A cyclist who pedalled 2,500 miles across the north-east is calling for local authorities to jump on the back of the success of the Tour of Britain.
For the first time ever, the tour finished in Aberdeen last month – and the elite cyclists will return next year to the start the endurance race.
And with more people than ever also getting on their bikes during lockdown, one keen cyclist is calling for authorities to make use of the “fantastic scenery and great infrastructure” to promote the sport more.
Ian Hendry, along with wife Lorraine for the most part, took part in a 153-day challenge set up by Ride the North‘s founder Neil Innes.
The ride – which linked every town in the north-east together, tackled back roads and “following rivers, castles and distilleries”, the pair completed more than covering 2,500 miles in just 62 rides.
While clocking up the miles has come as a huge achievement to the 56-year-old, Mr Hendry says its time for local authorities to “jump on” the cycling hype “to attract cyclists from other areas, the same as we are attracted to Lanzarote or Majorca”.
He said the adventure brought him to places he has never seen before – despite being a “north-east guy”.
‘We have discovered new countryside’
“For us, we have discovered new routes, new countryside, sometimes not very far from home.
“The routes take you to places where you wouldn’t normally go – and it’s been really really enjoyable,” he said.
“I planned all of this when you couldn’t even leave your house,” he said.
“So I just had to go with maps, photos and a bit of local knowledge.
“Aberdeenshire is just absolutely covered with tiny little roads that have almost no traffic on them.
“I have done about a third of the routes – I went to Strichen and I had never been before in my life – it was a beautiful day the scenery was lovely and the village was really nice.
“Lot’s of us go away on foreign holidays to get a fix of exploring something new but even if the thing that you explore that’s new is somewhere near your house – you still get a bit of a buzz.”
The 2,500+ mile route takes riders on a tour right around the coast, along Banffshire, to Fraserburgh and Peterhead and into Aberdeen.
From there, they headed to Stonehaven and Inverbervie, coming inland to Fettercairn before going up the monstrous Cairn O’ Mount towards Grantown-on-Spey, Forres and back down the Moray coast.
A total of 350 people signed up for the Ride the North alternative challlenge, and could pick as many of the routes as they fancied – with each trail allocated a select number of points decided in terms of difficulty.
Mr Hendry racked up almost 900 points on the leaderboard as he completed the event – which ran from May 1 and will continue until the end of September.
The long-time cyclists now say that it’s time for the route to become permanently sign posted and marketed to attract visitors from across the country – and potentially world-wide.
‘Cycling gets hold of you’
Mr Hendry said: “There are some quite challenging routes but that is part of the enjoyment.
“The beauty about Ride the North is it caters for all abilities.
“There is some rolling countryside which is nice and flat but there is always a hill or two here and there.
“Cycling is one of these things that once you get into it it gets hold of you because it is just so enjoyable – I would encourage anyone to get out on a bike and see if it works for them.”
Jon Barron, active travel development officer with Nestrans plans to work with members of the local authority to plan the next steps towards encouraging people to experience, by bike, the quieter back roads that criss-cross our communities.