Bikepacking events are a great way to combine your love of cycling and your desire for adventure whilst still pushing yourself that step further. Perhaps you’ve made your way through our best bikepacking routes in the UK round up and need a new challenge to overcome. Or maybe you’re a complete beginner and want to meet other multi-day cycle enthusiasts to learn from and share a pint with. Whatever your reason, we’ve compiled a list of just some of the top bikepacking events for 2021. With a focus on beautiful scenery, testing terrain, and camaraderie; there’s something here for everyone.
As well as endurance and adventure, long-distance bikepacking rides also require a genuine love for the outdoors. In this sense, respecting nature and travelling responsibly are of the utmost importance. Most organisers recommend travelling to the starting points via bike or by train to remain as eco-friendly as possible. Indeed, some events such as the GBDURO (now sold out) enforce no-flying rules to cut out flight emissions altogether. Going beyond leave no trace is key in protecting the glorious landscapes and natural paths that offer us so much joy.
In terms of your kit, minimalism and lightness is key. Most people bring sturdy bikepacking bags, a lightweight tent or bivvy, both camping and cycling gear, as well as suitable off-bike attire. Have a gander through our bikepacking guide for more tips and tricks on how to make the most out of your two-wheeled adventure.
Top 10 Bikepacking Events
- Great British Divide
- Pan Celtic Race
- Hell Of The Northwest
- Desert of Wales
- Dunoon Dirt Dash
- Highland Drover
- TransAtlantic Way
- Route Beer Ramble
- The Great British Escapades
- Dales Divide
The Great British Divide
Route: Kent to Applecross
Distance: 1430 miles (2300 km)
Dates: 31 July
At roughly 1,430 miles (2,300km), The Great British Divide is one hell of a cycle. Much like LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats), it goes from one end of mainland Britain to the other, beginning in the village of Bridge in Kent, and ending in the Applecross Inn, north west Scotland.
Self-described as an ‘adventure’ rather than a race, 80% off-road cycling is involved altogether, with 2,500 metres (8,200ft) of climbing. As a self-supported race, you’re required to follow the set GPS route (revealed a couple of weeks before the start date), and must stop at the three set checkpoints, but can otherwise do your own thing.
Highlights across the route include: the North and South Downs Way, the New Forest, the Brecon Beacons, the Peak District, the Pennine Way, the Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park, the Trossachs, the Isle of Skye, and the Highlands, to name a few. As it prides itself on riding the trails less travelled, mountain bikes (MTB) or ‘monster cross’ style bikes are required to complete this event.
Pan Celtic Race
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Route: Kingsand, Cornwall to Llandudno, Wales via Ireland
Distance: 1,600 miles (2,575 km)
Dates: 4 July
The infamous Pan Celtic Race is the longest bikepacking event on our list. Normally it takes in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wales, Ireland and Wales again, however, due to the pandemic, the organisers have had to cut the Ireland section out of the 2021 event.
With 30,480 metres (100,000 ft) of elevation, the race is generally completed in 7-14 days, though a shorter route of 900 miles is available as an alternative. It begins in Kingsand, Cornwall, and heads south west to Land’s End and up to Bristol. From there, you cycle right through Wales’s mountains to eventually finish with a bit of a shin dig with the other competitors.
Attempting to describe each and every view from this mighty ride won’t do it justice. Thankfully, however, the organisers have produced several short films to give you just a small snippet of what you could experience on this journey.
Hell Of The Northwest
Route: North West England Loop
Distance: 525 miles (845km)
Dates: 16 April
The North boasts some of the best, and most unique views in England and bikepacking makes for a pretty darn good way to explore them. Conjured up by one man and his love for adventure, the Hell of the Northwest is a self-supported challenge travelling through the more remote north west roads of England. With 14,000 metres (46,000ft) of ascent, the rules are simple: follow the set route in 3 days, record your journey on a tracker, and finish in time for the party. The results are then ranked based on these GPS trackers.
Beginning in Clitheroe, the Hell of the North West passes through Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Cumbria and the Pennines. You’ll travel through iconic passes such as Kirkstone, Hardknott, Buttertubs, Waddington Fell, and many more. For those of you wanting a grittier, and dirtier adventure, there’s also the Hell of the Dirty North West, ‘a bonkers off-road endurance event’ for mountain bikers.