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Badlands CX Joins the Growing Gravel Event Calendar

by Holly Blades

CX/Gravel riding is is gaining in popularity by the day it seems, and long term proponents of the trend, CX Sportive, have added another event to their calendar for 2016; Badlands CX from Henley-on-Thames, on November 27th.

CX (or gravel, or adventure road) bikes are attracting a lot of attention, and events to cater for that interest are starting to feature ever more regularly in the calendar. The foremost source of these over the past six years has been CX Sportive, who's mixed surface events are designed with the new breed of go anywhere bikes in mind.

As they put it, "There's a new, no-limits trend in cycling that can be summed up: When the tarmac stops, you don't! It's not about road riding or mountain biking any more, it's just about riding. CX Sportive events are on the leading edge of the 'gravel riding' revolution, bringing you good, fast rides for the latest generation of bikes and for people who just want to keep on riding, wherever their wheels take them!"

Inspired by their Henley Highwayman road sportive, the organisers wanted to bring a CX event to the Chiltern Hills above the venerable Thames-side town. The Chilterns offer an excellent mix of roads tracks and trails for CX/gravel riding, as CX Sportive well understand (their Wildwood CX event in February was the UK's first CX Sportive, launched in 2010, with a course set further south in the Chilterns which is a blueprint of what makes these mixed surface rides tick. Badlands spins out a route a little further north in the chain, allowing you to explore some of the darker, grittier folds of this deceptively demanding range of hills.

As well as aptly describing the hills and trails in winter, the Badlands name also has a link to the area's past. While Henley-on-Thames might enjoy a genteel reputation today, it's hidden history recalls it as a hotspot of dashing villainy, and for awhile at least, the dark hills north of the town were justifiably known as the badlands. Henley was the last stop on the Thames for trading vessels, and as the boats unloaded their valuable cargo, Highwayman and robbers watched from the overlooking hills to make their crooked plans. The truth of these robberies usually far from the romantic image of the gentleman robbers we have today, making this part of the country a forbidding proposition for tradesmen and travellers.

And the very things that made this area perfect for highway robbery, make it ideal for CX riding today. The densely folded and wooded hills conceal a network of lanes, tracks and trails the wind and climb and fall continuously. It's a surprisingly harsh corner of the home counties; where the crumbling tarmac on the back roads can prove perilous for skinny road bikes, but where CX or gravel bikes come into their own. 29ers and 27.5in hardtails will eat up the miles on the dirt, and the constantly switching surface provides an entertaining ride and acts as a great leveller between the variety of bikes on the route.

There are 68, 50 & 35km course options to choose from on the event, and as is the way with CX Sportive's rides, you'll get comprehensive route signing to follow, along with maps and GPS routes to help you out, great rider support in the form of crew vehicles and manned feed stations, plus on site catering, transponder timing with finish line results screen, and finishers medals to mark your gold, silver or bronze time target achievement.

More details of the event, along with online entry  can be found at

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