Orbit360: Ride For A Reason (#rideFAR) 2021

In 2020 a new event series called Orbit360 emerged on the bikepacking calendar and quickly cemented itself as one of the most successful series, running in a year that was not kind on events. For 2021, Raphael Albrecht, the mastermind behind Orbit 360 is back with another, even more inclusive challenge, Ride for a Reason.

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Photography Carlos Meyer

Two cyclists ride along a misty road


Since taking part in his first ultra-endurance race, the Italy Divide in 2019, Raphael was excited to make his own route for a race. Shortly after finishing the Atlas Mountain Race in 2020, with all subsequent races cancelled or postponed, he felt it was time to introduce a new race format that would fit with COVID-19 regulations. This gravel series would be different to a ‘normal’ ultra-endurance race; the circular route enables a flexible starting point with no fixed finish and makes it more accessible to a wider range of riders.

“The idea was to create a route where people could just start at any point and finish after 360 degrees. The name ‘orbit’ came to mind because it simply is an orbit. 16 routes, like 16 orbits in 16 states in Germany. I’m also very fascinated by astronomy and our universe, so combining the characteristics of circular routes with a ‘spacy’ word was something I really liked.”

Raphael searching through his packs during the Race Around Rwanda

Two riders at night, brightly lit

Ride for a Reason between 27 February and 31 March 2021

To bring the format to an even bigger audience, this year, from February 27 to March 31, riders from all over the world can participate in the #rideFAR challenge. This time, riders are given the chance to make their own routes based on their preferences of surface and face no limits to the riding location. There are two distances: 360 km or 180 km, that in an Orbit-style fashion need to be ridden in a loop, either solo or in a pair. To be listed on the leader board, or to be featured in a best-of collection for the most inspiring adventures, riders upload their tour to Komoot and tag Orbit360 as a participant.

Raphael tells us “#rideFAR is about being social, with a fair degree of challenge.” Riders will be able to register for a small donation and then plan and ride their own route to race individually and compete worldwide. There will be time-focused rankings, but Orbit360 will also feature the most fun stories behind the routes ridden.

The challenge is not only about competition, but also about using the extraordinary distance, that we – as passionate cyclists – cover every year, for a good cause. There is a donation-based entry fee, used to keep the Orbit360 project alive and to support cycling-related charity organizations: Bikeygees, who help female refugees to learn how to ride a bike and the Ghana Bamboo Bike Project, who provide bikes for school children, enabling education through the means of transportation.

For those interested in taking part, Raphael hastens to add “it’s important to underline that this is an unsupported race. And, like all ultra-endurance events these days, Ride For A Reason must be completed in one go. Riders may stop for a rest for as long as they like, but the clock is running the entire time.”

Race Against the Best

For an inaugural event, Raphael has secured a stellar cast of riders including Apidura ambassadors Ulrich Bartholmoes, Rodney Soncco, Clement Stawicki and Naresh Kumar… alongside some well-known pros like Lachlan Morton and Laurens Ten Dam.

“I think the reason why so many top riders registered is because there is no fixed date and location (like the Orbits are usually), but this time there is not even a given route. So they could just start their ride behind the backyard and compete against riders all over the world.” Despite the challenges of working around a pandemic, he actually credits this with much of his success: “The timing was perfect. With all other races being cancelled, riders were hungry for adventure. They wanted to get back on the bike and ride in a competitive way or at least ride at all. Also, Orbit360 was very accessible for many riders. When they could only follow other riders on Instagram , seeing them fly to other countries while themselves were stuck at home, now they could just go out for a day or two and take part in an event.”

Raphael rides while scouting the Orbit routes

Raphael rearranges the contents of his packs

Making the Most of RideFAR

If you’re thinking of entering, we asked Raphael for some tips on getting the most from the event. “I think the 180 km category is possible for many riders. If it’s still a scary number for others, I would suggest starting early in the morning. Take some warm clothes with you and then ride slow and eat fast!”.

“The original Orbits are based around off-road riding. For #rideFAR the surface is up to the rider. Use the different map layers to get a good understanding about the different roads, ways or paths.”

A Reason to Ride

“When I prepared the overall statistics of the last Orbit360 season, the numbers were unbelievably great: 174.000 km ridden, 1.7 Mio. meters of climbing and 12.000 hours in the saddle – all in the open time window of 10 weeks. I thought about how we could make use of this great achievement for something good and came up with the idea of Ride For A Reason (#rideFAR). I knew Bikeygees e.V. and spoke to Chris (Nelson Trees’ dad) about other charity projects in Africa and really liked both of them. So why was involving a charity aspect important to me? Because I simply care about the world we live in. There is too much stuff going on that isn’t fair. And I won’t change the entire world with#rideFAR, but it’s a step and we will grow! What I also thought was: “Why do people eat tons of meat at Christmas and then try to get rid of it during festive500? They could actually “ride for a reason” and do something good.”