Cycling challenges and holidays

  • The British Cycle Quest

    Discovering Britain (and re-discovering my passion for cycling) on ‘The British Cycle Quest’

    In late 2016 after a sixteen-year hiatus I bought two bicycles (Road & MTB) and almost immediately stumbled across two things that really spurred me on and encouraged me to get out on my bike. One was the Fat Lad At The Back brand that sold me some functional clothing that wasn’t skin tight and comfortably accommodated the weight I had gained during my absence from the saddle, and the other was ‘The British Cycle Quest’- a challenge devised and administered by Cycling UK.

    I will summarise my first two years on the BCQ and hopefully give you a feel for why I believe this to be one of the hidden gems of Cycling UK’s work.

    What is the BCQ?

    It's probably the most common question I’m asked when I mention it to people, and the nearest short answer I can give is ‘cycle touring combined with an element of orienteering’. Basically, Cycling UK have set up a scheme whereby every county / region in the country (including Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Shetlands, etc) has six checkpoints which need to be visited by bicycle, added to together this forms a complete list of 402 checkpoints.

    Participants in the BCQ are required to visit each checkpoint and answer a question about that checkpoint, answers are then submitted on question cards which are submitted to Cycling UK for validation. Awards in the form of certificates are gained at 10 and 50 checkpoints, and Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum medals are awarded at 100, 200, 300 and 402 checkpoints respectively.

    One of the attractions about the BCQ for me is its relaxed nature – there are no organised events, no specific routes to be ridden, and no time limits, all Questers need to do is submit at least one answer every five years to be listed on the active Questers list. The Questers that have completed all 402 checkpoints (around 20 to date) have generally taken around 8-10 years to complete the Quest, and many Quester will never complete the entire Quest but will always have it as an aspiration.

    How do you get started?

    Participation in the quest is essentially free as the question book can be downloaded from the Cycling UK BCQ page as a PDF. If you wish to submit answers for validation there is a small charge for question cards – each card can accommodate ten answers, and the full set can be purchased for around £15. Certificates are free and there is a small charge to cover the cost of medals when those are gained. But if you don’t want the awards then the Quest is free.

    As there are six checkpoints in every county there is almost certainly going to be some that are local to anyone looking to start the Quest so getting started is easy. The majority of the checkpoints tend to be in places of historic interest such as monuments, listed buildings, churches, National Trust properties etc, and all are publicly assessible without having to pay any additional fee for entry.

    In general a decent day tour of around 40-50 miles will likely be able to take in two or three checkpoints within the same county or in neighbouring counties, and in some places such as Greater London or the Isle of Wight all six can be covered in shorter distances, and because the rules of the BCQ allow you to drive or take public transport to the general area visiting checkpoints can often be combined with other activities such as visiting relatives or going on holiday etc so long as you take your bike to get to the checkpoint – I once even managed to combine going on a training course for work with a quick twenty mile ‘training ride’ in the evening to a local checkpoint.

    Making memories

    The Quest has taken me to some great places in the last couple of years such as the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, the Hardy Monument in Dorset and Culver Down on the IOW both of which where at the top of ferocious climbs but with views of the surrounding country side that made the effort totally worthwhile. There have of course been the inevitably odd bad day, getting drenched in Surrey after the weather forecast got it completely wrong, and getting the front wheel of my bike wiped out by a supermarket home delivery van in Dorset were probably the only two which after more than thirty days spent questing isn’t a bad ratio.

    The checkpoints for the Quest can (in my experience) be visited on any kind of bicycle as they are all in places where any skinny tyre road bike can go, and I’ve even visited checkpoints on a Brompton – most notably in London where I managed to visit all six in one day, combined with a bit of tourist sight seeing and tube riding so if you have a bike then you also have pretty much the minimum amount of equipment required to compete in the Quest.


    In the space available on relatively short blog post I really can’t do the Quest justice, so I recommend visiting the BCQ page on the Cycling UK website (link below), downloading the question book and giving it a go – it won’t cost you a penny to try it out but I’m sure you’ll be hooked. If you’re interested in more information I have been keeping a detailed online journal of my questing adventures the link to which is also below.


    Cycling UK BCQ page -

    My Questing diary –


    Neil Warwick is a FLampion organises FLAB Social rides in Berkshire. You can find out more about Neil's social rides here on Facebook-

  • Top Cycling Trips on a Budget!

    Tilnar challenge ( This Is Life Not A Rehearsal )

    This unique event takes place on 25th June this year between 6am and 9pm.It’s a simple idea, sign up for the event at Tilnar Cycle Challenge select what category you’d like to enter, there’s something for everyone, all ages and abilities and even the option of doing it on a static bike! You ride whatever route and distance you want for as little or as much as you want. So, whether you want to ride a couple of miles with the kids or set yourself a personal challenge of doing your furthest ever distance this is a fantastic idea that In my opinion the most accessible and inclusive event in the cycling year.

    Entry fee for an Adult is just £2.95 with a £5 donation to charity


    Described by many as 'THE FRIENDLIEST SPORTIVE THEY’VE EVER DONE' our Up North Sportive takes to the roads again and is just the incentive you need to get on yer bike.
    Same routes as last year, the routes have been planned by Fat Lad in Charge Richard Bye, who grew up in Ilkley and has been cycling the surrounding roads for the past 20 years, so you’re in for something exceptional.
    Breathtaking views, historic locations, superbly enjoyable cycling, varying levels of challenge and hills (that goes without saying!).


    Our emphasis is on enjoying the ride so these routes avoid some of the worst lung stinging climbs available and offer interesting, varied, challenging and well balanced rides, that you only get with local knowledge.

    Our objective is to ensure that you have an ace day out, meet some of the awesome lads and lasses in the FLAB community and leave wanting more. Not more to eat however - our lunch stops are legendary!

    There are 3 options, so there is definitely one for you. The three rides overlap and include sections and drink stops which are shared so you have every chance of meeting up with riders who are on the other 2 routes. £30 entry for the 25 mile route. FLAB up North Sportive

    RIDE TO THE SUN –Sunday 17th June 2017 free entry

    Register here-ridetothesun  After cycling 100 miles through the night you arrive on Cramond beach to watch the sun come up.


    UK Cycling events

    UK Cycling events offer a huge range of sportives all over the UK. They offer several distances on every route so there’s something for all abilities.

    The C2C2C -29th June 2017 is a 100 mile charity cycle ride that takes you across Linconshire from Castle to Coast to Castle more details can be found HERE


  • Top Cycling Trips - Splash the Cash

    Lifecycol is the business of Amy and Ian Johnston. They offer pre-organised, structured cycling and fitness breaks. There are two training camps planned in 2017 run in conjunction with Better cycling coaching company and led by Mike Wilson. Bike fitting is on hand to help cyclists improve their riding based on the advice of qualified coaches.

    25th June- 2nd July

    2nd July – 9th July

    Prices start at £550 per person- based on two sharing at their partner chalet down the road which is full catered except for lunch.

    They also offer exclusive, personalised breaks designed for your group’s needs. Prices to stay with Lifecycol at Chalet Avenir start at £835. They are passionate about food and know how extremely important quality nutrition is and offer a 4-course meal with their half board package. Amy is a qualified PT and Yoga teacher and can offer pre and post ride stretching which will help alleviate those aching muscles from climbing the local cols.

    A 75 minute transfer from Geneva airport, the stunning Chalet Avenir is in Morzine in the French Alps, this awesome alpine location is a world class cycling playground that has hosted a stage of the tour de France and L’Etape du Tour and also has world class mountain biking in Morzine and nearby Les Gets which boasts some of the world’s best downhill trails.

    Hot tub and stunning deck for post ride relaxation.

    Bike hire available nearby with top end road and mountain bikes available.

    Lifecycol’s local knowledge and expertise means they can organise and support you on daily rides on varied terrain.

    Visit the lifecycol website for more details

    LEJOG-Land’s end to John O’Groats

    An iconic long distance ride the entire distance of the UK approx 1000 miles depending on which route you take. There are many options for this ride, and you can take a few days or a few weeks, do it self-supported using hostels, camping, B&B’s or doing it with a cycling holiday company who organise the route and move all your bags. I used Peak tours for my supported 10 day LEJOG in 2015 and they were superb. There is also a LEJOG pack available from cyclinguk packed full of all the info you need to organise a self-supported trip.

    Cape town cycle tour

    The annual Cape Town cycletour is the world’s largest timed cycling event with 35,000 riders traveling from all over the world to take part. It’s a 109km route through some spectacular scenery with Table top mountain as a back drop. There are many packages available with some offering guaranteed entry, flights and transfers all included.

    CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 10,  during the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour 2013 on March 10, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa Photo by Greg Beadle/CTCTT/ Gallo Images


    San Francisco to LA

    Cycling tour company More Adventure are offering a 500 mile bike ride along the west coast of California starting in San Francisco and finishing in LA. It’s a 13 day trip but with eight days cycling there’ll be plenty of time for sight seeing.


    L’Etape du Tour

    Etape du Tour is a mass participation event that allows amateur cyclists to ride a stage of the Tour de France on closed roads. The 2017 event takes place on Sunday 16th July where riders will ride stage 18 of the tour in the Alps. This superb package from sports tours international lets you watch the pros in three stages of the tour and ride Etape du Tour.


    If you don't fancy selling a kidney check out our lower budget suggestions tomorrow!

  • Top Cycling Trips - Middle of the Road

    DIY trip to Paris

    Ever fancied cycling to Paris?  This fantastic route from Donald Hirsch gives you turn by turn instructions on cycling from Dieppe to Paris. It also includes information on accommodation options along the route, getting home via Eurostar and route advice if you want to do the ride in reverse and cycle back to Dieppe. I’ve cycled it three times and what I love about this route is that it’s so quiet and as you get into the suburbs takes you into the city through the old hunting forests that surround Paris. It feels like a mini adventure as you are carrying your own gear and navigating yourself. I’ve taken two, three and four days to do this trip and have had a great experience every time. It also works out very good value for money especially if you’re sharing a room and many of the B&B’s offer an evening meal as part of the package.



    The North coast 500 is a circular route around Scotland starting and finishing in Inverness. A challenging ride in some of the most stunning scenery the UK has to offer. I’m sure this ride will become an iconic must do on every cyclist’s bucket list, it’s certainly on mine and I’m hoping to complete it this year. You can plan your own or Sheffield based Pedal Nation are one of the first cycling companies offering it as a supported trip.


    French cycling tours

    There are a lot of companies out there offering cycling holidays in France, recommended by a fellow FLAB Green jersey French cycling tours offer loads of supported rides for all tastes and abilities and also offer special interest tours to the battlefields.

    15219630_1199186206840117_6238064061374746847_n  Way of the Roses 

    At 170 miles long this coast to coast ride crosses Lancashire and Yorkshire. Using minor roads, cycle paths and disused railway lines this route has something for all levels of cyclists. You can do it in one day or take a week to do it a leisurely pace. There’s loads of information on the Way of the Roses website for planning your own trip or there are companies offering a fully supported guided trip.


    Coast 2 Coast

    The 140 mile sea to sea route is best ridden west to east to take advantage of the prevailing wind, it doesn’t happen very often but I once did experience the elusive tailwind…. loads of information is available on the C2C website



    Check out our blog tomorrow if you are up for splashing the cash on an awesome cycling trip!

  • Ade’s Top Tips - for a supported long distance adventure!


    SW1_6746Thinking of taking a cycling trip?

    Combining a holiday and cycling is the ultimate adventure, but there’s a lot to think about, so where do you start?

     We asked experienced cyclist, former Breeze rider and FLambassador, Adrienne Horne for her Top Tips


    1:Type of trip

    Choose what type of tour you want. There are usually two types, a led one where the leader will do all the navigating or a self navigated one.

    The advantages of being in a led group is that you will never be on your own so it’s perfect if you like a bit of company and don’t want to worry about navigating or getting lost. The disadvantages are that you’ll have to ride at the groups pace and you will be riding with strangers, which is great if you like meeting new people, but canbe daunting if you’re shy.

    I personally enjoy self navigation, I feel it’s more of an adventure and I can ride at my pace and stop whenever I feel like it, to take photos, loo breaks etc. without feeling like I’m holding up the rest of the group. I also enjoy my own company or very small groups and I don’t enjoy riding in big pelotons.


    2: KIT KIT KIT

    Trust me having a couple of pairs of decent padded shorts that you’ve worn on plenty of longer distance rides could make or break your trip. You should try out all your kit and get to know what’s comfortable, during the weeks leading up to your ride. Two days into a ride is not the best time to find out that those new shorts you bought have a seam that rub you in the wrong area!Loads of thin layers that you can put on and take off are also very useful because when you are riding all day the temperature will vary greatly.


    3: Food and water

    This has been a big issue for me, as I don’t feel hungry on the bike and all of the electrolyte drinks and energy gels give me tummy ache. I like to eat proper food that I can digest easily but this is such a personnel thing. You need to find out what works best for you during your training rides. I take small zip lock bags with salted nuts, dried fruit, sweeties and cereal bars. Depending on the terrain/distance I try to eat little and often (every 10-15 miles) and drink water or squash. This is just what works best for me, you will have to go out and experiment to see what works best for you.

    ade diet

    4:Be kind to yourself

    You will get tired and if you ask anyone who’s ever ridden a long distance with me I get GRUMPY!! and you know what? That’s ok!I used to get annoyed with myself for having a bad day or struggling up a hill that on any other day I wouldn’t have noticed and I’d have a whole conversation with myself about how I couldn’t do it and how stupid I was to think that I could and how much I hated cycling! I’ve learnt to accept the negative thoughts and just remind myself that I’m human, middle aged and have just ridden 300 miles so it’s okay to have a bad day, feel tired and have aches and pains.

    france 2


    5: Training

    Before you sign up for a big trip, be realistic about how much free time you have to train. It’s a huge commitment and you will have to decline social events etc., as you’ll need every weekend, especially in the weeks before your trip to train. The fitter you are beforehand, the more pleasant an experience you’ll have. Remember that hours in the saddle are more important than average speed and you need to train specifically for your trip, so if there are going to be loads of short sharp climbs, or long gradual climbs, ensure that you train accordingly.


    6: Feed stop game

    You will probably think I’m mad but this is a little mind game I always play on long distance training rides and it has been my savior on those really hard days when I’m tired, everything hurts and the thoughts of another long day cycling is filling me with dread.My favorite tea stop is Tanhouse Farm, which is a 25-mile ride, 13 miles there and 12 miles back. So I break all my long days into four either cycling to Tanhouse or home from there as it’s in small 12/13 mile chunks. So I divide my day up as follows:


    100 miles is divided into four stops,


    25 miles = Morning food

    back on bike but only for another 25 miles until

    50 miles = Lunch

    back on bike but it’s only another 25 miles until

    75 miles = Afternoon feed

    back on bike only another 25 miles until100 miles= cold beer and more food of course



    7: ENJOY !!!

  • Two Lasses in France

    franceOver the last few winters a pattern has occurred, I can’t ride my bike as it’s too cold/wet/dark/icy… I feel miserable as spring seems so far away and I start reminiscing about warm summer days on the bike and how I miss it. So to motivate myself to keep riding I say to myself “mmm if I have a cycling adventure to look forward to it will keep me training over the next few dreary months”.

    On a bleak Sunday in January this year I decided that cycling across France would be a pretty awesome cycling trip. I like an adventure but unlike a lot of intrepid explorers who’re willing to camp and carry their own gear I like a comfortable adventure, which means a warm bed and luggage transfers. I decided to use a company called Peak tours and luckily for me one of my cycling buddies Jo decided she’d join me on my trip.

    We trained as much as we could, which for me, working Mon-Fri was usually restricted to weekends! But I go to the gym during the week and over the months we increased our distances, would ride Saturday and Sunday and find as many hills as we could on our routes. September came around all too quickly and I felt I’d over eaten and undertrained as we arrived in Portsmouth for the ferry to Caen.france 1

    14 days, 874 miles and 65,533ft climbing later…We had an awesome trip there were mountains that I was dreading, as I’m built for descending not ascending, but to my surprise I loved them!! Sometimes we’d be climbing up for miles but they were long gradual climbs with switchbacks and just the odd short steep section. The descents were breathtaking! I even managed to do Mount Ventoux, which believe me were words I never thought would pass my lips.france 2

    I embraced every minute of my trip, even the dark moments when tiredness and my sense of humor was left on the last hill. I’m not super fit, or the fastest cyclist, I’m just an ordinary middle aged women who loves cycling and I feel so lucky every time I swing my leg over “ Doris” ( my bike ) and ride off for 5 or 500 miles, every pedal stroke to me is the start of an adventure.

    In my next blog entry I’ll give you my top tips for doing a supported cycling adventure.


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