Best UK Charity Bike Rides & Family Cycle Events
Charity bike rides. Why do one? The simple answer is you often get back more from a bike sportive than you put in. But don’t be fooled – you do have to put quite a lot in. It takes time to select an event and organize sponsorship for charity cycling events and you will have to put aside time for training. If you plan to tackle one with the kids it’s even more important to choose one of the best family cycle events for their skills and ages. But one things is for sure, you will have a rewarding and challenging day, and raise money for a good cause. And there’s probably more choice than you know for kids. I’ve pulled together some of the best UK charity rides and family cycle events suitable for different levels of ability to help you decide which one is for you and your family. If you don’t fancy doing one yourself, British cycling events are fun days out or the kids and many have a festival atmosphere…
Why do a charity bike ride with the family?
If you sign up to bike for charity you will likely find yourself on an emotional and physical adventure. You will need to put the effort into get cycle sponsorship. You will need to train for the bike ride. And of course you will need to pedal hard on the cycle challenge of your choice. But the rewards are huge too; you will feel good about raising money for charity, and you will find yourself being stretched and tested along with other like minded people. If you do a far flung ride you may visit places you never dreamed of visiting and tick off an experience on your bucket list. It’s a great thing to do with teens as well, reminding them there’s a world outside their bedroom and worthwhile organisations they can support and raise awareness for. And of course, it’ll give you a shared interest and challenge.
Which charity cycle races accept kids?
There are hundreds of charity bike rides around the world you can sign up to if you fancy raising money for a good cause while stretching your legs. If you are stuck for ideas, a good place to start researching a charity cycle challenge is the internet site JustGiving. They list a wealth of different sponsored cycling events, and if you want to tackle a charity bike ride with friends, family or colleagues, you can join your individual pages together or share a page to reach a team target. To narrow it down and give you inspiration, here are 16 family friendly UK challenges that have caught my eye, with various degrees of difficulty, and a few inside tips from people who have done them.
Single Day Charity Bike Rides
1 Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle – where anyone can go to the palace
This eight mile pedal around London is part of Britain’s biggest bike festival. And best of all you get to cycle round London on traffic free streets. Yes, traffic free London – who’d have thought? The Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle sportive (it’s not a race!) passes iconic London landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Bank of England. You’ll also see lovely views of London as it loops over Waterloo Bridge on this fun and not too taxing bike ride challenge.
The 2020 event is taking place on Saturday 15th August. The route is closed to traffic for eight hours and takes in the Strand and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, returning to the Victoria Embankment on a section of the newly opened East-West Cycle Superhighway. You can do this ride with kids of any age. Check out our post on which bikes to choose for your kids.
2 The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 – a London treat for older teens
Too easy? How about a hundred miles? The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 starts in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, then as the name suggests it follows a 100-mile route on closed roads through the capital and into Surrey. The route is still well known from the London 2012 Olympics, and offers some challenging climbs. The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 finishes on The Mall in central London. This is an adult ride and participants must be over 18, so again it’s one for your older teens. This year’s event takes place on Sunday 17th August 2020, so get training!
3 The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46 and 19- medium distance challenge
The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46 has been created for younger people used to cycling and those likely to find a 100-mile one day challenge intimidating. Riders follow the same course as the 100 for the first 27 miles before diverting onto a route which links up with the hundred mile riders on the last 17 miles through London. The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46 is on August 4th and children need to be 16 and accompanied by an adult. At 18 they can ride unaccompanied.
If you have younger riders, on the same day cyclists over 12 can do a 19 mile ride. Starting at Sandown Park in Surrey, this organised cycle ride follows the final 19 miles of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 route through south west London, going over Putney Bridge to finish on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace. The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 19 was created specifically to encourage younger and newer riders to take part in their first mass-participation cycling event and to provide an opportunity for families and friends to ride together. The annual ballot closes when 4,000 entries have been received. When the ride launched a couple of years ago, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he was certain the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 19 would inspire more people to take to two wheels in the future, “It is going to be a wonderful opportunity for less experienced cyclists to ride through the world’s greatest city on traffic-free roads.” And so it was, and is. This year’s event takes place on 16th August 2020.
4 Pedal for Parkinsons cycle events – easy family rides in the North and Midlands
Families are welcome on the Pedal for Parkinsons charity bike rides; your kids need to be aged 11 for the 20 mile route, and aged 16 or over for the 40 and 60 mile routes for these charity cycle rides 2019. Anyone under 16 must be accompanied by an adult on this relaxed and fun sport cycle. There are three routes nationally every year in June, July and August departing from Stratford Upon Avon, Ripley in Yorkshire and Stirling in Scotland. There are refreshments on route, medals on arrival and family fun games at the charity villages.
5 Fred Whitton Saddleback Challenge – tough challenge for the late teens
The Fred Whitton Challenge is a 112 mile cycle sportive around the UK’s Lake District starting at Grasmere and taking in the Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose passes. Along the way you’ll be treated to the sights of Lakeland beauty spots including Troutbeck, Glenridding, Patterdale and Keswick. This isn’t one for regular families; it’s a very tough ride and you need to be 16 to compete. But it may be worth a look if you have very fit older teens. And it’s always fun to watch!
The hardest parts of the 112 mile charity ride are Hardknott and Wrynose, which appear 90 miles in to the ride, and make it almost as much a psychological challenge as a physical one. Cumbrian Adrian Steele who has tackled the ride twice says the route is completely draining. “In the first half you are always thinking of the distance you still have to go. And even when you get past the half way point there are still two of the worst climbs to go. The steepest section of the lot comes two thirds of the way up Hardknott. I didn’t have the physical endurance or brute strength to get up it first time round and had to get off the bike and push. On the second time around I did manage it.”
Like a marathon, you can’t ever fully prepare yourself for the challenge, “I’d done all the difficult climbs but never together.” says Adrian. But he was encouraged by the atmosphere. “In different places people are spectating and cheering you on. Team 13 is a group of supporters that gets together on Cold Fell. They hand out biscuits and bananas to keep people going. Hardknott and Wrynose closes for the day to traffic but you do get the early birds who cheer you on.”
The challenge locals and riders call ‘The Fred’ is so popular you’ll need to be planning your entry and training about a year in advance. “I’d recommend doing at least 100 miles a week in the months before,” advises Adrian. “And in the weekends leading up to it you should do training rides of 70-80 miles to get your body used to being on the saddle for 9-12 hours, which is how long it is likely to take a first time rider.” Once the challenge starts you can’t ever really relax. “The decent of Hardknott and Wrynose is scary and you cant let the bike go.”
His tips for a first timer? “Cycle with others so you can take turns at the front, and pass the time with chat.” And don’t expect to be the first over the finish line; there are some serious athletes on those hairpin bends. “I know I’m never going to be the first or last,” says Adrian, “but the training is on for The Fred again this year!”
The next Fred Whitton challenge will take place on 7th Jue 2020. Look out for Adrian if you do it!
6 Vitus Dragon Ride – a dragon of a challenge
Riders heading off into the scenic Welsh countryside for this closed road sport event tackle a hilly 88 mile route. The Dragon Ride takes in the Panorama Walk of Barmouth with views of the Vale of Llangollen and features the legendary Horseshoe Pass. The Vitus Dragon Ride is one of the oldest cycling sportives in the UK, It returned to Margam Park near Port Talbot last year and this year the route is being reversed for the first time since 2012, with new sections added. Inspired by the popularity of Italian Gran Fondos in his home country, event organiser Lou Lusardi organised the first Dragon Ride in 2004. There are four different rides in early June. The Macmillan 100 – 100km, The Medio Fondo -153km, the Gran Fondo -223km and the Dragon Devil: 300km.
7 L’Etape du Dales – tough ride with a cut down challenge for families
On May 17th 2020 the newest Etape du Dales challenge ride will cover 110 miles in the Yorkshire Dales in a non competitive race that starts and finishes in Threshfield, near Grassington. It’s a tough race, climbing 3500 metres and only recommended for very fit riders and people over 16 years of age. Amongst other challenges you face the northern ascents of Buttertubs and Fleet Moss, with the summit of the latter in the last 20 miles. But the rewards lie in the scenery; the ride winds up and round beautiful hills and valleys like Dentdale and Garsdale, Swaledale, Hawes and Wharfedale. Feed stations include the highest pub in the UK – the Tan Hill Inn at 528 metres above sea level. If your family isn’t up to the full distance, or you want to try out the terrain of The Dales before committing to the main challenge, a special cut down version may work for you. Check out the website for details.
8 Le Tour de Yorkshire- glorious ride for over 15’s
Staying in Yorkshire, the Tour de Yorkshire sportive allows you to to ride many of the same roads as the professionals do. But get this; you do it first, on May 3rd 2020. Just hope you aren’t still doing it when they turn up! But make no mistake it’s a tough ride through glorious Yorkshire. There are different options depending on your levels of endurance. The long route is 123 kilometres. the medium route 78 and the short route is 50. You can take part if you are over 15. There is a pro finish line, crowds and everything for this open road sportive.
9 The Chiltern 100 ride – the one with the cream tea but not for the casual rider
Another tough ride for adults and grown up kids, the Chiltern 100 cycling sportive is part of the Chiltern 100 Cycling Festival. The open road ride through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty takes in many of the region’s hardest climbs, including Whiteleaf Hill and the innocent sounding Wardrobes. The festival also has a retro-inspired Velo Village, with vintage market stalls at Penn House near Amersham, Buckinghamshire. After your ride you can relax with a cream tea on the lawn. They had me at ‘cream.’
10 The Big Sussex Bike Ride – family riding at different levels
Fancy riding with a celebrity? Every June you can raise funds for sick babies and children along with the TV presenter Davina McCall. Check out Davina’s Comic Relief effort for evidence of her past cycling form. If you need extra incentive there’s a hearty BBQ lunch served at the finish line in the grounds of the East Sussex National Hotel. Davina’s Big Sussex Bike Ride 2019 for Action Medical Research offers something for every level of rider. There’s a 21-mile route for newer riders, a more challenging 40-mile route and a 68 mile ride for the very keen. It takes place on the 14th June 2020.
11 London to Brighton bike ride – the original party ride
The London to Brighton annual charity cycle challenge is not only one of the most iconic mass British cycle events, it claims to be the oldest cycle challenge in Europe, having begun in 1976. The 54 mile ride takes place in June and you can choose from a long list of charities to cycle for. After you’ve left the city and beaten the Beacon you can ride to victory on Brighton coast and relax on the beach or perhaps visit the Village Beach Party. There are chill–out zones with giant deck chairs and bean bags, live music, street food and games. You must be 14 on the day to take part in this 2019 challenge ride but the whole family may enjoy supporting.
12 JDRF Cycle for a Cure bike ride – fun track riding with a child friendly option
Fancy biking around Ford’s test track? The JDRF/Ford Cycle for a Cure bike event lets you buzz around this cool track while helping to fund research into type 1 diabetes. Adults can choose from two distances, 50 km or 100 km. The two routes wind around the test track and the surrounding area, while a child friendly route runs around the test track. A festival atmosphere is promised with type 1 diabetes workshops, guest speakers, street foods and an award ceremony. Take away a free cycling jersey if you finish one of the longer lengths.
13 London’s Nightrider ride – London at night
Nightrider apparently isn’t a sportive, it isn’t a race and it isn’t all about making pedals go round. It’s about enjoying riding at night, about seeing the sights of London and raising money for charity in a novel way. The ride takes place on 6th-7th June 2020 and starts at Lee Valley VeloPark with a 1 mile lap of the road circuit before heading into north London. There’s a 50km or 100km circular route to choose from, (the 100km route is not recommended for beginners,) and both routes take in many of London’s most famous landmarks including Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace.
Jason Wills, who has completed the race twice says seeing the iconic London sites in the middle of the night was one of the highlights, as well as the back streets like Southwark, although not everywhere was quiet. “Piccadilly Circus at 4am was very busy!” He found it to be very well organised with very little traffic. And friendly too. “I rode with three strangers on my last one. I’d done two previously with fellow Diabetes Dads. It’s not too challenging a distance – I ran a half marathon the following morning after the most recent one!”
Nightrider Rides will also happen this year in Liverpool and Bristol.
14 Manchester to Blackpool Night Ride – for older teens only
I’m tempted to sign up for this one. A 52 mile ride from Manchester to Blackpool, taking in great Swathes of the Northwest coast. The Manchester to Blackpool Night Ride 2019 sets off at midnight from the iconic Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground and finishes at Blackpool sea front, where the illuminations will be switched on just for you. And all the other people doing it obviously. You can enjoy sunrise and breakfast after a grand old time in Lancashire and know that you’ve raised money for the British Heart Foundation. (£100 is the minimum sign up.) Not one for the kids as the minimum age is 18 but maybe a ride to do together before they head off to university. There’s just time as this year’s ride takes place on 19th September 2020
Longer Charity Cycling Events
15 Dragon Tour of Wales – for the really dedicated
The Human Race Dragon Ride of Wales expands into the Dragon Tour for 750 riders to give you the experience of stage riding over two or three days. In 2018, the Dragon Tour started at the Glanusk Estate; the site of TV’s Top Gear, at the foot of the Black Mountains, and continued through South Wales’ most technically challenging scenery. This year’s Dragon Tour route is yet to be confirmed.
16 Land’s End to John O’Groats long distance ride – we did this with toddlers
This is the big one for many British cyclists. A ride across Britain from the south to the north. Nearly 1000 miles of glorious English, Scottish and Welsh countryside, biking as far as you can go until you fall into the sea, or jump in to cool down. Many companies organise charity rides from Lands End to John O’ Groats and most people take around a week or two to complete the challenge. You can do it as a family over an extended period of time; we took seven weeks, but then we were riding with three kids under the age of eight. If you haven’t ridden much before you’ll need to train for this one, but just think how pleased you’ll be when you complete one of the UK’s most legendary rides. We found the first hundred miles on the winding roads of the south coast to be a killer, while we enjoyed many stretches of middle and northwest England, gently biking across glorious flat countryside. Bike challenges uk don’t come much wilder than the top of Scotland. It’s a great achievement when you arrive.
Make up your own family sponsored challenge ride
How about a sponsored ‘play’ tour of the north, calling in at fun factories to raise money for children’s charities? Or an educational tour. We’ve always wanted to bike the length of Hadrian’s Wall dressed as Romans to raise money for a local charity. You could explore the National Trust’s cycle routes, or follow a Sustrans Map. Or connect a few together with a theme of your own? You could also follow one of Visit England’s top 10 scenic cycle routes.
Leave a comment below if you have any suggestions for rides or have a tip for riding one of these with kids.