From the Pentlands to the Pennines, the route takes you far beyond the beaten path. Experience swathes of the country by bike.
Riders are expected to enter in the spirit of adventure, not a fast finishing time. Choose between our standard five-day route or challenge yourself to the express, leaving two days later with only three days to make the trip.
Riders can enter as either a solo rider or a pair to share the journey.
This year, if you're new to bikepacking and feel like you're lacking practical knowledge, you'll have the option to apply for our Rallycard. Four riders will be selected to receive special bikepacking training in mechanics, route planning and camping to demystify the process.
The Pennine Rally is committed to getting more people bikepacking. We proudly stand by an equal split of gender identities for the event and actively accept applications from under represented groups in cycling. Every year, at least 50% of our riders are women, nonbinary or trans riders.
All riders are GPS tracked as part of entry, meaning friends, family and dot-watchers can follow your journey.
500km is a long way by anyone’s standards. So, to make it easier we've divided the route into five days of riding with our recommended pace, weighted in such a way as to be challenging but enjoyable. Riders are welcome to adapt this schedule to suit them but keep in mind; it’s a rally, not a race. If you’re planning on completing in three days and under, we suspect you’ll know your own body and pacing better than we do and this will form an extra challenge for you, but we do recommend you get to the border by day one.
Day 1 sees you get quickly offroad, leaving Edinburgh by the waters of Leith and into the Pentland Hills. From here it's byways and drovers tracks to Peebles, your last resupply for 125km, and then the gruelling Radio Tower Climb: 10km of punishing gravel ascent. Then you're freewheeling down to St Mary's Loch, over the Captain's Road and on the lookout for somewhere to camp.
This is the most remote section of the route, the 100km of Nothing. Be prepared for there to be very few options for resupply. You'll be passing mostly through forestry and will navigate the Cut Through at Craik, where some different bike handling skills will be required. You'll run into our 1st control point at Hermitage, before climbing over the border into England and the flowing gravel of Kielder forest.
Make your way through and you are spat out by Hadrian's wall, ready to start the next day.
Once you roll out of Kielder you’re finally into the heart of the Pennines and resupply becomes much easier. It is here that the climbs begin to get long, as the North Pennines AONB tilts subtly, and sometimes blatantly, upwards for 33 km of ex-train line bike path. After our second control at Garragill, you'll be treated to a change in scenery; rolling hills all the way to the Yorkshire Dales. From there it's 18km of up to reach the highest pub in England at Tan Hill.
Day 4 sees a lot of transition between on and off-road climbing and gradients begin to get serious. Some see this as the Queens stage, with 3 headline climbs packed into 100km.
Pick your way through Swaledale via the glorious Swale Trail before encountering the frankly awful Oxnop Scar, a road climb that begins at a very Yorkshire 25%.
After the ascent of Cam High road, you’ll then descend into 3 Peaks territory and the Ribblehead viaduct before a road transition into Lancashire and the final climb at Salter fell.
The final leg into Manchester, is through lumpy Lancashire. It's tough; a real sting in the tail after four days on the road. From the Coal Road outside of Gisburn, the sublime singletrack of selected parts of the Pennine Bridleway to the rough Rooley Moor cobbles, it can really catch you out. You're on the home straight though, and Manchester is on the horizon after the relentless Rooley Moor.
From there it’s cycle routes and little runarounds through the backstreets of Bury and into town to a hero’s welcome at the Rapha Manchester Clubhouse and the camaraderie of your fellow riders with their own tales to tell.
Self-supported events take a lot of planning and it's easy for the anxiety to build up around kit, route, fitness and bike choice. To help make things easier we'll be running Q&A sessions with Pennine Rally route builders, rally directors and riders to make sure you're ready to apply.
The Pennine Rally wouldn't be happening without the help of our key event partners. Here's how they're contributing to the Rally:
Outdoor Provisions are the brains behind The Second City Divide and proud route builders of the Pennine Rally. They'll also be fuelling riders along the way with their fine range of all-natural energy bars and nut butters in compostable wrappers, perfect for exactly this kind of venture.
The Snow Peak story begins in 1958 in Nigata, Japan. Since then, their range of outdoor equipment and apparel has focused on finding innovative ways to help you spend more time outdoors and reconnect.
This starts with comfort and gathering. The campfire, or ‘Takibi-time’ as they like to call it, is a place where you can relax and recharge. They'll be bringing this energy to our first control point in the Scottish Borders as a welcome respite.
Beyond three checkpoints along the route, you will be on your own.
From when you leave Edinburgh, to your arrival in Manchester, you will be expected to provide for yourself. This includes arranging how and where you sleep, when and where you eat as well as getting yourself out of trouble should you fall into it.
There is no broom wagon to sweep you up should you fall badly off the pace or need to abandon. Luckily, the UK is densely populated, and you’re never too far away from a town for help or supplies, even if it might feel like it.
Yes, all riders will be expected to be covered by 3rd party liability and personal injury cover as a minimum. This is to make sure that, should anything untoward happen, you are covered whether it is a minor inconvenience or a major issue.
Being uninsured or underinsured will result in you being unable to start.
Where to sleep will be a big part of the adventure. There’s no correct way to do this, and you could rough it all week or travel from luxury BnB to fancy hotel. We all have different requirements.
When camping, follow the principles of the Scottish Outdoor Code.
It is invaluable guidance on wild camping and land access, so make sure you know your rights before finding a place to kip down. In England please remember wild camping is illegal unless you have a landowner’s permission, though there are plenty of places on the route you can legally bed down.
The YHA run several great facilities on the route and, whilst you’re in Scotland you may be able to take advantage of the sterling work of the Mountain Bothies Association.
Take care to plan your stops, and book ahead where necessary.
There's no 'perfect bike' for this kind of ride. Different bikes will excel on different sections, but this route is designed with gravel bikes in mind. Gravel is many things to many people, but in this case, we mean drop bar bikes with wide clearance and disc brakes. Here’s what we recommend to get the most out of it:
We recommend 35c tyres MINIMUM. It’s going to get tricky out there and the more traction the better, especially when fully loaded.
Clearance is king. The last thing you want is to get gummed up in mud on a bridleway in the North Pennines.
50% of this route is on-road. Small roads, but tarmac nonetheless and we recommend something which isn’t too soul-destroying when you need to make the miles up quickly.
We recommend disc brakes because you will need stopping power when loaded on gravel descents, although you’re more than welcome to prove us wrong.
Small gears for one’s comfort and sanity. A 1:1 gear ratio, such as a 42t front chainring and 42t cog as your lowest gear, is a good place to start.
With this in mind, the main factor is comfort and familiarity. You should run whichever bike you feel most comfortable on for five days of hard riding; riders have completed the route on single-speeds, experimental hard-tails and Dawes tourers with cantilevers and panniers.
We start by enforcing a target of 50% female riders. When we have applications from non-binary riders or those who identify outside of the gender binary, we take places equally from our male and female allocation. For example, in 2022 we had 46 women, 46 men and 6 non-binary riders.
At the Pennine Rally, we're committed to increasing the diversity of participants in cycling events, so it represents the full breadth of riders. The UK's cycling event audience is overwhelmingly male, traditionally 86%, and with only 125 places available the event would rapidly fill up if tickets were open.
By taking applications, we give equity of opportunity to riders from under-represented groups by prioritising their applications and ensuring the field is at least 50% female. It also allows us to give places to riders who are first-timers at events such as these and may need a little more encouragement, prioritising the achievement of finishing the rally over a fast time.
We offer two options: Standard and Express.
Standard gives you five days to finish, and you are of course clear to ride quicker than this. Express gives you three.
500km is a long way by anyone’s standards, and to make it easier we have broken the route down into five days of travel. This is our recommended pace, weighted in such a way as to be challenging but enjoyable. Feel free to adapt this schedule to your own ability and whims but remember: It’s a rally, not a race. There’s no prize for the fastest time and your only real competitor is yourself.
You’ll notice there is no express route breakdown. If you’re planning on completing in three days and under, we suspect you’ll know your own body and pacing better than we do and this will form an extra challenge for you.
Strictly speaking yes, the current FKT is held by Liam Yates at 28H:26M.
However, it sounds like you're looking for a race. This is a Rally, not a Race, we'd recommend you enter the following races:
The Pennine Rally route is available on Fastest Known Times, and we'd love to see what numbers you can put up on the board, but perhaps not during the event itself.
The Rallycard is a programme for keen riders who want to take on Bikepacking but feel like they lack the practical knowledge.
The four successful applicants will get:
Please note that you must arrange your own travel to any in-person events. We will aim to be flexible for the delivery of all training to make sure successful riders can take advantage of them.
The ticket price for the Pennine Rally is £150 per rider, whether you ride solo or in a pair.
This covers your tracker hire, control points, photography, and the logistics that make the Pennine Rally possible.
Despite only being in its second year, Rapha’s Pennine Rally is already a fantastic example of how bikepacking events can and should be run.
The Pennine Rally embodies its tagline of ‘it's a rally, not a race' and the event, as a result, is a magnet for many of the change-makers who are working to create a UK cycling scene that is more inclusive, wholesome, and socially active.
The rally is a perfect balance; no great race to the finish but still an ever-present urge to move and explore every moment of your journey. Rallies remove the gatekeeping that comes along with racing, and they provide a sense of empowerment that allows you to determine your adventure. I can’t recommend entering a rally more to anyone that enjoys bikepacking and wants to try something a little more spirited.