United Kingdom · June 6 - 10 2023
RAPHA PENNINE RALLY 2023
500km, 60% off-road, from Edinburgh to ManchesterSOLD OUT
Follow the 2023 Rally here Part long-distance audax, part multi-day stage race; half cross course, half hill-climb, the Pennine Rally is a mud-spattered mishmash of a ride. But for those brave enough to enter, all manner of rewards lay in wait on this self-supported off-road adventure along Britain’s mountainous backbone. Taking in 500km and around 10,000m of climbing it's a stiff challenge, but it's a rally, not a race. Riders have 5 days to make the trip, though those seeking an extra edge can sign up for the express option, setting off two days later and giving you three days to make the trip.
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 four 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. However we’d recommend you get to the border on day 1!
Day 1: Edinburgh to Tushielaw
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
Day 2: Tushielaw to Once Brewed
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.
Day 3: Once Brewed to Tan Hill
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.
Yorkshire Dales- Forest of Bowland
Day 4: Tan Hill to Gisburn
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%. You can then take a quick break in Askrigg before more crossing of hill and dale via the Cam High Road, a 10km long offroad climb which deposits you to the H van at the top of Fleet Moss.
You’ll then descend into 3 Peaks territory and the Ribblehead viaduct before your next resupply at Ingleton, before a road transition into Lancashire and the final climb at Salter fell.
The day ends with the ascent of Salter Fell, Another 10km gravel climb before a stunning descent and Slaidburn.
Day 5: Gisburn to Manchester
The final leg into Manchester, section five, 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.
The day starts with a concerted long off road drag out of Gisburn on the Old Coal Road, before depositing you in Colne for second breakfast.
Colne is probably the first big town you’ve been in for days, expect some footpath shenanigans before a road climb to Trawden and the start of the Pennine Bridleway, relentless in it's sharp climbing.
The major challenge will be Rooley Moor road, the final climb of the day. It’s relentlessly rocky, steep and technical, with the descent’s cobblestones providing no relief.
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.
3 Control Points
Pre event Q & A
Sense of Adventure
What's Not Included
How unsupported is unsupported?
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.
Will I need Insurance?
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 should I sleep?
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.
What bike should I bring?
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.
How do you create equal gender representation?
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.
Do I have to follow the route breakdown? Can I go faster?
We offer two options: Standard and Express.
Standard gives you 5 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.
I want to do it in one go- is this possible?
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.