Hungry for adventure? You’ve come to the right place. Check out this weeks double espresso as we take you through some of the foremost bikepacking routes and races that you need to enter in 2020.
For us in the northern hemisphere autumn has landed and while the odd bluebird day lures us out of our shell for some much needed play in the golden leaves there is no stopping the relentless march of winter and what it brings. Wet and leafy roads make for sluggish and attritional rides, and those balloon like gravel tyres you’ve been rocking all summer suddenly find themselves behaving like slippers on an ice rink when you take to the byways.
Some seek solace in the game of cyclocross, where road bike meets mud and a to b ride are exchanged for laps of a field, while for others the bicycle is forgotten in its entirety, left lamenting in the corner of a shed. Subject to an invasion of spiders inside your handlebars and despite your best intentions the demon that is iron oxide attacks your chain. These cyclists instead turn to running for the colder months. Taking an eternity to get their legs and lungs up to speed with the high exertion that comes with such a form of exercise they soon forget things like corners, cafe rides and long thrilling descents. Instead happy to sit on the floor stretching 24/7 and moaning that their ‘legs aren’t used to this’.
Last but not least in this unhappy tale of winter hibernation is the hedgehog of the cycling world. Tucked up in a blanket on a weekend morning with too many cups of coffee for their stationary posture they turn to the internet for inspiration. In fact if you’re reading this then you might well be a so called hedgehog, and to this I say cheers! For there is nothing wrong with biding your time and striking when the weather improves and the time is right.
If you are a hedgehog looking to pin down exactly when this time is then here are six events, one for each of the warmer months, that we feel are save the date worthy.
First up is something a bit different by virtue of the fact it isn’t complete and you probably haven’t heard of it. It’s called the European Divide Trail. The master behind this audacious off road route across Europe, Andy Cox aka ‘double track fanatic’, is in search of the ultimate cross continent bikepacking route. Spanning approximately 8000 km mostly off road from the north east of europe to its south west it’s certainly going to be a challenge once complete. The route is so fresh that Andy, who has been route planning whilst riding it for over two years is currently in Spain, enjoying the autumn sun and presumably looking forward to a pretty mega shower once he’s finished the route. The question remains if or indeed when will we see the first rider tackle the route? I for one hope people do give it a crack and would love to give parts of it a go. You’ll need to set off in April if you want to get it done in the summer, hence its at the top of our list!
If gravel is your cup of tea but living out of a saddle bag isn’t then RPM90 cycling adventures have got your back. Offering a broad range of rides, from guided long weekends away savouring the very best gravel, pavé and tarmac in Europe to more off road self supported jaunts like their recent trip to Slovakia, RPM90 will help you create unforgettable cycling memories wherever you pedal. We think the team and their thirst for adventure is marvelous and as such were very excited to have experienced their route guiding and local knowledge as we hit the white roads of Tuscany with RPM90 in June. It was pretty hot in June so why not get in touch with Nick to see if you can escape for some luxurious cycling in May.
The Navad 1000 is the brainchild of Swiss born route developing expert Willi Felix. The culmination of putting together week long mtb races in Switzerland for over 16 years is the grand and extraordinary route called the Navad 1000. An a to b route from the shores of Lake Constance in Switzerland’s north east to the Freddy Mercury statue in Montreux on the northern shores of lac Léman (Lake Geneva). With more than 30 climbs over the space of the 1000 km’s the route has been described as a Swiss masterpiece and is sure to keep you sweating as you traverse your way through endless mountain vistas and alpine meadows. Another one on our list we don’t see why it shouldn’t be on yours. Wait until the snow has melted and tackle this in June for a chance at good weather and an abundance of wild flowers.
Back in the UK for our next suggestion. The Great North Trail. Another route in the making this one promises to be shorter but by no means easier than its larger European brother. Undergoing final stages of development now it aims to link the Pennine Bridleway with the northern tips of mainland Scotland, through some of Britain’s most stunning upland areas and four National Parks. The 800-mile trail will hold something for everyone, whether that be exposed moorland mtb trails to flatter stretches along a canal or lake. The project is part of a larger movement for increased off road cycling access across the UK and is something Breakaway can definitely get behind. You can never rely on Scotland for sunny weather and in fact it is almost always a surprise when the sun does come out but riding the trail in July should see your chances improve significantly. Just don’t forget your mosquito repellent!
Next up our old friend Further. Back with a vengeance for 2020 and promising to be as tough if not more so than the inaugural race this year. Based in the wonderful Ariége, the Pyrenees its playground. Founder, organiser and man behind the madness Camille MacMillan is already out in search of the next test. Followers of Further on instagram will most likely already have seen the spot for next years checkpoint. Found by Camille on foot and without a bike on his shoulders there is no doubt plenty of hike-a-bike on the menu. All this means Further 2020 is already shaping up to challenge the high scratch rate that it saw this year. To read more about this year’s race why not check out our race summary here. We have our ears to the ground and can’t wait to hear more about next years route when Camille shares his grand plan.
Our last dive into the puncture prone world of off road riding comes in the form of the Bike Odyssey route in Greece. The route can either be raced as an 8 stage mtb pairs race at the end of June with a total distance of 620 kms and elevation gain of 19,000 metres or if you want to tackle the route solo then Bikepacking.com have put together a neat route for you to follow. Riding south through the Pindos National Park the scenery looks incredible with every photo I have seen more mouth-watering than the last. Because of the warm climate in Greece, the best thing about the route is that it can be tackled from March to the end of October and as some of the other routes on our list can only be ridden in the height of summer why not book a trip to Greece for the end of September where the daytime temperature has cooled down after the scorching summer and the nights are still warm for sleeping under the stars.
All in all the winter doesn’t seem too bad now does it? Yes, some of these routes and races will be under a few metres of snow over the next 5 months and no you can’t go and ride them now but I hope they act as ample fuel to feed your cycling fire over the winter and get you stoked for more outdoor exploration to come. Breakaway picked these out of hundreds of routes, races, rallys and bikepacking excursions as we think they are at the frontier of off road adventure cycling. There are obviously many more routes out there so stay tuned to see if part two emerges from hibernation to offer more long distance goodies for keeping you warm through the winter.