Do You Think You Could Cycle Coast To Coast?


For anyone looking for a real challenge to their endurance cycling skills, the C2C or Sea to Sea route is perfect.  At bike360 we love the C2C and this page will give you much of the information you need to take part in it.  We cover a little bit of background information, plus the level of fitness you should be at before taking part, how to make the experience more enjoyable and how long it can take to complete the Sea to Sea route from start to finish.

What Is The C2C Route?

The route was developed by the company Sustrans and various Local Authorities, Groundwork West Cumbria, North Pennines Tourist Partnership, Forest Enterprise and the Lake District National Park.  It opened in 1994 and runs from Whitehaven in the west coast of England through to Sunderland in the east.  On a yearly basis between 12,000 and 15,000 cycle the route, with many more hundreds and thousands taking on smaller and shorter sections.

The route starts in the former coal mining and industrial area of West Cumbria, through the scenic northern section of the Lake District to Keswick before it rolls into Penrith and then the lush valleys and sandstone villages for which Eden Valley is famed.  From there riders head up to Hartside and then to the roof of England, the Northern Pennines.  The C2C then heads into the old lead mining villages of Nenthead and Rookhope and down the Durham Dales into the old steel town of Consett.  From there it is an easy ride through the oldest of Britain’s industrial past into Sunderland.

The C2C is made up of 46% cyclepaths and offroad (disused railway lines etc.), 52% minor roads (such as quiet, country roads) and 4% main roads (through villages and urban areas).  It is 147 miles long and is the most popular cycling route in the UK.  The recommendation is that riders tackle the route from the West to the East, as you are more likely to take advantage of the prevailing winds and the gradients will be on your side.  What we mean is that riding from the west to the east means has short uphills and long downhills rather than vice versa.  The tradition of the route is that you must dip your back wheel in the Irish Sea at the beginning of the race and your front wheel in the North Sea at the finish.

Do You Have To Be Fit To Ride The C2C Route?

You do not have to be as fat as a professional athlete to ride the C2C, though it is important that you undertake come training rides first and are in reasonably good condition.  A good guide is if you can ride 10 miles or more without wanting to collapse, then you are fit enough.  The route was created with cyclists with a wide range of ability and experience in mind, but it should be handled in manageable sections determined by your own personal ability, fitness and inclination.  Most riders tackle the C2C in 3 days;some prefer to take it on over 4, 5 or 6 days, so that they can get the most out of the route and scenery.  Some cyclists who are after a real test of strength, endurance and skill complete the route within 24 hours, though this is not for the faint hearted.

Those who are planning to stay in hotels or b&bs along the route, should book in advance to ensure they get rooms.  While those planning on camping while riding the C2C should take into consideration the additional weight of their camping gear when calculating their ride times for each section.

Although you may want to complete the challenge alone, it can be even more fun doing it with a team of workmates, family members or friends.  It could even form the basis of a great team building exercise.

How Long Does It Take To Complete The C2C?

For most people, the C2C is broken into 3 or 4 days of riding.  While others like to ride it in both shorter and longer periods of time, depending on their own situation.  The only riders, who should even contemplate riding the route within 24 hours, are the ones who have trained extremely hard and have plenty of cycling over all terrains under the belt.  The C2C is popular with families who make it a holiday, taking 5, 6, or even 7 days to complete it.  This is often the best way to take on the challenge if you there are riders of varying levels of fitness and experience, or if you just want to enjoy the route for what it is – a trip through some of the most beautiful parts of the English countryside.

It is completely an individual thing the length of time you wish to take riding the C2C, but to give you some guidelines; at bike360 we have listed examples below of great 2, 3, 4 and 5 day trips along the route.

Two Day Trip

First Day

Whitehaven to Garrigill/Alston – 76 miles approx.

Includes big climbs at Hartside and Whinlatter with undulating or flat for the rest of this section

Second Day

Garrigill/Alston to Sunderland – 59 miles approx.

Includes four big climbs within the first 18 miles and then becomes level for the last 40 miles

Three Day Trip

First Day

Whitehaven to Greystoke/Penrith – 50 miles approx.

Includes a big climb at Whinlatter and undulating roads for the rest

Second Day

Greystoke/Penrith to Allenheads/Rookhope – 40 miles approx.

Climbs up at Hartside and as you come out of Garrigil and Black Hill.  A very tough and hilly day

Third Day

Allenheads/Rookhope to Sunderland – 45 miles approx.

Climbs out of Allenheads and then at Rookhope Incline before turning into downhill and level roads to the finish

Four Day Trip

First Day

Whitehaven to Mungrisdale – 39 miles approx.

Undulating roads and a big climb at Whinlatter

Second Day

Mungrisdale to Garrigill – 37 milesapprox.

Includes a big climb to Hartside and then downhill to Garrigill

Third Day

Garrigill to Castleside/Consett – 34 miles approx.

Climbs out of Garrigill, Black Hill, Allenheads and Rookhope.  Toughest day by far

Fourth Day

Castleside/Consett to Sunderland – 25 miles approx.

An easy last day with level and downhill roads leading to Sunderland

Five Day Trip

First Day

Whitehaven to Keswick – 30 miles approx.

Includes a steep climb at Whinlatter and then downhill to Keswick

Second Day

Keswick to Langwathby – 28 miles approx.

Undulating and easy roads with only tricky descent at Fell in Penrith

Third Day

Langwathby to Allenheads – 29 miles approx.

Third day is tough with steep climbs at Hartside, Garrigill and Black Hill

Fourth Day

Allenheads to Consett -26 miles approx.

Climbs out of Allenheads and Roohope

Fifth Day

Consett to Sunderland – 25 miles approx.

The final day is the easiest made up of downhill or level roads all the way to the finish at Sunderland

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