It’s the time of year when we’re all thinking about New Year’s resolutions, and if you’ve managed to convince a mate or you’re other half to take up cycling, then you’ll want to do a bit of riding together.
The thing is, that if you’ve been riding for longer than them, then you’re going to see your average speed drop quite a bit. And no one wants that.
The good news is that there are lots of sportives to choose from that offer different routes for different abilities, so we’ve teamed up with Decathlon to bring you nine of the best events that let everyone have a great day out, however strong they are.
Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride
Where: Scarborough, Yorkshire
Length: 100km, 75km, 45km
More Information: letour.yorkshire.com
The Tour de Yorkshire is turning into a huge pro race, but away from that is a festival of cycling that includes a great sportive with three different routes to challenge all abilities.
For 2017 riders will tackle the route of stage three of the Tour de Yorkshire, which means lots of climbing, and a few cobbles thrown into the mix too. If you can’t cope with the long 100km route, there are two other, shorter routes to choose from.
Vital kit: B’Twin 700 Warm long sleeve jersey
Riding in the Pennines in April means you can’t always rely on the weather, so if it’s looking a little chilly then this warm long sleeve jersey will help to keep your body at the right temperature to perform.
Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive
Where: Ringwood, Hampshire
Length: 48, 80, 130km
More information: ukcyclingevents.co.uk
For those wanting to test their legs at the start of the season, then the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive is ideal.
Hundreds of riders sign up to this event each year to experience the spectacular New Forest scenery at the start of spring, safe in the knowledge that if they’re bitten off more than they can chew with their choice of route, there’s should be a shorter one to fall back on.
And for younger riders, there’s even a free under 16s event to make it a full family affair.
Vital kit: B’Twin 700 Membrane Waterproof jacket
Likely to be one of the first sportives of your season, there’s a good chance that you might encounter some inclement weather on this ride, and unless you plan to hide under a tree when the heavens open, a good waterproof jacket is a must.
Lincoln Grand Prix Sportive
Where: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Length: 164km, 125km, 97km, 53km
More information: itpevents.co.uk
The Lincoln Grand Prix is an amazing event, with the whole town being taken over with cyclists for one weekend in May, as the professionals ride a tough rolling course the day after us amateurs have faced the same test.
For newer riders the 53km route offers a pleasant ride around the Lincolnshire lanes before a tough finish at the top of the famous Michaelgate cobbled climb in the centre of town, while the longer routes have the same kick at the end, with some tough terrain to wear riders down before that.
Vital kit: 28mm Continental Grand Sport Extra tyres
The cobbles of the Michaelgate climb will require some special kit, and these wide tyres from Continental will help to improve your comfort over the pavé and also give you more traction if it’s raining.
Spy Velo Cyclo-Sportive
Where: Isle of Wight
Length: 160km, 80km
More information: iwsportive.co.uk
If you fancy a late season test, and want to ride some quiet and spectacular roads that you might never normally experience, then the Spy Velo Cyclo-Sportive is an excellent choice.
Starting from Cowes in the north of the Isle of Wight, experienced riders will be tested to their limit by the 160km loop that does a complete circumnavigation of the island, while the 80km route will be just as much of a challenge for newer riders, with constantly rising and falling gradients.
Still, at least you should get a tailwind home if it’s blowing in the normal direction.
Vital kit: B’Twin 500 Seamless arm warmers
This sportive takes in some exposed coastal roads, which in late September could mean some strong chilly winds even if it’s warmer inland. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to have some arm warmers stuffed away in your back pocket to put on if it starts to get cold.
Where: Dumfries, Scotland
Length: 108km, 67km
More information: ukcyclingevents.co.uk
For those north of the border and after a little more adventure, then the Galloway Gallop Adventure Cross event is the perfect late season challenge.
You’ll need some knobbly tyres to cope with the tracks and trails of the Galloway Forest Park, and the spectacular views and thrilling descents will make any tough climbs all the more worth it.
Vital kit: SKS Mudmax + Xtra Dry 3 mudguards
You’ve got to accept that you’re going to be riding through a bit of mud on this sort of sportive, but that doesn’t mean you want to be caked in it. These mudguards will stop your rear wheel flicking mud all the way up your back.
Length: 161km, 130km, 84km
More information: ukcyclingevents.co.uk
Don’t be put off by those distances, as the vast majority of The Arrow is run over pan flat, and very quiet, Lincolnshire lanes.
However, don’t be tempted to set off too fast in search of a high average speed, as the Lincolnshire Wolds are waiting for you in the final quarter of the ride, making for a nasty sting in the tail.
Vital kit: B’Twin Aerofit Mesh jersey
You might have to wear a baselayer underneath this mesh jersey in May, but it’ll be worth it as the jersey is designed to fit close against the skin to be more aerodynamic, which will be really important on this flat course.
Length: 161km, 74km
More information: prudentialridelondon.co.uk
The biggest closed road sportive in the UK, the Prudential RideLondon offers riders the unique chance to take in some of London and Surrey’s most famous roads with no traffic whatsoever (apart from 26,000 other cyclists).
The 100 miler is the flagship event for sportive riders, but the organisers have now introduced a less intimidating 46 mile option that misses out the Surrey Hills, but still takes in London landmarks such as the Olympic Park, Trafalgar Square, and the Houses of Parliament.
Vital kit: Moab Pack sunglasses
After enjoying the ride, the second most important thing that you’ll get out of Ride London is good photos, so make sure that you look calm and collected after 100 miles with these Moab sunglasses to hide your tired eyes.
Tour of Wessex
Where: South West England
Length: Multi-day and single day options
More information: pendragonsports.com
If you’ve not got any plans for the May Bank Holiday weekend, then the Tour of Wessex offers the perfect family weekend away (well, at least we think it does).
For the rider really looking for a real test, this a multi-day sportive that covers up to 520km over the course of three days. However, if you’re not quite up to that yet, then the you can choose individual days and do shorter routes from a relatively benign 102km.
Vital kit: B’Twin Aerofit bib shorts
Being comfortable in the saddle is more important that ever when you’re riding on consecutive days, so invest in a pair (or three) of these high quality bib shorts to make sure you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Where: The French Pyrenees
Length: 169km, 153km, 127km, 69km
More information: www.cyclosport-ariegeoise.com
L’Ariegeoise may not be the best known French sportive, but it’s surely one of the best, with spectacular Pyreneean scenary and the support of enthusiastic locals.
There are no fewer than four routes to choose from, and while the longer routes tackle brutish climbs like the Col de Pailhères and the Plateau de Beille, the shortest route is a much gentler affair with only one long climb of a relatively steady gradient for riders who want to experience cycling in the mountains, without having years of training behind them.
Vital kit: B’Twin 700 Ultralight Windproof gilet
In late June the weather in the Pyrenees should be good, but even if it feels hot when you’re climbing, you’ll soon feel the chill on the descents. Take this gilet and stuff it in your rear pocket, pulling it out to help keep you warm on the way down.