Over 200 miles of cycle tracks, byways and bridleways will come alive this September when the annual Isle of Wight Cycling Festival provides a two-week window of bike riding opportunity on the Island named by the Lonely Planet as one of the best places in the world to go cycling.
There will be over 60 bike rides – some of them challenging and highly competitive, others designed for the sheer fun of taking part. Last year’s festival attracted over 4,400 competitors, participants and spectators but the organisers are hoping for an ever bigger turn out this year because the event has been extended to two weeks and will cover three weekends for the first time from 14-29 September.
From the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty countryside of West Wight to the familiar east coast resorts of Shanklin and Ryde, the Isle of Wight Cycling Festival, again sponsored by cross-Solent ferry operator Wightlink, features rides along quiet country lanes, through picturesque villages, over hilly ridges and on coastal trails by the sea. Whether the biker is a keen novice or a budding Bradley Wiggins, there are themed rides, family bike master classes and a carbon cycle celebration that launches the event on 14 September with a free day of entertainment in Island capital Newport.
Festival sponsor Wightlink carries bikes free on its cross-Solent ferries and is offering participants specially discounted rates for ferry travel. Return tickets are priced at £10 per person for foot passengers travelling on the Portsmouth Harbour-Ryde Pier Head route and £55 for a car ferry crossing for a car and up to six passengers on the Portsmouth-Fishbourne or Lymington-Yarmouth car ferry routes. Call Wightlink on 0871 376 1000* or book online at wightlink.co.uk
Most testing of all will be the Hills Killer, a mountain bike ride in which cyclists take on the challenge of a 13, 26 or 52 mile orienteering event against the clock as they pit their bike against three, seven or fourteen hills. Last year’s participants called it a “really tough challenge” and feedback suggests that those riders who plump for the 52 mile course will need to train hard on similar terrain in the weeks before it takes place on the first weekend of the festival (15 September).
Endurance riders have two contrasting events to choose from. On 22 September the British Heart Foundation will mount its annual Cycle the Wight sponsored road ride. This is a 70-mile endurance ride that traces a route around the Island, following rural and minor roads where possible, and with four different start points where cyclists can join the ride.
A week later on 28 September the Isle of Wight Mountain Bike Centre has created an off-road enduro event to test riders’ skills. A circular trail of approximately three miles of downhill and single-track has been constructed on private farmland at Cheverton Farm in Shorwell for the Wight Mountain 6hr Chevy Chase, promising cyclists a series of challenging rider-built jumps and berms, weaving through woodland.
For full details of the 60+ Isle of Wight Cycling Festival events, visit sunseaandcycling.com.