Gravel has landed in a big way, with an ever-growing number of events packing the sportive calendar.
The appeal is obvious, as roadies look to trade out traffic and tarmac in favour of more rugged adventures off the beaten track.
From fast and furious races to chilled weekend festivals of cycling, there's a gravel event for you. Here's our pick of some of the best rides to get in your diary for 2024.
1. Cotswold Cross - 24 March 2024
Get your gravel year off to a flying start with Cotswold Cross. Now in its 8th edition, it's a great introduction to gravel riding with a choice of 75km and 58km routes split 50-50 road and off-road in the heart of the stunning Cotswold Hills.
Expect a mix of country lanes, bridleways, green-lanes, byways and private land as you ride through beautiful Gloucestershire. If you haven't yet caught the gravel bug, this might just be the event that swings it.
2. RIDE Wessex Downs Dirty - 14 April 2024
If you're new to gravel then the RIDE Wessex Downs Dirty is a great entry point. Starting from Pangbourne college near Reading, two routes of 34 and 63 miles weave through the North Wessex Downs AONB.
Taking in the historic ridgeway, you'll be treated to over 20 miles of continuous off-road riding along one of Britain's oldest trackways, along with a selection of byways and bridleways taking in everything from gravel lanes and grassy fields to wooded forest tracks.
The route promises far-reaching views across the Oxfordshire and Berkshire countryside, and your entry fee helps support Action Medical Research's work for sick and disabled babies and children.
3. Dirty Reiver - 19-21 April 2024
The Dirty Reiver needs little introduction: it has established itself as probably the UK's best known gravel race, attracting hundreds of cyclists to Kielder Castle Forest Park in Northumberland each April.
Choose from the full 200km Dirty Reiver, the shorter Dirty One Thirty (130km) or the Dirty Sixty Fiver (65km). All routes feature plenty of ups and downs on forest gravel roads with regular feed stations along the way. Between checkpoints you're on your own, enjoying spectacular views of this remote region around the Scottish frontier.
The Reiver also welcomes e-bikes, with the Dirt-E-Reiver inviting riders to test their motors on the 65km course.
Entries for 2024 open at 8am on 1 December 2023.
4. Muck 'N Mac Fest - 3-5 May 2024
Muck n' Mac Fest is a weekend gravel riding festival staged at Traquair House in the heart of the Tweed Valley.
The festival features two fantastic days of gravel riding across some of Scotland's best gravel trails ('muck') and roads (that's the 'mac').
Both days riding start and finish at the festival Village at Traquair House with multiple Enduro-style timed stages. Alongside the riding, you'll be treated to an array of live music, family activities, yoga, introductory bike sessions for kids and much more throughout the weekend.
5. Grand Old Dukes Gravel Fondo - 11-12 May 2024
Grand Old Dukes is a brand new long distance challenge in Gravelfoyle on Sunday the 12th of May 2024.
At 111 miles long with over 10,000ft of climbing this looks like one of the biggest one-day gravel challenges in the UK. Run by the team behind the Dukes Weekender, you can make a weekend of this one too - there will be a Social Saturday which includes a shorter 50 mile Demi-G.O.D ride as well as food and films on the Saturday night.
"Inspired by the iconic Dukes Pass which takes you from Aberfoyle on the edge of the National Park into the very heart of the Trossachs we have created a brand-new monster route which is predominantly off-road," say the organisers.
"You'll be rewarded with open vistas and panoramic views of our iconic lochs and mountains...and of course excellent riding."
Looks like one to pop in the diary...
6. Brother in the Wild Dorset - 17-19 May 2024
Brother in the Wild is a two-day bikepacking, gravel grinding, adventure seeking festival hosted by Brother Cycles.
Set on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, riders can look forward to pine forests, dramatic coastal cliffs, beaches and endless gravel tracks with overnight camping, films and entertainment sandwiched between two scenic, laid-back rides ranging from 30 to 50 miles.
The emphasis is on enjoyment, with the routes dipping in and out of local towns taking in pubs, cafes and wild swim spots along the way.
Last year also saw Brother events in the north of England, Munich and Bordeaux so look out for details of 2024 editions soon.
7. The Gralloch - 18 May 2024
Combining a race, a one-day gravel classic and the first UCI Gravel World Series event to be hosted in Britain, The Gralloch launched in 2023 and looks set to quickly establish itself at the heart of the UK gravel racing calendar.
Event HQ is in Gatehouse of Fleet in South West Scotland ("gralloch" is a Scots word for the entrails of a deer) and the hilly route criss-crosses Galloway Forest Park in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere.
It's also a qualification event for the UCI Gravel World Championships, with the top finishers earning the right to compete in the end-of-year champs in Belgium.
8. Dorset Dirt Dash - 25-26 May 2024
Explore the rugged beauty of the Jurassic Coast with a choice of two rides: the Dorset Dirt Dash 5050 is a self-supported bikepacking event over two days, while the Dorset Dirt Dash 100 is "the ultimate one-day gravel grinder".
Like its sister events the Dunoon Dirt Dash (21-22 September 2024) and Cateran Dirt Dash (4-5 May 2024) expect a weekend of fresh air and adventure with a likeminded bunch of fun-seeking cyclists.
Both rides feature 100 miles of cycling over mixed and varied terrain, with the 50/50 split over two days with a campsite party and lavish BBQ in the middle.
How lavish? Well, one year they cooked two deer (one underground wrapped in nettles and wild garlic) and a goat; another time they set up a pub in a field and offered a "music taxi' to ferry your musical instruments to the campsite. No wonder it sells out each year.
9. Rapha Pennine Rally - 28 May - 2 June 2024
"Part long-distance audax, part multi-day stage race; half cross course, half hill-climb, the Pennine Rally is a mud-spattered mongrel of a ride," say organisers Rapha.
"But for those brave enough to enter, all manner of rewards lie in wait high on the fells and deep in the forests on our self-supported gravel adventure along Britain's mountainous backbone."
Having ridden the first edition in 2021, we can confirm all of the above is true. The route from Edinburgh to Manchester is a scenic feast taking in everything from gravel roads, byways, rocky drovers' trails and bridleways - with a generous dollop of quiet rural tarmac too for relief.
Riders navigate their own way along the course using the GPX files provided; there are three check points en route, and the ride is self-supported - entrants must find their own food and accommodation along the way, with wild camping encouraged.
Entry is by application with typically just 125 places on offer; applications will open on 9 January 2024.
10. Frontier 300 - 7-9 June 2024
First held in 2020, the Frontier 300 shakes up the familiar coast-to-coast format with a tasty side order of gravel and bikepacking. Starting at sunrise on the west coast of Scotland, the 300km trail winds across country to finish in a brunch party on the east coast.
Terrain is a 50/50 mix of tarmac and offroad, with feed stations along the way - including the option to grab a few hours sleep at the 270km mark. With a fantastic weekend in prospect we can see this event selling out fast...
11. Gritfest - 21-23 June 2024
Gritfest is a weekend-long event promising 125km of mixed terrain mayhem in Mid Wales. Open to all off-road bikes, the course is 70% off-road and split over two stages, each with enduro-style timed sections: a 65km / 1250m loop of the Upper Towy Valley on day 1, followed by a 53km / 1200m course on the Sunday.
Saturday night sees live entertainment in the event village and with kids' activities and a festive atmosphere it's very much a family friendly event - even if everyone's secretly turned up just to race...
Entries for 2024 open on 1 December.
12. Ekoi Stone Circle - 29 June 2024
"Like Unbound...but with Druids" (Francis Cade), the Ekoi Stone Circle returns for a second edition with a route that takes in Stonehenge on the summer solstice.
Choose from three routes of 55km to 220km, all packed into one long day of spectacular gravel riding with a festival vibe at the finish in Salisbury's historical Old Sarum.
The expertly designed course takes in long sections of 'hero gravel' on the Salisbury Plains and winds through a rolling landscape of forest, trails and back roads - with feed stations and mechanics on hand to keep you racing the sunset.
An epic day out and highly recommended.
13. CX Century: The South Downs Way 100 - 6 July 2024
CX Sportive run a series of excellent off-road challenges, but we've picked out the CX Century for our list as the route is a British classic. Riding the South Downs Way is a rite of passage in mountain biking circles, and completing the 100-mile course from Winchester to Eastbourne in a day is a feat to be reckoned with. MTBs are permitted but if you want the medal you'll need to do it on a fully rigid frame - suspension is cheating here.
There's a shorter 100km option on offer too (and trust us, that's plenty) but with route marking, mechanical support and feed stations laid on, you'll never get a better chance to tick off this iconic ride.
14. GBDuro - 10-19 August 2024
GBDuro is maybe the ultimate gravel ride in the UK: a 2000km "bikepacking enduro" from Lands End in Cornwall, all the way up to the John o Groats on the northern tip of Scotland.
The course follows the Racing Collective's GB Divide route and takes in road, gravel, singletrack "and everything in between". Past editions have seen the route divided into four timed stages, but for 2024 organisers The Racing Collective have shaken things up and this year's edition will be a single stage.
While it is a race there are no prizes - simply completing is an achievement worth celebrating.
For an idea of what to expect, check out the excellent short film of Lachlan Morton's 2019 race on YouTube.
If that's a bit much to be starting with, The Racing Collective also run a series of similar but shorter events across England, Scotland and Wales: check out the programme of Trials at their website.
15. King Alfred's Way - 24-26 August 2024
New for 2024, this 350km, three-day adventure sees riders tackle the King Alfred Way: an iconic off-road route in the South of England.
Taking in parts of the South Downs Way, Ridgeway and historic sites from Wessex, Glorious Gravel say "the riding and the views are only matched by the cold post ride beers and social post-ride evenings."
With a fully signed route, regular checkpoints, luggage transfer and a warm, social atmosphere both on the ride and in the evening, it looks like an ideal way to spend a summer weekend.
16. Raiders Gravel - 29 August - 1 September 2024
"Race or ride", it's your choice on Raiders Gravel which returns with three stages on some of the UK's best gravel trails in Scotland's Galloway Forest Park.
The event is named for the Raiders Road, a 16km gravel trail which features in each of the three stages.
Entries are open for teams of two or solo riders, with separate starts each day for the racers and those looking to enjoy the scenery at a more leisurely pace.
With a social ride the day before the action begins, and a festival back at event HQ each evening, Raiders Gravel shoots for the "optimal mix of competition, adventure, exertion, culture and relaxation."
17. Struggle Borderlands Gravel - 15 September 2024
"At the Northern borderlands of the beautiful yet brutal Yorkshire Dales is the playground for our awesome gravel challenge," say organisers Struggle of their first off-road event.
"Borderlands boasts off-the-scale scenes with 360 degree views as you ride up and down dales. This is no blast along bridleways! With jaw-clenching climbs and testing terrain, Borderlands is your next test of fitness as you explore beyond the asphalt."
Sounds good to us - and there's a road version the day before, if you fancy making a weekend of it.
18. Lakelander Gravel Grinder - 5 October 2024
Ireland's premier gravel cycling event, the Lakelander Gravel Grinder takes riders on a gravel rampage through the forests of County Fermanagh.
The routes - Big Dog 100k and Little Dog 50k - sweep through seven UNESCO heritage forests with up to 1880 metres of elevation, while providing stunning views of countryside and even a Game of Thrones film set.
Gravel, cyclocross, MTB and eBikes are all welcome, with a laid-back atmosphere and first-class support making for a memorable day out.
Now firmly established as top dog on the Irish gravel scene, there's rumours of a new 160km route for 2024... Are you up for the challenge?