What started as a kind of training project for Ultra-Distance Bikepackers is now probably our country’s best-known gravel event: With Orbit360, Raphael and Bengt have given us wonderful and equally exhausting cycling experiences this year that have properly challenged experienced gravel bikers and inspired newcomers to the sport.
And the lively participation and enthusiasm can also be expressed in numbers: at the Orbit360 in 2020, 176,000 km were covered, 1.7 million metres of altitude were conquered and a total of 12,000 hours were ridden. These are impressive figures, especially as many orbits took place outside the race period and not everyone reported their ride.
I myself rode three Orbits, one of them in race mode. And even if the official 2020 season is over, there are still 16 wonderful routes that you can ride again and again.
Galactic Trinity: the Orbit360 in 2021
Like me, I’m sure many of you are already looking forward to what will happen next year. And now it’s clear: the Orbit will become an entire Gravel Outer Space.
This will consist of a total of three events:
- #rideFAR – a social charity challenge
- Orbit360 – the race as we know it, but with new routes and possibilities.
- Gravity Camp – a bike festival around Gravel & Bikepacking
Ride for a Reason = #rideFAR
The Ride for a Reason Challenge will start in January (1-31 January), or probably postponed for Corona reasons in February. In essence, it is about collecting kilometres and donations for two selected social projects: Bikeygees e.V. and Ghana Bamboo Bike Project.
The idea is “…to use the huge amount of cycled kilometres in the ultra scene for a good cause. Therefore, the money raised from the donation-based participant fees will go to two charitable organizations after the costs have been covered: Bikeygees e.V., which teaches women refugees in Berlin how to ride a bike, and Ghana Bamboo Bike Project, which provides children in Ghana with bamboo bikes, without which they would not be able to go to school due to the poor infrastructure. Our sponsor Komoot is also contributing a percentage of each participant’s donation,” says the Orbit360 team.
#rideFAR is not a competition. There is no set route or time limit. And there are no geographical restrictions, which is why riders from all over the world can take part.
Participants can register at https://orbit360.cc/registration-ride-for-a-reason/. The participation condition is a donation and a 180km or 360km long orbital route, which will be ridden clockwise in one piece during the given time period. This ride will then be uploaded and scored as usual via Komoot.
Anyone who has ever ridden in January knows that at this time of year such routes can be very challenging. But since there is no time limit, you can also do this as a Bikepacking tour. Or you can try to pedal 180 km in daylight.
It doesn’t matter whether your route is on asphalt or in the forest. At the end, however, the most beautiful or interesting routes will be awarded extra prizes. So, it is worthwhile to be creative in your planning.
“In addition to the official time ranking, the funniest, most exciting and most adventurous routes will be featured on our social media channels and in a best-off collection. Together with our partner Komoot, we’ll award 30 Komoot Premium Packages for the most imaginative route ideas at the end of the time slot.”
By the way, you don’t have to ride alone: from 2021, pairs will also be permitted, or technically possible.
Orbit360 – 2021 Edition
From 1 May to 11 July, many crazy gravel bikers will once again be riding through Germany on a total of 20 tracks. Compared to the first Orbit360 season, it is now also possible to compete as a pair. In addition, organizer Raphael is changing the 20 tracks from the previous division into federal states and is focusing more on beautiful routes rather than national borders.
Also, important: this year’s routes were criticized here and there for their level of difficulty. Understandably, the routes were designed for riders who were looking for a realistic training environment for the Bikepacking endurance events. Of course, this was a challenge for the common gravel rider.
Next year, the focus will be more on graveling and fun in reasonable combination with challenge and technique. In concrete terms, this means that the routes will be somewhat less demanding, reduced in length (we are aiming for 150/180km) and adapted more to the gravel surface. So, more forest and field and less trail and stones.
But don’t worry – I’m sure it will still be quite a challenge.
Another new feature is that you can compete not only solo, but also as a pair. In the podcast, Raphael also talked about considerations to allow small teams. But it’s not yet clear whether that’s technically possible – apart from whether it’s necessary.
I’m happy that for next year, 50% of the tracks will be scouted by women. That brings a nice diversity to our sport and I’m already very excited about the routes.
According to Raphael, the presentation/unveiling of the individual routes will probably start again in March/April. I’m really looking forward to that, also because with the 20 orbits next year the coverage should be so good that every participant has at least one orbit nearby.
Bike Festival Gravity
For the end of the season, there will be a magnificent festival next year. Raphael is planning a 4-day event, which will not be about races and challenges and where everyone will hang flat by the fire at the end of the day. Instead, the focus will be on getting together, chatting, networking and inspiring.
Of course, there will be small rides, but this festival is supposed to be more about the Gravel and Bikepacking culture and all the topics around it. Therefore, there will be yoga classes as well as workshops on nutrition and maybe testing opportunities for relevant bikes and products.
More details are not yet known. There is probably already a location. At least the date is fixed: 19 to 22 August.
In any case, I am curious…