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At the point of publishing this page (24 March), nobody really knows whether large events can happen in Scotland in summer 2021.  Nevertheless there WILL be a version of Ride the North regardless.  The ‘original’ event on Saturday 24 July remains ON but in the face of uncertainty, there will be an additional (more Covid-proof) version of event.

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A network of 158 suggested cycling routes around Aberdeenshire & Moray has been published here – Grampian Highlands Cycle Network These routes will link towns that are typically 10-15-20 miles apart, so as to provide lots of suggested bike rides over a staycation summer. For example Inverurie will be linked to Insch, which will be linked to Huntly, which will be linked to Keith, which will be linked to Dufftown, which will be linked to Rhynie, which will be linked to Alford, which will be linked back to Inverurie …and so forth. The routes published will facilitate being pieced together to make round trips of 20 or 200 miles and everything between.  This resource will be free to use for everyone and anyone.  I hope it generates more cycling around our region and brings associated physical and mental wellbeing benefits as well as tourism and hospitality business impacts.

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From this platform there has to be a challenge and this page introduces Ride the North 153.  153 Miles? No!  153 Kilometers? No! 153 Days? Could be!  RtN 153 will begin on 1 May 2021 and will end 153 days later on 30 September. It’s a five month cycling extravaganza that will take place around the whole of North East Scotland on a 1,900 mile/3,000 km network of backroad routes around our region.  You can do a little, you could do a lot, you could go absolutely mad for it and do the lot!

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Now, to spell it out

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Ride the North has always been a challenge to complete and never a race to win and that is what it shall be in 2021.  Every route on the RtN153 will have associated points (supermarket loyalty style) and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to gather those points.  The easier 10 mile routes might allocate 3 or 4 points, the tougher 20 mile rides could be 8 points, lots of the average routes with average hills are worth 5 or 6 points. And yes, there will be a 9 or 10 too!  The more you bite off, the more points you collect. When routes are presented on the website they will have an image like the one shown here that will determine the points value.

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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 & 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.

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So, what’s the challenge? There are GOLD, SILVER & BRONZE levels:

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The bronze level challenge will be to bag 100 points over the 153 days.  To convert that into something more easily understood, I’d expect you to have to cycle something like 250-270 miles over the summer to reach your target.  That might 8 days out doing 35 miles on average or could be a 3 or 4 days out followed by a big weekend of point bagging.  How and where you get the 100 points is up to you.

Never been to New Pitsligo? What a great way to explore!

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The silver level challenge will be to bag 200 points over the 153 days.  To translate that to English, I’d expect you to have to cycle something like 500-550 miles over the summer to reach your target.  For instance that might be 10 days days out doing 50-55 miles or could be a 3 or 4 such days out followed by a long weekend of point bagging.  How and where you get the 200 points is up to you.

Never cycled up to Glenlivet on the Malt Whisky Trail? Speyside is great in summer and where there are hills, there will be points!

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There’s more? Surely there is nobody out there who is thinking of ‘Going for Gold’? …that would be no less than 300 points over the 153 days.  You get the picture, that means a lot of exploring of the North East on days out or weekends away and maybe a touring week to obsessively bag points. You will find yourself in Maggieknockater on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in late September chasing that 5 points you need.  I’d expect you to have to cycle something like 750 miles over the summer to reach your target.  How and where you get the 300 points is up to you.

Never cycled up to the Cairnwell, the highest road in the UK (9 points!!) nor ridden your bike to Pennan on the Banffshire Coast.  You might have to do both to earn the status of Local Hero with a Gold award!

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Questions that might be Frequently Asked:

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NO …it’s additional to it. The event on 24 July remains on. If July is too soon we will defer to August/September. Honest truth is that we might have to accept at some point that it is the only option, but that decision is for a later date.  In such a circumstance I have to acknowledge that Ride the North is my business (as well as a passion over 10 years) and it cannot easily survive two years without an event.  RtN 153 is a contingency plan but I have to run with it before I know what happens to the original plan!

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The plan is influenced by certain assumptions about probabilities of what we can and cannot do in the next few months.  Probably we can do outdoor exercise and probably any restrictions on travel will allow most of us to cycle in Aberdeenshire and Moray and probably there will be interest in ‘staycation’ holidays.  FOR CLARITY, this is not a virtual event that requires solo participation, it is a suggestion to facilitate cycling with your friends, colleagues, neighbours, Ride the North gang, family (if you’ve not seen enough of them) within whatever covid rules apply.  Many of us have been living or working in isolation, so a virtual RtN was not going to involve a turbo trainer in your garage!  Outdoor exercise is not without Covid risk but it will be important for wellbeing in the months ahead.

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First of all I will make it clear that the routes published on the RtN website are free for everyone and everyone to use. If they inspire more cycling in the summer ahead, that’s a good thing for everyone.  If you wish to take part in the RtN 153 challenge to bag some points and tour the backroads of the North East, the fee for participation will be £20. The fee is the same regardless of whether you plan to go for Gold, Silver and Bronze level. The registration will go live in Mon 26 April

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When you register for RtN153 you will be sent an email with an event pack allowing you to plan your participation.  The account you have on the RtN website (referenced above) will be adapted to allow you to log in to record and track your RtN 153 achievements and will give you the option of linking to your ride of each route on Strava.  Registration will also allow you to access event updates, offers from partner hotels, cafes etc. We will, in RtN tradition be creating an event jersey that will be available for a reasonable fee to registered participants (in either one-day or 153-day events).  If you are registered for one of the two versions of RtN the jersey will cost £36.  If registered for both it will be £26.  We will (within Covid restrictions) plan to have mini events as part of RtN 153 (next FAQ for that one)!

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Registration will open on 26 April after we publish all the details. In order to create a new set of data, the RtN 153 will be set up a separate event with a separate fee. Naturally, it transpires that Ride the North (single day version) cannot happen, the fee paid for that event will be refunded as per the terms and conditions.

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That’s great. You can register for RtN 153 as a stand alone event for £20. This will open for registration on 21 April.

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The 153 dimension of this is aimed at those who live in NE Scotland, but if there is a ‘staycation’ summer ahead, we want to have something that will bring people here on cycling trips.  The event pack will include a 4 day, 2 day, 1 day version of the challenge too – naturally targets are adjusted according to the duration.  As noted above there is a plan for bag transfer and there will certainly be at least one While I don’t yet have a schedule, I would like to offer bag transfer services for at least one 4 day and one 3 day bag transfer services.  Whether it’s Deeside, Speyside, Cairngorms National Park, the Banffshire Coast, the Malt Whisky Trail, Castle Country …there is some great cycling out there.

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It is understood that this is possible – there were local restrictions in summer 2020 that would have impacted on a plan like this.  As noted above there will be 4 day, 2 day, 1 day versions of this so you don’t have to take the challenge over the full five months.

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That’s a really good idea!!

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You bet! As you’ll know 2020-21 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, Bronze targets to raise money for a cause close to your heart. You can use the resource created here in any way you want …take on a ride of 20 or 30 miles if you haven’t cycled in a while. OR go for something really ambitious if you are a more experienced cyclist seeking a challenge …100 points in 24 hours? complete the whole network in 2 weeks? Any of our charity partners would be so delighted to hear from you if you want to use the RtN to fundraise.

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Satisfaction! Oh and Kudos on the RtN 153 Hall of fame on this website.  This is a point where my little business needs support and if you complete RtN 153 you have a guaranteed lifetime (either yours or mine!) priority entry on RtN and will never again have to enter a ballot.  You’ll have an option of a place annually. It’s not much, but it’s the best I can offer!