Weekender: Sulley Challenge Rides

Ride level Regular cyclist
Distance 63 mi / 101 km
Type of bicycle Road bike
Traffic free
Circular route
A bike leans against a brick wall overlooking a canal
Every March, Leicestershire & Rutland CTC kickstart the cycling season with a day of reliability rides. Neil Dixon is your guide to the 100km route

Route name: Sulley Challenge Ride 100km. 
Start/finish: Lutterworth Town Hall (SP544 844). 
Maps/guides: download a route sheet
Ride Length: 100km/63 miles. 
Climbing: 820m. 
Bike type: Road, touring, or anything with low enough gearing. 
Ride level: Regular. 
More info: Contact organiser Robert Sulley.

The Sulley Challenge Rides are Leicestershire & Rutland CTC’s traditional early spring reliability rides, giving local cyclists a chance to test their legs after the less demanding days of winter. This guide describes the 100km route but if you don’t want to ‘test yourself’ over this distance, or if the weather is inclement (it often is), then there are also shorter options of 25, 50 and 75km.

All the rides start and finish in the traditional market town of Lutterworth. Its most famous historical figure is John Wycliffe, who produced the first translation of the Bible into English in 1374.

The event HQ is in Lutterworth Town Hall, a Regency-style building designed by Joseph Hansom, of hansom cab fame. All of the rides explore quiet rural roads, on routes designed to ensure that a café stop to refresh and refuel is never too far away.

The rides are named for David and Doreen Sulley. David was secretary of the Lutterworth Section of Leicestershire and Rutland DA. He passed away in 1989, and the first memorial rides were organised in 1990. Aside from during lockdown, they’ve continued to this day.

1 Gumley

As you approach Gumley, you’ll find yourself on a ridge in open parkland. If you ride here nearer to summer, you’ll end up in the middle of the local village cricket pitch. Gumley Hall, built in 1764, was once a fashionable place to visit for Leicester’s gentry.

2 Foxton

The village of Foxton is a bit of a local tourist trap in the summer, due to its position on the Leicester branch of the Grand Union Canal. There’s a flight of 10 locks, plus the adjacent Foxton Inclined Plane, built in 1900 as a way of speeding boats through the bottleneck of the lock system.

A bike rests against a gate overlooking Medbourne Brook, a bench sits on the bank

3 Medbourne

The 70km route visits Medbourne, which has a pretty stream and ford. The village is peaceful but becomes boisterous on Easter Monday, when the traditional bottle-kicking competition with rival village Hallaton takes place. Bruising and occasional broken limbs result from this ancient battle to get a barrel (the bottle) across to the other team’s side of the stream.

4 East Carlton Country Park

The 100km route instead crosses briefly into Northhamptonshire and heads for East Carlton Country Park. Situated on a hill above the River Welland, the park was once owned by the nearby Corby Steel Industry, before being bought by the local council for recreational use. It has several interesting historical displays, as well as our most important facility: a café.

A bike rests against a tree in parkland facing a stately home

5 Launde Abbey

Launde Abbey is one of the most picturesque spots in Leicestershire. Surrounded on all sides by hills, this Elizabethan manor house functions as a conference/retreat centre for the Dioceses of Leicester and Peterborough. It has extensive grounds, as well as a very nice café.

6 Kibworth Harcourt and Kibworth Beauchamp

The conjoined villages of Kibworth Harcourt and Kibworth Beauchamp may appear to be of little significance, yet their entire history was explored in the BBC series ‘Michael Wood’s Story of England’. There’s a book of the same name.