The world of ultra-endurance is a fascinating place. While I was still tired from covering GBDURO, which finished one and a half weeks before All Points North, I was very interested in documenting the event for Kinesis Bikes. In a nutshell, All Points North is a self-supported bikepacking event, in which riders have to pass ten checkpoints in the north of England. Which route they take is up to them, and while there is an official time limit to complete the route, it isn’t as strictly applied as in other races. The event, organised by A Different Gear, a community bike shop in Sheffield’s suburb Heeley, is a very social affair. The format and atmosphere are ideal for riders new to ultra-endurance cycling, and a great precursor for longer races like the Transcontinental or Trans Am Bicycle Race.
My filmmaker brief for the race was much simpler than for GBDURO, where I followed the riders by bike and public transport only. This time I was focussing on one rider only – Cap No. 37, Rupert Robinson. As I was still tired from the effort of GBDURO I had to opt for the less environmentally-friendly approach of using a car. I had my bike in the back of the car, and used it to get to places along the route to film that were better accessed on two wheels. As I raced in various ultra races myself, I was also very keen to stick to the self-supported ethos and simply filmed Rupert at various points of the race, including a few very short interviews (the topic of media teams at bikepacking races is discussed in this excellent feature at dotwatcher.cc).
When I arrived in Sheffield, I had very little knowledge about the race. Rupert had shared his route with me beforehand on Komoot, but I had no time to research any of the checkpoints along the route, nor any specific parts of the route. All I had was a tracking link for Rupert, and after seeing his progress in the first few hours, I could roughly predict his movements based on his intended route. All the rest was planned ad hoc while documenting the race.
What fascinated me about the project was not only Rupert’s own story riding All Points North, only his second ultra race after the 2019 Trans Alba, but also the beautiful places he travelled through along the route. The checkpoints at All Points North weren’t just randomly chosen controls. At each of them riders had to answer a question and note this on their brevet card. There was a brilliant mix of stunning scenery (like Runswick Bay, Malham Tarn, Grassholme or Silverdale), history (like Rievaulx, Beverley and Leeds Pals) and places that combined both (like Dent Station and Honister Pass). Upper Coquetdale also added another challenge to the riders, as the nearby Otterburn Ranges are military ranges, with roads only passable at certain times. What lay in between the checkpoints was the personal choice of the riders, and I was lucky enough that Rupert’s route followed some amazing cycling ways like the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway.
Apart from a short phone call I hadn’t met Rupert before the event. When we had a quick chat about his Kinesis GTD titanium bike and his expectation for the event, it became clear that his goal was to finish in under 60 hours. He also came across as a very focussed but humble individual, and this was mirrored all along the way during the race. He kept smiling, no matter how steep the climbs.
Combining the numbers on my phone, I figured out that he needed to average about 17km/h to finish within that time frame, including breaks, food stops, stops at checkpoints and any repairs if needed. Looking back at my own races, this seemed like an ambitious undertaking.
The other interesting detail of All Points North is the start time. Most of the endurance races I had taken part in myself, like the Highland Trail, Silk Road Mountain Race or Atlas Mountain Race, start in the earlier morning hours. All Points North was mirroring the approach of the Transcontinental Race, with the riders being sent off at 8pm in the evening, just after the sun had set. The first sunrise, which Rupert experienced at Runswick Bay, was one of the key moments of his race.
Other highlights were the cruel climb up Honister Pass, and his last sunset in the Yorkshire Dales, shortly after ticking off Malham Tarn. I was most concerned about his ride when I spent a long time waiting at Leeds Pals Memorial. By then Rupert’s average speed had dropped drastically, but despite making very little progress, he somehow managed to keep himself awake, motivated, moving and smiling! Rupert’s body language suggested he was very tired, but there was still a little bit of a sparkle in his eyes, even after 50 hours in the saddle.
My personal highlight was the next morning. Due to Rupert’s slower progress I was able to get a few hours of sleep and jump on my bike before sunrise to grab a coffee. It was a surreal experience, riding through thick fog at times, which slowly but surely gave way to the sun while the early morning progressed. When the fog had lifted, I was able to fly my drone and capture the final few kilometres of Rupert’s race from a bird’s eye’s perspective, before racing back to Sheffield to capture his arrival.
While the film and pictures will hopefully give you a good idea of All Points North, you’ll have to wait at least another year to take part yourself, as the 2022 entries are already closed. If you can’t wait, I have listed a few similar events below. Some of them still have entries for 2022 available. And to close, here are a few tips for riding All Points North from Rupert himself:
- Route planning is key – make sure you factor in the gradient and amount of climbing in this part of Britain. Route planning apps like Komoot and Strava give you an idea about the steepness.
- Use a dynamo hub for charging – riding with a dynamo hub means much more independence during the race.
- Bring some headphones, playlists and podcasts for the early hours to keep motivated.
- While a reflective harness is provided as part of the entry, make sure you wear well visible clothing all the time.
- Carry reusable zip ties and insulation tape, in case there are any issues with the wheels and spokes. If anything breaks, you can at least attach it to the bike.
- Riding such a long time requires a super comfortable helmet and shoes. Make sure you wear them on training rides, not for the first time on the start line.
- Sleep more!
Other self-supported road events
Race Through Poland (1500km) – 21 May 2022
All Points North (1000km) – 2 June
Trans Am Bicycle Race (6900km) – 5 June 2022
TransAtlanticWay (2500km) – 9 June 2022
NorthCape-Tarifa (7400km) – 20 June 2022
Race Around Rwanda (1000km) – 29 Jan 2022
Pan Celtic Race (2500km) – 10 July 2022
NorthCape4000 (4000km) – 23 July 2022
Transcontinental (4000km) – 24 July 2022
Two Volcano Sprint – 12 October 2022
If one of these ultra endurance events does tickle your fancy you’ll want to make sure you’re covered. Check out Yellow Jersey bicycle insurance here.