Best bike-packing events for every level of rider

The recent crisis has put every event on hold, and is a blow for both tourism and ultra-endurance event organisers. The upside? If you’re stuck at home fuelling your wanderlust with plans for post-isolation travel, there’s never been a better reason to make your next adventure a bike-packing event or ultra-distance race. The experienced gang from Apidura have helped to compile a list of events that will suit every type of rider. If you want to take on your first ultra-endurance event or step up to a Blue Riband race here's the top picks.


 Beginner and non-competitive events

Torino - Nice Rally

Torino-Nice Rally

A 700km ride from Torino to Nice using Strada, old military roads and high altitude passes. There is no timing, no tracking chips, and money raised during the ride is donated to the Smart Shelter Foundation. There is a limited entry, and riders are provided with a GPS file of the route if their entry via postcard is selected.

Why is it great? If you want to sleep out, you'll be rewarded with seeing the sun set and rise over the Maritime, Ligurian, and Cottian Alps.

What's the terrain? There is a mix of gravel and road riding. No technical mountain bike skills are required.

When: September

Where: Ride begins in Turin

How to enter: To enter in 2021, send the organisers a postcard. Entry opens in the winter and postcards are drawn at random. Female riders are given an auto entry. 

Torino-Nice Rally

Two Volcano Sprint

Two Volcanos Sprint

A five day race from Mount Vesuvius in the north to Mount Etna in the south. You'll be riding shoulder to shoulder with the sparkling blue sea of the Mediterranean, along the Amalfi coast, and over the Appenine mountains into Sicily, to the finish line at the summit of Mount Etna. This one is for people who don't hang around. You'll need to cover 1000 kilometres in five days to complete the race. 

The route is all on road, and thanks to established towns and tourism, you'll always find somewhere to stay. The riders are given the route, too.

Why is it great? Warm weather, and incredible views from start to finish, including one from the top of a volcano.

What is the terrain? It's all on tarmac, but you'll need your climbing legs.

Where: Naples, Italy

When: October 

How to enter: You can ride solo or in a pair. Entry is via the event website.

Two Volcanos Sprint

 Tuscany Trail

The Tuscany Trail

The landscape of Tuscany is recognisable as the background of countless Renaissance Madonnas, a marvel to gaze at, dotted with ancient farmhouses and medieval villages. You'll pass through it all on the 550km Tuscany Trail, a non-competitive event that has taken place annually for a number of years. Each participant is provided with a tracker and GPS file of the route. You just need to work out where you'll stay and how much riding to do per day.

Why is it great? Great Tuscan food, drink, and scenery. The ride is unsupported but the organisation is first class, from arrival on the first day to the staff at the finish. 

What is the terrain? It is all off road, using paths, gravel, dirt, grass trails, and the famous Strada Bianca. There are no big ascents, but rolling climbs and roads.

Where: Massa, Tuscany, Italy

When: May (the 2020 event has been moved to September)

How to enter: Enter via the event website. 

The Tuscany Trail

Badlands Race

Badlands

Badlands is a 700km set route that starts and finishes in Granada. It takes its name from Mediterranean sand-covered gullies in the Tabernas Desert, known as Badlands. Riders leave Granada on a route that takes them through Cabo de Gata Natural Park and two distinct deserts on an all off-road adventure in southern Spain. 

Why is it great? Southern Spain offers near-perfect dry weather, and the set route gives those new to bike-packing races to hone their skills in really impressive landscape.

What is the terrain? 85% is off-road on gravel, trails and sand. 

Where: Granada, Spain

When: September

How to enter: Enter via the event website. 

Badlands


Intermediate Events and Races

The selection of intermediate events include races which have free routes, meaning there is no defined course to take and usually involve riding to checkpoints rather than straight from start to finish. These races are all 1,000 kilometres or more in length.

Transiberica Montage

Transiberica

If you love Spanish food, great weather, and a mix of terrain, the Transiberica is for you. Created by two adventure riders, the race weaves its way along the Iberian Peninsula, starting in Valencia and finishing in Bilboa after 2,800 kilometres of riding, via twelve checkpoints.

Why is it great? Organisers have found twelve of the most stunning locations for their checkpoints, including places like Monsanto, a village built into the rocks and cliffs, and El Torcal de Antequera, with its impressive rocky karst landscapes

What is the terrain? Challenging road climbs and descents. The route is your choice; you can use gravel tracks if you wish. 

Where: Valencia, Spain

When: July

How to enter: Enter as a solo rider or in a pair. The fee also includes a bag drop.

Transiberica

All Points North

All Points North

The organisers of All Points North have scattered ten checkpoints across the north of England, and all you need to do is ride to them using any route you like. The checkpoints are roughly spread in a circular pattern to lead riders back to the start after covering 1000 kilometres of the finest landscape and National parks that Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the peaks have to offer in three days.

There is a rookie rider category to give riders new to bike-packing a head start.

Why is it great? The start and finish are in the same place so there are less logistics to be concerned about. This is a chance to experience the best of the UK's national parks, almost traffic free, and wild.

What is the terrain? Mostly on the road, but the route is your choice. You can use bridle-paths if you want. 

Where: Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK

When: May

How to enter: Enter via the event website. 

All Points North

Race Around Rwanda

Race Around Rwanda

In 2017, the World Economic Forum ranked Rwanda the seventh safest country in the world. Cycling is second nature to Rwandans, and in recent years there has been a concerted effort to enhance the sport of cycling in the country. Rwanda now has its own UCI team and UCI race.  This is its first bike packing event. The route is predetermined so you just need to cover the 1,000 kilometre route.

Why is it great? The support from the locals and villages, the chance to discover a country by bicycle, and see all aspects of it from rain forest to open plains. Lodging is provided at three of the four checkpoints.

What is the terrain? A mix of tarmac, gravel hills, and unpaved roads, and two or three seriously long climbs.

Where: Kigali, Rwanda

When: February

How to enter: Enter via the event website. 

Race Around Rwanda


Top Four Bike-Packing Events

These are the pinnacle of ultra-distance races, and have a long history as an early event or route. The races are all over 3,000 kilometres.

Tour Divide

Tour Divide

The Tour Divide uses the world's longest off-road cycle path, the Great Divide. The path took four years to map and was published in 1998. A year later, the first Tour Divide took place, a non-stop cycle race from the start of the cycle way in Banff, Canada, all the way down to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. 

The record for completing the 4,400 kilometre route is fourteen days. It usually takes riders three to four weeks to ride the race.

Why is it great? Completing the route is a bike-packing must-do. Riders will climb the equivalent of seven times up Mount Everest. 

What is the terrain? A full off-road route, suitable for mountain bikes.

Where: Banff, Alberta, Canada

When: June

How to enter: Tour Divide requires no entry fee or formal registration. 

Tour Divide

North Cape Event

NorthCape-Tarifa

One of Europe's longest bike races, the NorthCape-Tarifa begins in North Cape, Norway, and travels south to Tarifa in Spain. Participants can choose to ride the full 7,000 kilometres from end to end, or stop at one of the three finish points: Helsinki (1753km), Bregenz Austria (4071km), or Nice (5370km).

Why is it great? Riders start at the northern tip of Europe where there is 24 hours of daylight. The route is on predetermined safe roads researched and checked by the organisers. 

What is the terrain? All on road, with climbs over iconic mountain passes of Europe.

Where: North Cape, Norway

When: June

How to enter: Online entry on the event website.

NorthCape-Tarifa

Trans Am Bike Race

The TransAmerica Bike Trail is a 6,800 kilometre route that was first developed in 1976 by the Adventure Cycling Association. Riders have regularly ridden across it, but in 2015, organiser, Nathan Stone, set an official start date for a self-supported race. The route crosses through the middle of America via the Colorado Rockies and flatter open prairie lands.

Why is it great? A chance to ride one of America's classic trails and see everything from the great Rockies to middle America. Ride from Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.

What is the terrain? Road and back country highways, rural two lane roads.

Where: Oregon to Virginia 

When: June

How to enter: Online entry on the event website.

Transcontinental

Transcontinental Bike Race

The inaugural race was only run in 2013, but the Transcontinental has quickly gained a following around the world, with 1,000 participants applying in 2016 and 350 places given out. Riders are free to choose any route, but they must visit checkpoints on their way to the finish line in Greece.

Why is it great? TCR or Transconti is a legendary event with a great atmosphere and lots of resources to help new riders taking part. If winning the yellow jersey is the ultimate accolade for stage racing, a win in the Transcontinental is top of the tree for ultra-endurance racing. 

What is the terrain? The race is a free-route. There are four checkpoints and some are at the top of a high mountain pass. Riding from France to Greece, not all roads are paved and some riders may want to short cut across gravel.

Where: Brest, France to Burgas, Bulgaria

When: August

How to enter: Online via a ballot system

Transcontinental.cc

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