Looking for a new riding challenge this year? Check out the best mountain bike events, races and routes for 2023

Youth mountain bikers at the start of a race
(Image credit: Paul Brett)

Thinking about taking your love for mountain biking to the next level this summer? Considering trying racing or exploring some of the wilder parts of the UK or just getting more involved with the awesome mountain biking community? We've found some of the best MTB festivals, racing and events for the coming year. 

The choice is huge from weekend festivals, to fully supported events that are timed and numbered and others being totally self-sufficient and remote. Make your choice and get your best mountain bike ready for your own biking adventures in 2023.

A drone view the Malverns Classic main arena

The GT Malverns Classic promises the biggest party in UK mountain biking (Image credit: Malverns Classic)

The GT Malvern Classic

Based in Eastnor Deer Park, near Ledbury, Herefordshire from the 24th–27th of August 2023 the GT Malverns Classic is a three-day, family-friendly extravaganza. The biggest party in British mountain biking with a packed weekend for both spectators and riders with challenging and exciting events including flat-out racing across all disciplines. 

If you're looking to test your competitive edge you can sign up for a whole host of events including cross-country, dual slalom, downhill mountain biking, and enduro racing, not forgetting the quad eliminator and pump track challenge.

If you have the kids then there are events for children too, who get in free to the festival if they’re 12 or under, in the form of Rippers Racing and the Balance Bike World Champs.

Downhill mountain biker at the GT Malverns Classic

You can test your competitive edge at the GT Malverns Classic with a host of events to race (Image credit: Malverns Classic)

Away from the racing, there is plenty to do and see with the UK’s largest trade/expo/demo with over 100 brands on display. Live entertainment includes bands and DJs and a licensed bar to enjoy some craft beers and ciders with the tunes, as well as a host of food stalls to tantalize the taste buds.

With free fun fair rides, a pump track, airbag, slacklines, and a retro bike competition with a big cash prize and the bragging rights of having the 'best in show' bike, GT Malverns Classic has something for everyone, its even dog friendly!

For more info on the GT Malverns Classic and to buy tickets, visit malvernsclassic.com

Riders at the marin valley festival

The Valley Burner challenge takes in the stunning Tanat Valley (Image credit: Marin Valley Burner Festival)

The Marin Valley Burner MTB Festival

The Marin Valley Burner festival is a fantastic weekend of mountain biking fun, good food, drinks, and music for the whole family, surrounded by awesome scenery an activity-packed couple of days that everyone will enjoy is promised.

Based in Pen-y-Bont, Wales from Friday 7th July to Sunday 9th July 2023 and hosted by Adrenaline Sporting Events, the Marin Valley Burner is a blend of riding, camping, live music, and having a great time in a chilled environment with your friends and family.

Plenty of fun racing at the Marin festival

Racing your friends in the popular and fun dual slalom (Image credit: Marin Valley Burner Festival)

The festival offers a range of events to kick-start those wanting to get into the sport, free workshops for children. For more experienced riders there's the Valley Burner Challenge, which takes in the stunning Tanat Valley, and the enduro mash-up style that was one of the most popular events in 2022, with four timed lines to ride as often as you wish.

They also offer dual slalom races, which gives you the chance to go against your mates in a fun and chilled set-up. There is also the opportunity to view and demo the Marin bikes range across the weekend.

To buy tickets and find out more, check out Marin Valley Burner festival.

Night riding stage at the Merida EX

Bring your lights for the Merida EX friday night enduro stages (Image credit: Merida EX)

The Merida EX Enduro

We step things up now with some slightly more challenging events. First up is the Merida EX Enduro powered by Shimano which takes place in Exmoor National Park from 15th September to the 17th of September. This one isn't for the faint-hearted and features three big days in the saddle that includes leg-churning climbs, cliff-top singletrack, tight and technical push-yourself steep stuff, and white knuckle hold-on-and-grin moorland hammering. With beautiful, flowing, pristine singletrack, you'll be hard-pushed to find better riding anywhere else in the UK.

However, you'll have to be quick, this event is only open to 80 riders to guarantee no queues, fresh trails, and a friendly, relaxed (but competitive if you want it to be!) vibe.

Stunning views on Exmoor at Merida EX

Stunning views at the Merida EX (Image credit: Merida EX)

The all-inclusive entry is an eye-watering £375, but includes all your food from locally sourced providers (breakfast/lunch/dinner) and a free bar on-site if you fancy a few beers or ciders. There are also comfortable camping facilities, evening entertainment, a gift when you finish the event, and a host of other benefits including the world-famous vintage tea stop.

Fully marshaled and marked routes with 35-45 km of riding each day with around 1,500 – 2,300m climbing per day, a Thursday afternoon warm-up ride and an Exposure Lights Friday night enduro stage means you get a lot for your money.

To find out more and pre-register, check out Merida EX enduro.

Mountain bike rider climbing in the Scottish wilderness on the HT550

Expect some extended periods of hike-a-bike on the HT550 (Image credit: Huw Oliver)

The Highland Trail 550

Starting in Tyndrum Village Hall, your first port of call before you start should be the famous West Highland Way, Green Welly shop. It's an ideal place to stock up on provisions for the monstrous self-supported mountain bike route that is The Highland Trail 550.

Originally put together by veteran endurance mountain biker Alan Goldsmith as a training ride in preparation for the Colorado Trail Race, it soon became apparent that the great trails, beautiful scenery, remote wilderness, and fickle Scottish weather, offered a world-class route for a self-supported mountain bike challenge right here in the UK.

The majority of the route is on excellent trails and quiet roads, but be prepared for some boggy, very technical sections and expect some extended periods of hike-a-bike, even the best climbers and technical descenders will find plenty of terrain to challenge their ability. You will be expected to be competent at navigating as not all of the route is obvious even with GPS.

Stunning views on the HT550 in Scotland

The views on the HT550 will make the climbing worthwhile (Image credit: Huw Oliver)

The 2023 group start is on 27th May and due to extremely high demand for places from riders across the world entries for men and women are now actually closed. However, it's worth keeping an eye out for places coming up before the start date. Due to the hardcore nature of the route you are required to provide a brief description of your multi-day, off-road bikepacking experience with evidence (event results, links to rides on Strava, blogs, etc).   

If you don't secure a place, the route is free to test and ride at any time of year with some would say, crazy people like Steve Bate MBE even attempting a full deep winter ride. Steve had to abandon with frostbite on his toes, so beware! The ideal period is around late spring, but it's Scotland, so expect four seasons in one day.

Find out more details, the rules, and maybe secure a place if you dare at Highland Trail 550.

Two riders ready for the start of the Pennine Rally

Our very own Graham and partner Ruby ready for the Pennine Rally (Image credit: Rapha)

The Pennine Rally

Another big summer mountain bike adventure, the Rapha Pennine Rally is an epic ride! With 500km of riding from Edinburgh to Manchester with over 8,000m of elevation, you'll need to bring your best climbing legs for this beauty. For those brave enough to enter, all manner of adventure awaits on this self-supported, off-road unforgettable ride along Britain’s mountainous backbone.

Starting in Edinburgh, the route heads off the roads almost immediately into the Scottish capital's local riding routes in the Pentland Hills, before winding its way south to take in some of the finest gravel roads, byways, drovers’ roads, and bridleways that the Pennines have to offer. 

With stunning scenery and remote riding along the entire route, you'll pass through the Scottish Borders, the North Pennines, the Yorkshire Dales, and the Forest of Bowland before the final approach to Manchester and the haven of the Rapha Clubhouse.

If you're seeking inspiration for the Pennine Rally, read our own Graham Cottingham's ride report from last year.

Riders enjoying the test of the Pennine Rally

The Pennine Rally is a great event for riders looking to try out multi-day bikepacking adventures (Image credit: Rapha)
Paul Brett
Staff writer

Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm