Proper BIG mountain bike rides

Proper big rides! You’ll need good weather and maximum daylight time for these monster multi-day rides.

*Please check local Covid-19 restrictions and laws before setting off, and always ride within your limits

Read more: 21 best mountain bike routes in the UK

1. Sarn Helen

369.9km (229.9miles)

Add Sarn Helen to the list of things the Romans did for us. This 370km route pieces together stretches of ancient roads and wends its way the entire length of Wales, starting in Conwy in the north and finishing on the tip of the Gower Peninsula in the south. From the rugged mountains of Snowdonia, through the quiet Cambrians and over the wild Brecon Beacons the riding is constantly changing, giving a real insight into the sheer breadth of great riding available across Wales. If your only experience of Wales has been within the confines of a trail centre this is the perfect way of sampling some of the country’s more natural delights along with getting a real feel for its history. After all you’ll be riding on an important part of it. Plan for six days of solid riding, or more if you’re not in a rush.

GPS download:

2. The Great North Trail

1,189.9km (739.4miles)

If you want to get some proper distance under your tyres then this is the route for you. Running from the southern Peak District to Cape Wrath on the north coast of Scotland The Great North Trail is a whopping 1189km adventure. The route has been devised by Cycling UK using both existing and newly negotiated off-road trails. It’s not designed to be super technical but rather a way of taking the quiet and scenic route through some of the country’s most beautiful areas – The Peak, Pennines, Dales, Borders and Highlands all make an appearance. Of course you don’t have to do the full thing in one go, you can jump on and off as you like completing the route section by section. Given you’d likely need over two weeks to ride it bottom to top and that 21,558m of ascent stand between the start and end this is probably the best way of doing it.

GPS download:

Have you got what it takes to complete the South Downs Double?

3. South Downs Double

158.0km (98.8miles)

The South Downs Double is a challenge ride. The aim is to complete the South Downs Way that runs from Winchester to Eastbourne twice (there and back) in under 24 hours. No small feat at 316km. While the distance might be the headline figure the climbing involved is not to be underestimated. The South Downs’s rounded, rolling hills don’t look too demanding but with 3,400m of climbing in each direction there’s plenty to slowly grind you down. Of course riding the route against the clock isn’t mandatory and no matter the speed it makes for a good long distance ride. Being an established route there’s plenty of information available, is a great resource and provides advice inspiration if you do fancy a stab at doing the double in a day.

GPS download:

4. West Highland Way

154.6km (96.1miles)

Scotland does properly big rides better than anywhere else – because it’s properly big. As exciting as this is it can be a bit intimidating, so if you want to take on a ride that shows you what Scotland is made of without leaving venturing too far into the wild then the West Highland Way is a good place to start.

Starting in Milngavie just outside Glasgow the route heads north into the Highlands finishing some 154km later in Fort William. Along the way is an Eye-Spy book’s worth of what makes Scotland such an amazing place. The route has been completed in 10.5hours, but you’ll need to take much longer if you want to appreciate the landscape you’re moving through. If you get to Fort William and still have a yearning for more you can extend the ride with The Great Glen Way which will take you up to Inverness. From there you can take the train south – unless you fancy riding back, of course.

GPS download:

5. Lakeland 200

206.2km (128.1miles)

This 200km loop around the Lake District National Park is certainly no gentle potter and it has the potential for huge rewards. While some long distance rides shy away from anything too challenging this the Lakeland 200 embraces difficulty. You’ll be tackling on-the-rivet climbs, hike-a-bike scrambles, ridge-top traverses and technical downhills – all the while being surrounded by a constant supply of stunning views, weather permitting. It’s a reasonably committing loop – once you’ve got a few valleys in there’s no real shortcut back to the start.

With so much riding and so many opportunities for kicking back and taking in the scenery planning is essential. While the route has been completed in just under 17 hours by one determined rider it’s best to allow at least four days to get the most out of it.

GPS download:

*Please check local Covid-19 restrictions and laws before setting off, and always ride within your limits