This ride gives you everything: the wealth of Holetown, glimpses of the beautiful Caribbean and west coast beaches, the lush, rural interior, some killer climbs and the wild Atlantic east coast.
70km sounds reasonable, but don’t underestimate this ride. There are four short but sharp climbs which make it tougher than the stats suggest.
Road are generally quiet. Just watch out for the road surface, which can be sketchy.
Route map and profile
Distance: 70 km
Elevation Gain: 1,160 m
Max Grade: 14%
All metrics in this guide are approximate
We love seeing the contrast between the west and east coasts. You climb up from Speightstown and leave the luxury hotels and calm Caribbean waters of the west coast behind you. There are magical views from the top of Farley Hill before you descend down to the quiet east coast where there's minimal development and it feels remote and untouched.
1. Holetown to Ermy Bourne Highway: 0-21 km
It's an easy warm up along the ABC Highway that runs parallel to the west coast. This is best done first thing in the morning, before the traffic gets too hectic. Some of Barbados's prime real estate lines the sea-facing side of this road, but you get the odd glimpse of the Caribbean through un-built plots.
As you turn off the main road, into Speightstown, the first climb begins and it's about 6 km of ascent that varies between about 8% and hardly uphill at all; don't expect to find a rhythm. It's a steep descent down the other side, past beautiful Farley Hill house, all the way to the Ermy Bourne Highway and the quieter, wilder east coast.
2. Ermy Bourne Highway to Jackmans: 21-39.5 km
Ermy Bourne is a sensational road to ride, assuming you can concentrate on the scenery and not the uncomfortably bumpy road surface... There's little development for much of it (making a huge contrast to the west coast): just crashing waves and empty beach to your left.
Let your legs enjoy the flat respite: as you turn inland, you're in for the hardest climb of the ride, Horse Hill. It's only around 4 km long but has an average gradient of 7% and some seriously steep bits within that... our GPS clocked a 14.5% max gradient.
But what goes up must come down and the 10km descent the other side gives your legs a chance to recuperate.
3. Jackmans to Holetown: 39.5-70 km
The penultimate climb is easier than Horse Hill, at 9km it has an average gradient of just 2.5% - though as ever in Barbados, that hides some steeper sections. The last 3km are hardest. At the top you're close to Harrison's Cave, if you fancy a stop.
Another steep descent sees you heading back towards the east coast. But before you hit the surf, you turn inland and upwards once more.
The ride ends with a sting in its tail, Apes Hill: 4+km of tough ascent, with a 6-7% average gradient and some time in double digits too... But it's a fast and furious last hurrah, back to Holetown on the west coast.
You'll find rum shops (which also sell non-alcoholic beverages!) and local bars/cafés in many of the little villages this ride passes through. Harrison's Cave also has a couple of cafés nearby.
More upmarket choices are limited to Holetown, Speightstown (a particularly nice stop, if a bit early on this particular ride) and the ABC Highway that runs between the two. That said, if you can face the diversion and extra climbing that it involves, Bathsheba has some great choices. Particularly Round House, which is practically a Bajan institution.
We enjoyed staying at Sapphire Beach Condos in St Lawrence Gap in the southwest of Barbados. If you stay there, it's an additional 20km each way to the start/end of this ride. Do-able but you'll need to be feeling fit. Alternatively, you could hire a car (or arrange a transfer) to get to the start.
If you'd prefer to stay on the west coast, closer to the start of this ride, check our ultimate guide to cycling Barbados for our accommodation suggestions.
Read our tips for Barbados cycling before you set out.
- There are many sections of broken asphalt on this ride; it's difficult to avoid in Barbados. The Ermy Bourne Highway is particularly poor.
- If you’re on a road bike, we recommend compact or at least semi-compact gearing. We had a 39x25 gearing but the steeper climbs were pretty brutal.
Take particular care as you descend back into Holetown at the end of the ride. It's a speedy descent on narrow roads that become increasingly as you approach the sea.