7 Extreme Cycling Challenges You Should Try

two cyclists on gravel

No matter if you're on a group ride, commuting to work or just picking up some groceries from the store, any time spent on a bike is a good thing. 

But when you're looking for a new two-wheeled challenge, where do you turn? 

This answer is different for everyone, as our individual preferences and fitness levels vary greatly. While a far-flung mountain bike adventure might be appealing for some, a classic road tour might be better for others. 

These seven "extreme" cycling events are perfect for when you're truly looking to push yourself and accomplish new things on the bike. These will require some serious preparation in the months leading up to the event, but with the right gear and training plan they're totally achievable by amateur endurance enthusiasts. 

Any Century Ride

Let's start with the basics—your local century ride. For those unfamiliar, most century rides are considered a 100-mile road bike ride and shouldn't be confused with a metric century (100 kilometers, or 62 miles). This is a rite of passage for many cyclists and is an "extreme" challenge that can vary greatly between events, so before signing up, keep in mind the climate (more on this below) and the amount of climbing. 

Click here to find a century ride near you.

Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB 

It's famous for good reason—the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race is packed with technical single track, loose terrain and tons of climbing. It takes place in the beautiful Colorado Rockies, and the entire race stays over 10,152 feet in elevation (climbs to almost 12,500 feet). Note that due to its popularity, you'll either need to do a qualifying event to earn an entry or try your luck by signing up for the lottery. 

Click here to learn more about Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB.

Hotter'N Hell

Remember when we said to keep the weather in mind when picking an event? Hotter'N Hell is the largest single-day 100-mile ride in the country, made famous for the, you guessed it, 100-degree temperatures and off-the-charts humidity. It's no doubt a sufferfest through Wichita Falls, Texas, but don't worry, the strong support from local volunteers and your fellow riders (and the pools filled with ice) will help you cross that finish line. 

Click here to learn more about Hotter'N Hell.

Absa Cape Epic

Do you have a buddy who loves to suffer as much as you do? The Abasa Cape Epic is an eight-day mountain bike race completed in two-person teams that have included amateurs, professional athletes, Olympic medalists and world champions. It's considered 'hors categorie' by the UCI, as the 2021 edition includes 16,650 meters of elevation over 624 kilometers of single track and trails. Ouch.

Click here to learn more about Cape Epic

Unbound Gravel

Formerly known as Dirty Kanza, this event has become the premier gravel race in the country. Embraced by the likes of professional cyclists Ted King, Ian Boswell and Peter Stetina, it's a race that's a serious test of endurance and willpower for over 4,000 cyclists each year. Historically, the 200-mile gravel grinder around Kansas grasslands has been the ultimate test, but there's an invite-only 350-mile race (must be completed in 36 hours) now, too.  

Click here to learn more about Unbound Gravel

Haute Route Alps

Have you ever wanted to test yourself against some of the most popular climbs featured in the Tour de France? The Haute Route Alps, considered the toughest week-long race in the world, does just that—it covers 800 kilometers through the Alps for a grand total of 21,000 meters in elevation gain. This year marks the 10-year anniversary, and to celebrate the Queen Stage alone includes over 4,700 meters of climbing over 182 kilometers.

Click here to learn more about Haute Route Alps.

Race Across America 

Self-described as the "World's Toughest Bicycle Race," Race Across America is exactly what it sounds like. It starts in Oceanside, Calif. and wraps up in Annapolis, Md.—covering 3,000 miles across the country and including 175,000 feet in elevation gain. The race has been embraced by ultracyclists for over 35 years and can be completed solo or with up to eight people in a relay to make it more manageable.

Click here to learn more about RAAM.

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