Organised cycling events are a great way to challenge yourself, meet other riders, and discover the UK's breathtaking scenery – so much nicer than the usual smog-bound bike commute.
While the big-name UK cycling events like Ride London and the Dragon Ride have long-since sold out, there are still plenty of great routes with spaces left for this year. From the short to the challenging here are seven of the most awesome.
Bucks Off Road Sportive – Buckinghamshire, 17 May '15
How hard can a meander around the bridleways and back lanes of Buckinghamshire really be?
Based in the Chiltern Hills, this annual event combines singletrack with wider bridleways and quiet lanes. There might not be any big hills, but the terrain is definitely what we would call 'undulating'.
Your bonus reward at this event is free beer at the end
There are 50km, 100km and 150km options (that's almost 100 miles), offering a decent challenge for riders of all fitness levels.
Your bonus reward at this event is free beer at the end. Lovely free beer.
Price: £20 or £22
Plymouth Gran Fondo – Plymouth, 31 May '15
[related_articles]Devon might not be the first place you think of when it comes to tough rides – since it doesn't have any actual mountains – but don't think you're necessarily in for an easy pedal on the Plymouth Gran Fondo.
Set up by organisers Spike Sports to showcase the relentlessly hilly terrain in the region, there are 'piccolo' and 'medio' routes on offer (small and medium if our rusty Italian serves us well) – clocking in at 37 and 72 miles respectively.
The full monty, meanwhile, is a 100-mile route offering a daunting 3,500m of vertical ascent, making it among the very toughest sportives in the UK.
The Gran Fondo route heads out from Plymouth across the ruggedly beautiful Dartmoor and down into the Tamar Valley. Riders then cross into East Cornwall and return along the coast.
Price: £20 or £30
Scott MTB Marathon – Church Stretton, Shropshire – 5 July '15
The Scott MTB Marathon events are the country's premier mountain biking series – with five rounds taking place in England and Wales from April to September.
The Church Stretton event is centred on the Long Mynd, a stunningly beautiful part of the Shropshire Hills – and offers 25km, 50km and 75km route options.
You'll remember the Carding Mill Valley climb for a long time afterwards – but perhaps not so fondly
The 'mini' route is ideal for absolute beginners, with the 50km 'half' route presenting a challenge to most riders. Only fit and experienced riders are advised to take on the 75km 'full' route.
All the routes take in the famous Minton Batch descent – squint a bit and you could be in the French Alps. You'll remember the Carding Mill Valley climb for a long time afterwards – but perhaps not so fondly.
The price of entry also includes camping, entertainment and a pasta party – which is a bit like an Ibiza foam party but with carbs and lycra instead of shots and bikinis.
Price: £29 or £35 for adults, under 16s free
Yorkshire Tour Sportive – Thirsk, 8 Aug '15
Retrace part of last summer's opening stages of the Tour de France through the glorious countryside that Vincenzo Nibali et al took in by entering the Yorkshire Tour Sportive, which offers routes of 33, 79 and 101 miles – starting and finishing at Thirsk Racecourse.
Retrace part of last summer's opening stages of the Tour de France
The route visits Wensleydale and Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and tests riders on the challenging climb of Summer Lodge Moor.
The climbs in the Dales are steep, but with an overall ascent of around 1,200m the epic route will be easier on the legs than many other century sportive routes and you can imagine yourself chasing the yellow jersey on the way.
Price: £23 or £33.
Iron Mountain Sportif – Abergavenny, Wales, 8 Aug '15
Abergavenny is one of those little towns that punches above its weight when it comes to cycling – acting as a hub for riding out into the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons on some of South Wales' best roads.
The full route includes The Tumble, a renowned climb from the Tour Of Britain
Taking place as part of the annual Abergavenny Festival of Cycling, the Iron Mountain Sportif routes cover 20, 50 or 100 miles – with a big party in the town's Bailey Park to look forward to once the riding is done.
The full route includes The Tumble, a renowned climb from the Tour Of Britain which rises more than 390m in around 5km.
If you use Strava, you might like to have a crack at current world champion Michał Kwiatkowski's King of the Mountain time of 13-odd minutes – or not.
Price: £25 or £33.
Tour O The Borders – Peebles, Scotland, 9 Aug '15
Peebles in the Scottish Borders is another town that attracts more than its fair share of cyclists thanks to a vibrant road and mountain biking scene – and brilliant terrain for both.
The Tour O The Borders is a closed-road sportive which takes in some of the quieter lanes and more testing climbs to be found in this green and surprisingly remote-feeling area.
Following a figure-of-eight loop for 74 miles (120km) and featuring 1,430m of ascent – including the Tala and Witchy Knowe climbs – it's a big ride but one that should be within the reach of most cyclists.
Feed stations offer local delicacies such as macaroni pies
Although the entry price is higher than many events, it's justified by the car-free roads and other nice touches like the pro-style number boards and feed stations offering local delicacies such as macaroni pies.
Why not make a weekend of it and check out the world-class mountain biking trails at Glentress or Innerleithen while you're there?
Tough Trough Sportive – Lancashire - 17 Oct '15
The Forest Of Bowland is an often overlooked area of outstanding natural beauty that many people zip past on their way to the Lake District or Scotland.
Cyclists love the quiet, winding roads and dramatic wilderness views
But this relative lack of popularity has made the area a big draw for cyclists – who love the quiet, winding roads and dramatic wilderness views.
The Tough Trough Sportive covers a challenging but do-able 70-mile loop with 1,200m of climbing spread across four big hills – and the rolling terrain in between.
Riders will get to test themselves on the Jubilee Tower, Waddington Fell and Trough of Bowland climbs – each of which is bigger than the one before.
Limited to 250 riders, the event promises to be more relaxed than some of the bigger sportives – and is cheaper too.