Tough Road Cycle Rides

Tough Rides – Know your cycling performance level

See also: Easy, Moderate & Challenging.

These routes are only for cyclists who train regularly and train hard. They include severe climbs over the Lakeland Passes some with gradients of up to 30% and steep twisting descents over a distance of 113 miles. These are challenging routes for the fittest of cyclists and care must be taken as conditions on the tops, even in Spring can be extreme.

Suitable bikes: Road Bikes, Ladies Road Bikes, Road E-Bikes.

The Fred Whitton Challenge

Fred Whitton was a very popular member of the Lakes Road Club, whose untimely death from cancer in 1988 at the age of fifty, led to the design of this route in his memory. He lived near to all the big Lake District steep climbs and was the main instigator behind the Lakes Road Club activities, always there at training weekends and club runs. What started off as a ride for a few local cyclists, hoping to raise money in his honour, has now grown into a major Sportive for 2500 riders which takes place in early May. Over the years, a staggering £1.75 million has been raised by the event for MacMillan Nurses, the two Cumbrian Air Ambulances, other charities and youth cycling projects. 

The Fred Whitton Challenge was the first cycle sportive in the U.K. and is regarded as the hardest one day cycling event in Britain. It takes a lot of willpower to complete this 113 mile sportive taking in climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott, Wrynose and Blea Tarn passes. It can be a treacherous ride, especially in the cold of early May. Tiredness, exposure to the wind and rain, the severity climbs can all affect your focus and there have been serious accidents over the years. This is a ride not to be underestimated.

The very top riders from the UK, Europe and further afield can complete the route in just under six hours, but eleven hours plus are not uncommon for the average sportive rider.


Fred Whitton – The 4 Seasons Bike Adventure

This epic ride covering 113 miles and the most famous mountain passes can be undertaken all year round at your own pace. It’s a fantastic opportunity to complete one of the most challenging routes in the U.K. allowing you to ride it in your own time at a more leisurely pace over one or more days. You register for the Challenge and your times are recorded at checkpoints on the route. You can take as long as you like to complete and your results will be posted on the website where you can get your completion certificate. Visit for further information on this Lakeland adventure.

This ride is not recommended in winter as the conditions over the passes can be very dangerous often with snow, ice and strong winds. At all times of the year the Lake District can have unpredictable weather with brilliant sunshine giving way to heavy rain so be prepared with extra clothing, waterproofs and sunscreen!

Visit to check conditions.

Training for the Fred Whitton Challenge

Graham, one of our guides, is entered once again for the Fred Whitton this year.  As racing secretary for the Barrow Wheelers, Graham is representing the club in one the most famous cycling events in Europe. The ride can be considered as a ‘right of passage’ for all local keen cyclists to complete as it covers so many of our local roads. Once is never enough though, and it has a wicked appeal to give it one more go. This will be Graham’s fourth time taking part in the event in an attempt to go under 7 hours, which is considered a first class time with only the top 10% of riders achieving that time on the day. You can read Graham’s posts on Facebook to see what is needed to achieve a sub seven hour time and also keep up with longer posts in our News section.

Bike Hire for the Fred Whitton Challenge

We have a large range of carbon or titanium framed lightweight road bikes, for both men and women, including Flagship bikes which are ideal for riding the ‘Fred’. Gearing is very important to enable you to climb all the passes and all these bikes have a compact front with large range cassettes. It is recommended that you hire the bike at least a day before the event to ensure you are 100% comfortable and familiar with it prior to starting the Challenge. A £20 surcharge is added to the hire fee, due to the number of passes climbed.

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