Cathedral Challenge

Chichester CathedralWe're running a series of rides in 2020 aimed at people new to group riding or who haven't cycled for a while. They start with a short, 'get to know you' ride that includes a free bike check and progress through longer distances, tackling a series of challenges on the way:

  • Bronze: Havant to Portsmouth cathedral and back
  • Silver: Chichester cathedral and back
  • Gold: Winchester cathedral and back

That might seem impossible to you now, but here's a sample of the stories recent joiners to our rides have to tell:

All of them have surprised themselves with what they can do on a bike. If you fancy finding out for yourself, we'd love you to join us. The rides are all led by accredited ride leaders and we do not leave anyone behind. If you get into difficulties we will split the ride - but that's a rare occurrence.

We made it to Winchester, now we just have to get back again!
We made it to Winchester, now we just have to get back again!

Click on any of these headings for more information, or complete the registration form - without commitment - at the foot of this page...

You need to have a bike and sufficient confidence to ride on roads in a group. If you are concerned that you do not have a suitable bike. or the right type of clothing, see below.

Although the challenge involves cathedrals, the events are not religious. All faiths and none are welcome.

Our oldest rider last time was 84 and our youngest was 11.

Our insurance requires that riders under 16 are accompanied by a responsible adult. Riders aged 17 or 18 must have a parental consent form signed by a parent or guardian for every ride.

There is no upper age limit.

If you suffer a medical condition that might limit your ability to ride, please consult your doctor before joining the ride. Please also advise us of your condition before joining a ride so we can take it into account in our planning. Please note we cannot undertake that anyone on the ride will have first aid or medical expertise.

We start on 18th April 2020, the week-end after Easter, and finish on 4th July. You can join as many rides as you like.

The 2020 challenge rides will take place once a week alternating between Sundays and Saturdays. You're welcome to do both, or mix and match to suit your availability. You can also join any of our other organised rides you fancy.

Our programme looks like this:

  • Saturday 18th and Sunday 26th April: short 'get to know you' rides. They will introduce you to group riding and will include a free bike check.
  • Saturday 2nd and Sunday 10th May: the Bronze challenge, a ride from Havant to Portsmouth Cathedral and back. This is a flat, leisurely ride mostly on cycle paths or cycle lanes.
  • Saturday 16th and Sunday 24th May: we'll take in a few easy hills before...
  • Saturday 30th May and Sunday 7th June: the Silver challenge, a ride through the South Downs National Park to Chichester Cathedral and back. We'll mostly be using country lanes and there will be some undulation, enough to get some scenic views, but nothing dramatic.
  • Saturday 13th, Sunday 21st and Saturday 27th June: progressively longer rides taking in some more hills concluding in...
  • Saturday 4th July: the Gold challenge, a ride to Winchester Cathedral and back.

No. It's entirely up to you which rides you decide to join. We've designed the programme to help you build distance over time, however, so we encourage you to follow the programme if you can.

No. All the rides are circular and will return to their start point (although some riders will leave the ride as we get close to the end if they live near the route). All the starts are near a car park, railway station and bus route (for those with folding bikes).

As the rides progress we hope you'll want to cycle to the start, but it's entirely up to you.

Before the rides, we are happy to help you with:

  • More information if you need it
  • Advice on cycle equipment and clothing (see below)

On the day of the ride, we will provide at least two accredited leaders who will lead the ride in one or more groups. You won't be left on your own. You'll also be accompanied by experienced riders happy to help you with:

  • Riding techniques (including tackling hills)
  • Basic bike maintenance (including fixing punctures)
  • Bike clothing
  • Nutrition
  • Assistance in the event of a mechanical problem
  • And just about anything else you might want to discuss

We also plan to have a support vehicle available to the initial rides to provide a 'take me home' or 'take me to a station' service in the unlikely event it's needed.

We are flexible, we will try to accommodate any rider that can't make the final Gold ride on 4th July.

First of all, we hope you'll enjoy yourself. On our doorstep we have some of the best cycling in the country. We hope you'll enjoy discovering it from a new perspective in good company.

Cycling offers a unique - and low cost - opportunity to face a series of challenges that might look impossible at the outset, but are, in fact, achievable. If you're retired or coming up to retirement, it's rare to find new challenges - but cycling might be one of them. Even if you don't achieve all the challenges within the programme you'll have plenty of other opportunities to continue cycling and meet the challenges later on. However you achieve them, you'll find considerable satisfaction in meeting the challenges that cycling - and the Cathedral Challenge - has to offer.

Then there are the health benefits.

There's a great deal of information on the web about the health benefits of cycling. Just Google "cycling health benefits" to see plenty of articles.

In summary, cycling:

  • Helps your heart and cardiovascular system leading to a drop in blood pressure reducing your risk of heart disease
  • Improves fitness, stamina and strength
  • Reduces fat by burning calories reducing the risk of complications arising from obesity, including diabetes
  • Provides an excellent way to exercise:
    • Doesn't need a lot of self-discipline: it’s a by-product of getting around
    • Has a low impact on joints
    • Can help with specific problems, such as back and knee ailments – but you should always consult your GP before taking up any new form of exercise if you have a health problem
  • Helps you stay physically and mentally active in later years
  • Can relieve stress and depression, improving your self-esteem, mood and mental well-being

We'd love to say that "if you cycle you will lose weight" but, although often true, it's more complex than that because:

  • To lose weight, you need to eat well and exercise - sorry, no short cuts
  • Muscle weighs more than fat, so there's a compensating effect as you get fitter

Finally, we'll present you with a certificate showing the level of achievement you met.

Cycling is a terrific opportunity to challenge people of all ages to achieve something they never thought possible. That's incredibly satisfying for us.

That's it. We don't benefit financially and the club is healthy - we'd love you to join our rides, but we're not desperate for new members.

Reports in the media would have you believe that you risk life and limb every time you get on a bike! That's simply not the case. Just taking the bare statistics:

  • You are more at risk doing an hour's gardening or DIY, than you are spending an hour on your bike.
  • Compared mile for mile, the risk of a cyclist being killed is virtually the same as that of a pedestrian.
  • Cycling UK calculates the general risk of any injury from cycling in Great Britain to be around 1 per 20,000 miles.
  • The risk of death while cycling in Great Britain is 1 in 27.7 million miles.

It gets better, your risk of premature death or serious illness decreases if you cycle because of the health benefits you get from exercise which reduce the risk of, for example:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Depression

Put that way, the risks associated with cycling are significantly lower than those of driving a car.

And it's enjoyable too. We hope that, if you take up the Cathedral Challenge, you'll find that cycling is great way to get around and meet people.

The first few challenge rides are flat, but it's inevitable we will face hills as the challenge progresses.

There are some good techniques we can introduce to you that make tackling hills easier, including:

  • Good use of gears
  • Going slow up the hill (when your inclination is to go quickly to get it over with)
  • Ignoring perspective that makes hills look steeper than they are

And then there's the psychology. The more you believe you can do a hill, the easier it becomes. That's a little circular, but the more hill-climbing you do you'll find that not only will you get stronger, but your self-belief will get stronger too.

You can find out more about tackling hills here.

Finally, our rides are meant to be enjoyable. There's a thrill of overcoming the challenge of a hill. But, if you're struggling, there's absolutely no shame in getting off and pushing. We've all done it. The group will wait for you at the top (although, it's not unusual for people pushing to beat some cyclists to the top).

There's no cost to join any of our rides. They are all led by volunteers.

Portsmouth CTC benefits from insurance cover negotiated by the Cycling UK charity. However, that requires us to ask you to join Cycling UK after you have tried three rides with us. We hope you'll agree the cost of membership is good value for a series of well-led and supported rides including a free bike check and free cycling advice.

But that's not all, while you remain a member, you can join any ride organised by a Cycling UK member group country-wide. You also get free £10m third party insurance cover riding anywhere in the world (besides USA and Canada) whether you are on a Cycling UK ride, or not (but provided you are not employed as a cyclist). You also get:

  • A bi-monthly copy of the Cycling UK magazine 'Cycle'
  • Access to volunteer-run Cycling UK holidays in the UK and abroad
  • Discounts at several outlets and for many events organised by Cycling UK or events partnered by Cycling UK
  • Access to the Cycling UK incident line
  • Knowledge that you are supporting Cycling UK's campaigns for a better deal for cyclists
  • And more

Standard, annual membership costs between £1.83 (for students) to £4 per month. There are concessions for unemployed and older cyclists. There are also reductions for family membership, longer-term subscriptions, disabled riders and carers.

You can find out more about Cycling UK membership here.

Cycling UK members also have access to the members' area of our web site.

Although it doesn't cost anything to join a ride, we usually take time out for a 'coffee stop'. That's how we earned our nickname "Coffee, Tea and Cake". So you'll want to bring some cash to join in. The longer, Gold rides will also stop for lunch. You'll have a choice of eating a packed lunch or getting something to eat from a shop, pub or café.


We've no problem, though, if you want to give yourself a little more incentive to complete the challenges by getting yourself sponsored. We'll document the final challenge you meet with a certificate of achievement so you can collect from your sponsors.

Your bike must be safe to ride on the road. We reserve the right to refuse you entry if there's a serious problem with your bike. Having said that, it's likely there'll be a bunch of people trying to help you fix the problem.

We don't place any restrictions on the type of bike you ride and you'll be able to complete the first few rides on just about any bike.

As the rides get more challenging, you'll feel the effect if your bike needs maintenance or is inappropriate for the type of riding we do. For example, a few of our riders use suspension bikes, but the large majority use much lighter bikes designed for riding on roads. We're happy to discuss types of bike with you at any time, but be aware that there's a huge variety of bikes available (arguably more types of bike than there are types of car) and if you ask three cyclists you can get four opinions!

Please don't, however, go out and buy a bike without getting some good advice. If you don't know what you're looking for there's a real danger you'll waste a lot of money. Also, don't be tempted to give up on a bike just because you find it uncomfortable to start with. Switching from straight handlebars to drop handlebars, for example, can be very uncomfortable for the first few rides (as resale of virtually new bikes on eBay testifies). We can help you find a suitable position on the bike, but perseverance might be necessary.

If you know your bike has problems - or you suspect it might be unsafe or unsuitable - please get in touch well before joining the ride. We'll try to arrange to check it out and give you some help to get it ready for the first ride.

There's some more guidance here.

No. There's no requirement to wear any special cycle clothing.

However, comfort on your bike is arguably more important than fitness or stamina when it comes to completing a cycle challenge. We discuss clothing for a ride - including helmets - here.

It's worth saying this is rarely a problem, even for new riders. We'll be starting with short, easy rides but you will be surprised how quickly the miles roll past when you're cycling.

If you find yourself struggling on a ride, please let the ride leader know (if you're at the back, ask another rider to go to the front for you). Don't suffer in silence until it becomes a more serious issue. There are several things we can do to help:

  • Stop to give you a breather and a chance to have a drink and something to eat
  • Go a little slower - we're not racing, we're out to enjoy ourselves
  • Split the ride so that you can:
    • go at your own speed
    • take a short cut
    • go back to the start early (perhaps via a different destination)
  • We might be able to arrange a support vehicle to provide a 'take me home' or 'take me to a station' service

But, seriously, distance is rarely an issue for new riders. Honest.

We'll slow down, or split the ride to allow faster and slower riders to proceed at their own pace. We will not leave you behind.

Depending on how many riders there are at the start, we might split into multiple groups going at different speeds.

We provide some suggestions here.

You will be riding with experienced riders that will have a range of tools with them, just in case. We can also help you with simple mechanical issues like puncture repairs.

Note, however, that punctures can destroy inner tubes so you cannot rely on being able to repair a puncture. Experienced riders will have spare tubes with them, but we cannot guarantee to have a replacement tube for your bike - you should therefore invest in at least one spare inner tube for your tyres (we can advise which type you need).

"I came way with a huge sense of achievement. I started casual cycling 2 years ago, aged over 60 and am amazed that I have cycled not only my first 100k but also a hilly one."

"As a newcomer to the area the Cathedral challenge was a great chance to meet people and to ride in a safe and supportive environment"

"Free cycle training with tea and cake!"

"The rides felt really well organised, friendly and supportive"

"I would never have thought I could do it (cycle that far... get up that hill... )"

"The Cathedral challenge rides helped me improve my cycling technique, increase my distance and meet some great people. They are well planned, well run and a great way to see the local country side."

"Exploring country lanes with like minded people and stopping for tea and cakes, what's not to enjoy?"

Hopefully, having successfully completed the Cathedral Challenge, you'll want to carry on cycling. And there are plenty of opportunities open to you:

We hope that's encouraged you to take up our Cathedral Challenge. If you need more information, please get in touch with the organisers. Otherwise, please register with us using the form below. There's no commitment on your part, but registration will give us a better idea of numbers and we will be able to contact you if there's a change of plans.

Registration form

Please enter your details to register for the Cathedral Challenge. We promise to use your information only in connection with the challenge. We will not pass it on to anyone else, nor will we pester you with emails. To register more than one person, please submit separate registrations for each one.

    You intend to ride mainly on:

    Your age on 18th April 2020:

    Are you a Cycling UK (CTC) member? (no problem if you aren't):

    All data you enter on this page is treated with respect and in accordance with our privacy policy which we set out here.