember.
6) Ridgeway 100: Return of the Stones
When: 4 August
Where: Chilton, Oxfordshire
Entry fee: £39.00
Website: Ridgeway 100
As you tackle the 100km route along the Ridgeway, you’ll also be passing along Europe’s oldest continually used highway. It dates back thousands of years to prehistoric England, with there many ancient landmarks to spot along the way.
The course offers sweeping views throughout, with a smattering of climbs and descents peppered over the route. It only gets occasionally technical, leaving you with a rideable and enjoyable trail regardless of your experience.
Disappointingly, the century ride around the Oxfordshire countryside doesn’t end with a performance by Mick Jagger and co. However, it does finish with some other old fossils that are (slightly) older – the stone circles of Avebury to be precise, which predate Stonehenge by 700 years.