The number of self-supported, ultra-distance bikepacking races is growing rapidly. Many races are listed below and the differences between various categories of races is summarized. The Wikipedia page on Ultra-distance cycling lists some other types of races that could also be labeled as ultra-distance cycling.
The following table contains some of the more major self-supported bike races that are at least 700 km long, generally stay on paved roads and the clock never stops. For shorter events, see the Ultra-Distance Cyclosportives / Gran Fondos section below. This list is ordered by placing the oldest races that are still being held at the top and then alphabetically.
|Event (with link)||Region||Distance
|Transcontinental Race (TCR)||Europe||4,000||2013-18||NW Europe to SE Europe via various checkpoints with a free choice of route in between.|
|Trans Am Bike Race (TABR)||USA||6,900||2014-18||From Oregon to Virginia along the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail.|
|Japanese Odyssey||Japan||2,500||2015-18||The Odyssey visited several checkpoints around Japan, but was not a timed race.|
|Hard-Cro Ultra Race||Croatia||1,400||2016-18||Visits the 4 corners of Croatia.|
|TransAtlantic Way (TAW)||Ireland||2,500||2016-18||Generally follows Ireland’s Atlantic coast.|
|Inca Divide||Peru||1,800||2017-18||Includes a pass in the Andes mountains at 4720 m elevation.|
|Indian Pacific Wheel Race (IPWR)||Australia||5,500||2017-18||Goes across the southern part of Australia between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.|
|Normandicat||France||900||2017-18||A relatively short race around NW France.|
|North Cape 4000||Italy-Norway||4,000+||2017-18||Cross Europe from south to north, with a free choice of route between checkpoints.|
|Steens Mazama 1000||Oregon, USA||1,600||2017-18||About 10% of the route is on gravel/un-paved roads.|
|Bike China Express 4000||China||4000||2018||Traverses northern China on the Silk Road from Ürümqi to Beijing.|
|3 Peaks Bike Race||Austria-France||1,600||2018||Traverses the Alps, including 3 checkpoints on classic passes.|
|BikingMan Oman||Oman||1,000||2018||The first event of this nature in the Middle East.|
|700||2018||Non-stop climbing on the Mediterranean island.|
|North Cape Tarifa||Norway-Spain||7,100||2018||The longest self-supported race in Europe. Options to finish in Finland (1700 km) or France (5000 km).|
|Race Around The Netherlands||Netherlands||1,600||2018||It would be difficult to find a flatter route than this.|
|The 03||New Zealand||4,000||2018||Complete tour of New Zealand’s South Island.|
|Major races that are no longer held:|
|TransAfrika||South Africa||2,800||2014-16||Stayed mostly in South Africa, but with small sections in Swaziland and Lesotho.|
|World Cycle Race||World||29,000||2012+14||The first road-based bikepacking race. The Transcontintental Race (see above) basically evolved from this.|
See below for events that are primarily for riders with support vehicles but also have a category for unsupported riders.
Off-Road & Gravel Bikepacking Races
Most of this site is focused on road-based events, but bikepacking races started with off-road races (see the History of Bikepacking Races page). The list below includes some of the more major events, but there are also good lists at Bikepacking.com and Bikepacking.net.
The list is ordered by placing the oldest races that are still being held at the top and then alphabetically.
|Event (with link)||Region||Distance
|Iditarod Trail Invitational||Alaska
|The original bikepacking race and still the longest fat-bike race in the world. Started in 1987 using a much shorter route.|
|Race along the Rocky Mountains from Canada through the USA to the Mexican border. It evolved from the slightly shorter Great Divide Race, which ran from 2004-10.|
|Arizona Trail Race||Arizona
|The race started in 2006 using a much shorter route.|
|Colorado Trail Race||Colorado
|800||2007-18||The third of the three classic races in the Rocky Mountains.|
|Grenzsteintrophy||Germany||1,250||2009-18||Runs along the former East Germany-West Germany border.|
|Highland Trail 550||Scotland||900||2013-18||The main bikepacking race in the UK.|
|Black Hills Expedition||S. Dakota
|700||2014-18||South Dakota now has several other bikepacking events, but this was the first in the region.|
|Tuscany Trail||Italy||500||2014-18||The most popular MTB bikepacking race in Europe is around central Italy.|
|Freedom Challenge RASA||South Africa||2,300||2015-18||The main bikepacking event in Africa.|
|Navad 1000||Switzerland||1,000||2015-18||The first bikepacking race in Switzerland.|
|Alberta Rockies 700||Alberta
|700||2016-18||Follows the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.|
|BC Epic 1000||B. C.
|1,000||2016-18||Generally follows the Trans Canada Trail for over 1000 km in the Rocky Mountains of southern British Columbia.|
|French Divide||France||2,100||2016-18||Goes from the Belgian to the Spanish borders on many gravel roads and trails.|
|Hunt 1000||Australia||1000||2016-18||From Canberra to Melbourne via the Australian Alps.|
|Italy Divide||Italy||900||2016-18||From Rome, central Italy, to the Alps.|
|Race To The Rock||Australia||3,000||2016-18||The starting location and route of the race varies each year, but it always finishes at Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) in central Australia.|
|Tour Aotearoa Brevet||New Zealand||3,000||2016+18||Crosses New Zealand on roads and trails.|
|Bikepacking Trans Germany||Germany||1,600||2016-18||Lots of off-road riding over some of the more mountainous regions of Germany.|
|Torino-Nice Rally||Italy-France||700||2016-18||Covers many of the gravel, old military roads in the Alps.|
|Monaro Cloudride||Australia||1,000||2016-18||Traverses the ridgetops of the Great Dividing Range in south-eastern Australia.|
|The 1000 Miler||South Africa||1,600||2016-18||Also incorporates the shorter Karoo Dash race.|
|A-cross The 5||Belgium||1,200||2017-18||Mainly around Belgium, but sections in the 4 bordering countries. A-cross The 3 is a shorter, 500 km version.|
|American Trail Race||USA||8,000||2017-18||Sort of an east-west version of the Tour Divide (instead of north-south), but far longer.|
|Holyland MTB Challenge||Israel||1,400||2018||Goes through the historic places and landscapes of Israel.|
|Portugal Divide||Portugal||?||2018||Checkpoints at the extreme N, E, W, and S points of the country.|
|Silk Road Mountain Race||Kyrgyzstan||1,700||2018||Covers many dirt roads and trails in the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan (between China and Kazakhstan).|
|Terra Australis Bike Epic||Australia||6,500||2018||Ride from the northern to the southern tip of Australia’s east coast.|
|Vistula 1200||Poland||1,200||2018||Mostly follows the Vistula river through Poland.|
Typical cyclosportives are designed to take average cyclists about 4-8 hours, and so are challenging and involve long distances but cannot be classified as ultra-distance. Some longer events include more than 300 km of distance and/or 5,000 meters of climbing in a single ride, many of which are listed below. Click on the name to visit the website. In these events, riders receive support from the organizers at certain locations and group riding is normally allowed.
|AlpenBrevet||Switzerland||276 km||7,000 m|
|Audax Alpine Classic||Australia||320 km||5,500 m|
|Dirty Kanza||USA||320 km||3,000 m||Mostly gravel/dirt roads|
|Dragon Ride Wales||UK||305 km||5,200 m|
|Extrême Ride Bike Pyrénéen||France||563 km||12,000m|
|Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge||New Zealand||640 km||6,400 m||640 km = 4 laps of the lake, 2 lap (320 km) option also exists|
|Mallorca 312||Spain||312 km||5,000 m|
|Milan – San Remo||Italy||302 km||2,000 m|
|Liège–Bastogne–Liège||Belgium||273 km||5,200 m|
|Raid Extrême Vosgien||France||550 km||12,000m|
|Sjælland Rundt||Denmark||300 km||2,200 m|
|Styrkeproven Trondheim-Oslo||Norway||543 km||3,600 m|
|Tortour Challenge||Switzerland||550 km||7,000 m||No group riding, many participants have a support vehicle, but riding unsupported is an option. Also 390 km version.|
|Trafalgar Way||UK||500 km||6,800 m||320 km and 356 km options also exist|
|TransScotlandRace||UK||540 km||5,800 m||More like a mini-TCR than a cyclosportif|
|TransWalesRace||UK||346 km||6,200 m||More like a mini-TCR than a cyclosportif|
|Tour du Mont Blanc||France, Switzerland, Italy||330 km||8,000 m|
|Tuscany Road||Italy||560 km||10,000m|
|Vätternrundan||Sweden||300 km||1,500 m|
|Wysam 333||Switzerland||333 km||3,200 m|
The main difference between cyclosportives and audax/randonee events is that the latter are intended to be non-competitive and non-timed. Audaxes range from 200 km up to 1500 km, with a reasonable number of events in the 300-600 km range. The most important events are Paris-Brest-Paris in France and London-Edinburgh-London in the UK.
See the list on Wikipedia for other audax rides. Some such rides are suggested in the comments to this post on the TCR Facebook page. Ciclo Fachiro organizes many rides in Italy, including some that are over 2000 km long.
In the USA, “century rides” (100 miles / 161 km) are common and there are sometimes double centuries (200 miles / 322 km). These have a similar format to many audax rides. The Wikipedia page lists some of the larger and more famous such rides.
Upon first hearing about bikepacking races, many people compare them to the more famous Race Across AMerica (RAAM) or other supported ultracycling races (many of which are listed on the website of the UltraMarathon Cycling Association). The general length and the fact that the clock never stops are similar, but the nature of those races is very different due to needing support/follow cars. This website mainly focuses on unsupported events. Unsupported and supported races typically attract quite different types of people, although some people have done both.
The Race ACross Europe, Race Across France, Race Across Germany, Race Across Italy, and Tortour Challenge in Switzerland are primarily supported races but also allow unsupported riders. Some 12-hour and 24-hour time trials can be done without external support and often involve doing loops around a certain region, so re-supplying can be relatively easy.
Ride Far focuses on self-supported/unsupported races in which support cars and all other forms of organized support are prohibited. This focus is mainly due to cars being quite unnecessary in most people’s everyday lives and the world would be a better place if people used them less – we would be healthier, the planet healthier, and cyclists safer. Cars are definitely not needed to assist someone who is riding a bike, even when they’re riding very far.
Considering the distances that unsupported cyclists can ride per day without a vehicle behind them, I cannot see why support vehicles are needed in ultra-distance cycling. The fact that riders with a support vehicle can stay on their bikes for a few hours extra per day (due to not needing to search for supplies, find somewhere to sleep, or do maintenance on their bike) and ride slightly faster due to carrying no extra equipment doesn’t make the racing any better to watch.
The effect that small decisions that are constantly being made by racers in unsupported races (about fueling, rest, navigation, etc.) have on the race outcome is one of the most fascinating aspects of these races. In supported races, the rider’s support team makes most of the decisions and so the differences between racers becomes more physical than mental (even though the mental aspect is still very important). For me, this makes supported races less interesting to follow than unsupported races.
Another reservation about supported races is that the cost of doing them is significantly higher than it is for unsupported races due to the support team and vehicle costs. Supported races are therefore more elitist and less inclusive than unsupported races. In unsupported races, it is possible to compete very competitively on an extremely limited budget (see the section on Race & Equipment Costs).
Some people may try to argue that having a follow vehicle and support team makes ultra-distance cycling safer. However, as reported in a guide for RAAM support crews, support vehicles have hit their own racers on multiple occasions. In addition, the presence of support vehicles has not prevented two racers from being killed during RAAM and others seriously injured when hit by other vehicles (see RAAM’s Wikipedia page). Finally, having the perceived safety net of a support crew may make racers push their physical and mental limits further, thereby endangering themselves more than they would if the crew wasn’t there. There is therefore no evidence that having a support crew increases a cyclist’s safety.
Having support vehicles does make sense in relatively short, fast-action professional bike races on closed roads. In those situations, the style of racing may be very different without the support vehicles and the sport would probably not be as entertaining or financially viable. It’s only in ultra-distance racing where I see support vehicles as being unnecessary, and so Ride Far focuses on unsupported cycling.
Please Contact Me if you know about a major event that should be added to any of these lists.
Last minor page modification:
Last significant page update: January, 2018
This page is in Ride Far, Part III: Bikepacking Race Information.