ON YOUR BIKE - ‘Cyclosportives’ growing in number

Directional arrows used to signpost riders on the off-road ride from Plumpton.
Directional arrows used to signpost riders on the off-road ride from Plumpton.

The number of commercially organised cycle rides has increased dramatically, in line with the numbers of people in the UK cycling for leisure.

Every summer weekend, riders no longer have to rely on maps, the internet or local knowledge to find good routes, and with many distance options to suit, there’s usually something for everyone.

This week, Cycle Lewes take a quick look into the world of cyclosportives.

For the uninitiated, Cyclosportives, or ‘sportives’, are waymarked, mass cycle rides, usually organised by either a cycling club or business, that often have a range of distances on similar courses.

They attract all kinds of cyclist – from regular long-distance riders in full cycling gear, to riders with no previous sportive experience for whom the ‘short’ 35-mile option is the further they’ve ever ridden before.

Entrance fees vary from event to event, but most are around the £20-£30 mark, with entry often accepted on the day. This not only lets you discover a great new route you can ride again and again, but also mechanical support and ‘feed zones’, where copious amounts of bananas, flapjacks and energy bars are available to help you go that little bit further. Distances range from 30 miles, through to more than 100 miles for some all-day epics.

The terrain can vary too – from relatively flat rides around marshes and level areas, to monsters with over 2,500m of climbing. Most steer riders towards quieter lanes, which allows time for socialising with fellow cyclists, admiring the country and focusing on the burning in your legs.

There has also been a recent rise in the number of off-road rides. Often run the day before a nearby road ride, these often have steeper climbs, less traffic, and the reward of some flowing singletrack to put a smile on the face of the adrenaline junkies.

Locally, the most famous mass cycle ride is of course the London to Brighton. At over 50 miles and with Ditchling Beacon coming just before the finish, it’s an excellent introduction to the highs (and lows!) of long-distance cycling. But the fun doesn’t stop there, Sussex plays host to more than a dozen organised rides each year, with even more challenging options further afield.

Check out British Cycling’s website (http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/sportives) for more information. Cycle Lewes is a group campaigning for better provision for cycling in and around Lewes. These columns will feature local on- and off-road rides and other cycling news. For details, a map of this ride, or to contribute, visit cyclelewes.org.