What Is A Bike Marathon Called?

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Cycling is a wonderful pastime that allows you to see your surroundings from a new perspective, is sociable, and is jolly good exercise! Some use cycling to test the limits of their bodies through bike marathons. These events have many different names, so what precisely is a bike marathon called?

Bike marathons are often casually called ‘bikeathons’, but the names of different bike race events differ based on the distances covered. These include audax, randonnée, ultra-distance cycling, or a century. There is no official term for a bike marathon, as there is no official distance for one.

Whether you’re looking into partaking in a bike marathon yourself, supporting a loved one, or merely curious, read on to discover more about why bike marathons are called by different names, the different types of bike marathons, and the distances covered in each of them.

What Is A Bike Marathon Called?

Knowing what a bike marathon is called or how far it can be confusing, because everything from an afternoon ride to the Tour de France may be classified as a cycling marathon. In this piece, I will unpack the reason for this confusion with you and explore different types of bike marathons and their names.

There is no single formalized name for bike marathons as a group category, but rather different names for different categories of ‘bikeathons’. This is because there is no official set distance for a cycling marathon event; therefore, races cannot be considered one and the same.

The distance traveled in a race is, therefore, the main determining factor for what a bike marathon is called. Different lengths of races are considered different categories of events and are thus referred to by different names.

What Is A Cross-Country Bike Marathon?

One of the shortest forms of bike marathons is a cross-country bike marathon (or XCM). These are mountain bike races that cover 25 miles (40 km). This distance is the same length as a traditional running marathon; thus, from a distance perspective, it is technically the most similar to a marathon.

Mountain bike marathons are a very strenuous form of mountain bike racing, where participants compete simultaneously for ranked places across a grueling course. These races are usually undertaken in very steep mountain terrain and therefore pose quite a challenge to participants!

What Is A Century In Cycling?

A century is a cycling term for a 100-mile (or 160 km) bike ride. Cyclists may undertake century rides in a non-competitive context; however, they are sometimes competed in as extreme races. A ‘century’ is the most widely accepted unofficial bike marathon.

A century is often considered the best, most fair cycling comparison to a marathon (which covers 25 miles). This is because research suggests that we expend a similar amount of energy over four miles of cycling as we do over one mile of running, and thus the amount of effort required is considered equal.

What Is Ultra-Distance Cycling?

Ultra-distance cycling takes bike marathons to new extremes! The term ‘ultra-distance cycling’ refers to events that span a distance greater than a century (100 miles).

While these are sometimes competed in as races, they are more often races against time, where the cyclist must traverse the distance within a cut-off time.

The distance covered in ultra-distance cycling events may range from just over a century to far more lengthily distances of hundreds of miles. To avoid confusion, there are thus several categories of events which fall under ultra-distance cycling, including audax cycling and randonneuring.

What Is Audax Cycling?

Audax cycling is one of the main forms of long-distance cycling. This form of cycling event originated in France, where it is still popular today.

Audax cycling is characterized by its long distances (typically a minimum of 124 miles/200 km), the fact that the race is completed in a group, and the fact that it is generally completed in a predefined time limit rather than a competitive race.

Audax cycling is typically completed as a group ride, with all participants sticking together and only stopping for breaks together. Success in audax cycling is measured by completion of the distance rather than by a rank or time of completion.

What Is A Randonneuring In Cycling?

Randonneuring is another long-distance cycling sport, which is a form of audax cycling. In the case of Randonneuring, as in audax cycling, participants compete against the clock to race distances of 124 miles (200km) or more.

Randonneuring differs from audax cycling in that individuals are free to travel by themselves rather than in a group. Participants are also allowed to form groups randomly and stop for breaks to eat or sleep wherever they feel like it, provided they complete the distance in the required time frame.

Super Randonnées are an extreme form of randonneuring, where participants follow a mountainous trail for up to 373 miles (600km)!

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What Distance Is A Bike Marathon?

As discussed above, there is no set distance for a bike marathon, and different types of cycling marathons cover very different distances.

Reviewing all the distances for each category of bike marathon makes you realize that while a century cycling race is considered a bike marathon, so is a randonneuring race – even though it covers at least twice the distance!

This variation means that the distances of self-proclaimed bike marathons differ a lot: from 25 miles (40 km) to an astonishing 853 miles (1372 km), the distance of the world’s furthest bike marathon, the Trans-Siberian Extreme.

How Long Should A Bike Marathon Take?

As ‘bike marathons’ encompass events with such an extensive range of distances, the time taken to complete a bike marathon will vary immensely.

A cross-country mountain bike marathon of 25 miles generally takes cyclists a few hours, while a century generally takes professionals between 12 and 15 hours of continuous cycling to complete.

If you thought this was long, just think about ultra-distance cycling marathons, which may span hundreds of miles! These can often take days or even weeks to complete.


There is no set distance for a bike marathon, and thus these races have no one official name. Different length ‘bikeathons’ are thus known by different names, including cross-country cycling marathons, centuries, and ultra-distance cycling, which includes forms such as audax and randonneuring.

Bike marathons cover at least 25 miles, as this is the length of a running marathon. A marathon covering 100 miles is called a century, while the name ‘ultra-distance cycling’ is given to marathons over a century in length. Audax and randonneuring events typically cover at least 124 miles and are identified by the fact that participants race against the clock rather than each other.


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