Inspired by the dark history of when brigands used to roam the Henley Hills, we wanted to bring a Gravelcross event to the Chiltern Hills above that venerable Thames-side town. As we know from our now well established Wildwood event, the Chilterns are a near perfect mix of roads tracks and trails for CX/gravel riding, and spinning out a route a little further up the chain allows us to explore some of the darker, grittier folds of this deceptively demanding range of hills.
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/gravel 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.
68, 50 & 35km course options.