An annual cycling challenge that brings hundreds of bikers through the beautiful hills of the north-east and Moray is gearing-up for an additional event this year – just in case the original plans are impacted by Covid.
Ride The North, established in 2011, has grown from just 37 riders in its initial year to attracting up to 1,000 bookings annually.
It has become one of the highlights of the Scottish cycling calendar, taking challengers on lengthy adventures pedalling through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery.
Although the 2020 cycle was cancelled due to the pandemic, founder Neil Innes is still hopeful the 2021 bike ride – due to take place on July 24 – will manage to go ahead, with 111, 86 and 62-mile route options.
However, “in the face of uncertainty”, Mr Inness has revealed plans for an extra 153-day-long cycling challenge he believes will be “more Covid-proof” – though he is crossing his fingers that both plans will be able to take place this year.
Ride The North 153 will provide cyclists with the opportunity to raise cash for charity and enjoy the great outdoors by tackling 140 free suggested cycling routes all across the north-east and Moray.
Mr Inness says the plans will be of benefit to local businesses like cafes, shops and hotels that have struggled through a year of lockdown restrictions.
Participants will be able to do as much or as little as they want, and gain points for each route completed over the duration of the project, with gold, silver and bronze awards available.
Mr Innes says he eagerly hopes the official Ride the North 2021 will go ahead in July as planned, but, if the pandemic causes problems, he wants the extra 153-day event from May 1 to September 30 to be something for cyclists to look forward to and enjoy.
Mr Innes said: “The key rule will be that one route can be used to collect points only once, so the more ambition you have, the further from home you’ll be going.
“This might be days out or weekends away or even a bike tour staycation.
“The cafe in Fettercairn, the hotel in Cullen, the shop in Strichen, the B&B in Forres, will all benefit from the business of visiting cyclists.
“It’s not great that we might be living under restrictions for a little longer, nobody wants that, but Aberdeenshire and Moray are wonderful areas for cycling and it’s guaranteed that there are lots of great bike rides not too far away that you haven’t discovered yet.”
The keen cyclist and event founder has also encouraged participants in this year’s Ride The North challenges to use them as a reason to support charities, which have been faced with all manner of difficulties during the pandemic.
Mr Innes added: “2020 and 2021 have been rough years for charity income and continued support is so valuable, as the problems charities are still dealing with don’t stop for a lockdown.
“You can use the gold, silver or bronze targets to raise money for a cause close to your heart.”
Completing the bronze challenge will require around 270 miles of biking over the 153 days and silver up to 550 miles.
To secure the gold award will require an incredible 750 miles of cycling on north-east and Moray roads over the summer period, which Mr Innes says would perhaps require a “touring week to obsessively bag points”.
All the routes and resources for the Ride The North 153 event will be free to access, with the fee for participation for those wishing to go for the awards set at £20.
More information about the events and sign-ups are available by visiting www.ride-the-north.co.uk.