19th April 2022
7 min read
Many know the Isle of Wight for its spectacular road cycling routes, but one of the better kept secrets is the vast network of varied and challenging off-road gravel bike routes that is waiting to be explored.
Last September, local cycling expert Tim Wiggins launched the inaugural edition of ‘The Wight Prestige‘, in collaboration with The Garlic Farm at Mersley. The three day event provides off-road gravel cyclists with a bespoke weekend: discovering hidden gravel trails, eating sumptuous food, and staying in one of the beautiful yurts at The Garlic Farm.
On the Friday evening, riders are met off the Wightlink Fast Cat at Ryde Pier Head, and their baggage is transferred safely back to The Garlic Farm by electric cargo bike. Riders then have just a short warm up spin to get over the Downs and reach their base for the weekend at Mersley.
On arrival, guests check into their four person yurts (bookings must be made in a group of four), and can relax with a welcome drink in the communal area in the centre of the five yurts.
A shout from the Garlic Farm Restaurant kitchen comes as stomachs begin to rumble, and riders are welcomed into the cosy restaurant for a two course meal—setting themselves up for the riding adventures ahead…
Saturday is the ‘Big Ride’ day. Riders need not worry though; everything is planned down to the finest detail.
The day starts with a grand breakfast spread in the farm restaurant, before a short ride briefing by the five ‘Local Expert’ riders: the route on the first day is approximately 100 kilometres (62 miles) with 1500 metres of elevation gain. Riders can select to be in one of two ride groups, one slightly faster and one more relaxed.
The riders head out onto the trails of the Isle of Wight: exploring hidden single-track, wide open downland and hidden forest paths. There is plenty of variety on this bespoke made route.
A mid-ride café stop at a secret location is provided: with an incredible spread of homemade cakes and freshly brewed coffee – the perfect fuel for this challenging Island adventure.
With tired legs, and faces covered in dust and smiles, the riders return to The Garlic Farm at the end of the day. Then, after warm showers and a much needed Isle of Wight beer, it is time for another mouth-watering meal in the Garlic Farm Restaurant; all made with fresh local produce, often straight from the farm.
The drinks and the merriment carry on late into the Saturday evening, before riders collapse into their cosy yurt beds and get a good night’s sleep ahead of more adventures the following day…
Sunday’s ride is a shorter 50 kilometre route, but still with some lung-busting climbs and spectacular Island views. After fuelling up again on an impressive (garlicky as you wish) breakfast, the riders take to the trails in pursuit of the best gravel on offer.
Local Experts are always on hand within the group to coax riders up the hills, and warn them of the most challenging descents! The ethos of the rides is ‘fun for all’, and no-one is left behind no matter how steep the gradients become.
Riders return to The Garlic Farm by lunchtime on Sunday, and are welcomed to a full mezze board of fresh garlicky goodness. The group can then choose to have their luggage transported back to the Wightlink Fast Cat at Ryde so they can begin their onwards journey home, having experienced some of the best riding and best food the Isle of Wight has to offer.
Tim Wiggins, founder of The Wight Prestige says “This event was designed to offer gravel bike riders a way to experience the Island at its very best, with no worries about transport, logistics, meals or accommodation. We have combined everything you could wish for in a weekend cycling break, into one inclusive package.
Keeping the event small – there are just 20 weekend rider slots and 5 day rider slots (no accommodation) – means that we can offer a personal experience where riders can socialise and get to know each other in comfortable surroundings. This, as well as aspects like the ‘secret café stop’ on the Saturday ride, really help this to feel like a weekend riding with friends and a discovery of the ‘trails less travelled’.
Last year’s event was a huge success, and everyone went away grinning ear-to-ear. This year we’re looking forward to more laughs, great food, and spectacular riding. See you there!”
To book, visit The Wight Prestige event page.
About Tim Wiggins – Isle of Wight Cycling Specialist
Tim Wiggins is our Isle of Wight Cycling Specialist. An endurance cyclist and bike racer, Tim has ridden and competed all over the world; but the Isle of Wight remains his favourite place to ride a bike. He is the author of top cycling blog Lifeinthesaddle.cc, and works with industry leading brands to create compelling content and captivating stories. Here on the Wightlink blog he offers his personal advice on routes, cycling highlights, café stops and much more. His is a great wheel to follow…