Best road events and destinations for 2022

To live your best cycling life, you need to try out these bucket list cycling events and riding destinations.

Best road events and destinations for 2022

Written by
Bruce Lin

Published on

Posted in
Guides

Why ride the same local roads over and over when there’s a whole world out there to discover? To keep things fresh, one of my resolutions this year is to get out of state and explore with my road bike. If you want to live your best cycling life, you should do the same! To help you decide where to go, I made a list of the best road cycling events and riding destinations in the U.S. worth a road trip.

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Best road cycling events

An ideal event has beautiful scenery and a challenging route. But it’s not just that. The best events attract lots of riders and spectators. Nothing can match the energy of riding with thousands of other cyclists. These are my top bucket list road cycling events. 

RAGBRAI

RagbraiPhoto: RAGBRAI

Iowa: July 23-30
Described in three words: Big, weird, beautiful
Difficulty rating: Like going to morning classes during a week of all-night ragers.
Distance: 400+ miles (over 8 days)

RAGBRAI stands for “the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.” Riders talk about this legendary eight-day event the way my weird uncle talks about Burning Man, so you know it’s a good time. You’ll need to average 50+ miles per day across Iowa’s endless rollers (it ain’t flat!), so it essentially becomes an eating contest broken up by bike riding. Though some will race, it’s not really a competitive event, but rather a rolling festival of bicycles, music, and food. 

Most riders use charters who provide support and set up tents so all you need to do is ride. A compliant endurance bike will help keep your body fresh over consecutive days of riding. 

The right ride:

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LoToJa

LoToJaPhoto: LoToJa / Epic Events / Snake River Photo

Logan, Utah / Jackson, Wyoming: September 10
Described in three words: Long, grueling, epic
Difficulty rating: The Gom Jabbar test from Dune. Remember, fear is the mind killer. 
Distance: 202.8 miles, 208 miles (relay)

LoToJa is short for “Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.” At 200+ miles, it is the longest one-day USAC-sanctioned bicycle race in the country. Riders will need to conquer three gorgeous mountain passes in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming to reach the finish line below the Tetons. It’s a grueling test of physical and mental stamina, and just finishing before sunset is an awesome achievement. Do it solo, or team up with up to five friends for a relay. 

With nearly 10,000 feet of climbing, you’ll want a light and efficient bike with forgiving gearing that can help you crawl up the long climbs. 

The right ride:

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Hotter'n Hell Hundred

Hotter'n Hell HundredPhoto: Hotter'n Hell Hundred / Robert Spangle

Wichita Falls, Texas: August 25-28
Described in three words: Hot, hot, hot
Difficulty rating: Walking across hot coals, it all depends on how fast you can go.
Distance options: 100 miles, 100km (62 miles), 50 miles, 25 miles

Hotter'n Hell Hundred gets its name because it’s 100 miles in (usually) 100-degree weather. That may not sound appealing, but every year more than 10,000 riders make their way to Wichita Falls to test themselves against the Texas heat in the largest single-day 100-mile event in the nation. If 100 miles is too much, there are plenty of shorter options, plus a finish line village and a weekend full of events and activities to entertain the rest of the family. 

The course is relatively flat, so if you want to finish well, prioritize aerodynamics to maximize speed and reduce your time in the heat.

The right ride:

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GFNY NYC World Championship

GFNY StartPhoto: GFNY

New York City: May 15
Described in three words: Concrete jungle dream
Difficulty rating: I suggest having at least one completed century ride under your belt!
Distance Options: 100 miles, 50 miles

GFNY (Gran Fondo New York) is a global cycling marathon series, and GFNY NYC serves as the World Championship. Cyclists from around the world come to New York City to take the start line on the world’s busiest bridge, the George Washington Bridge, which is fully closed to cars just for the race. The spirit of GFNY is to treat all riders, regardless of ability, like pros. Even if you’re not racing, you can “Be a pro for a day.” 

The full 100-mile course goes from city streets into the hills for nearly 8,000 feet of climbing. You’ll want to ride a solid all-rounder that blends aerodynamics, light weight, and comfort.  

The right ride:

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Best road cycling destinations

Maybe events and races aren’t your scene, or you want to wait out the pandemic before riding with big crowds. If that’s the case, just pack up your bike and head out to one of these stunning destinations. 

Santa Cruz, California

Described in three words: Beach, mountains, redwoods
Difficulty rating: As hard as the number of climbs you want to crush
Best time to visit: Anytime, though it rains more in winter

I’m staring out the window at all the snow and dreaming about being in Santa Cruz. You can go from the beach to the mountains in a single ride. There are endless opportunities for exploration, just pick a road and go up. My dream goes deep into the local redwood forests so I can get a photo with a gigantic tree and includes a stop at a winery.

In the Santa Cruz mountains, a light and stiff bike is the key to miles and miles of climbing joy followed by glorious twisting descents. 

The right ride:

[product-block handle="2021-specialized-s-works-aethos-sram-red-etap-axs-m-1"/]

Rapid City, South Dakota

Badlands South Dakota cyclingDescribed in three words: Rugged, remote, expansive
Difficulty rating: Make sure you’re accustomed to long rides with few stops.
Best time to visit: Spring and fall

To cyclists already living in popular cycling destinations, South Dakota might seem like a surprising choice. It honestly wasn’t on my radar until our Social Media Manager, Reese, visited and documented the area’s best rides. Seeing such epic and dramatic photos of the Black Hills and Badlands makes me want to go out there and get lost. 

This is the perfect place for and “all-road” or endurance bike that provides more tire clearance and compliance for sections of rough road and dirt. 

The right ride:

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Madison, Wisconsin

Described in three words: This is America
Difficulty rating: Save the beers and cheese for after the ride.
Best time to visit: Warmer months, though it can get muggy in the summer.

Madison is ranked as one of the best cycling towns in the U.S. But it’s when you get out into the country that things really light up. This part of the Driftless Area is full of quiet, winding farm roads that traverse steep hills, forested ridges, and beautiful river valleys. For an epic climb, head to Blue Mound State Park to reach the highest point in southern Wisconsin. 

There are climbs, but this is the American Midwest, not Colorado, so a bike that places more emphasis on aerodynamics will let you speed down flat country roads. 

The right ride:

[product-block handle="2021-trek-madone-sl-7-m"/]

Finger Lakes Region, New York

Described in three words: Lakes, leaves, wine
Difficulty rating: Be in moderately good shape and you’ll love it. 
Best time to visit: Summer, fall for leaf-peeping

People disappear in the Finger Lakes, and there’s a good reason — it’s absolutely beautiful. You’ll encounter horse-drawn carriages and countless great wineries and breweries. But to get the full experience you need to ride around the lakes themselves. You’ll find steep climbs that all lead to amazing views over the lakes. Locals call doing all 11 the “Finger Lakes 11 challenge.” 

This is a great place to sit back, relax, and put in big miles. An efficient endurance bike will help you summit every climb in comfort so you can really enjoy the view.

The right ride:

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There are hundreds, even thousands of great road cycling events and destinations not on this list. So did I get it right? What did I miss? Where are you planning to take your bike in 2022? Let me know in the comments! 

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