FAQs

Some Qs and As that crop up every year.

Who is Lap the Lough aimed at?

The event is aimed at anyone interested in cycling around Lough Neagh. People new to cycling, colleagues from work, members of cycle clubs, young and old, friends and families, all sizes and shapes. It’s just a big bike ride for people who like big bike rides. NB Parents/Guardians of participants between 12-18 must contact us in advance and provide written permission - they must be accompanied by a nominated adult at all times during the event.

Is it a ‘Sportive’ - do you use timing chips?

The terms “Sportive” (France) or “Gran Fondo” (Italy) only really started filtering into common bike parlance about 10 years ago. Previously, events like Lap the Lough we’re known locally as “tours”, meaning it was about the challenge, the journey, the conversations, meeting and riding with new people from all over the country and never about the time it took.
A Sportive is a race against the clock - roads are closed for a limited amount of time. Elite riders (with the occasional professional/ex-professionals) go off ahead of the main field and everyone follows behind. There are rigid cut off times along the course when the roads re-open again - if you fail to keep up a certain average speed and miss the cut-off time you’re event is more or less over. However,  “Sportive” now seems to be used to describe every mass participation bicycle event, which can be confusing. So in the true sense of the word no, we’re not a Sportive and we wouldn’t classify Lap the Lough as such.
We don’t use timing chips as it might encourage cyclists to take unnecessary risks to achieve a faster time. Most smartphones and bike computers can link up to Strava if you wish to compare your time with others post-event.

Are there risks involved?

Absolutely! All physical activity carries some degree of personal risk more so if you haven't exercised in some time. Riding bicycles on open roads increases that risk further as you are travelling at some speed (occasionally 30mph+ on downhills) and sharing the road with other vehicles - the majority of which are very large and fast moving. Machinery can fail, driver and rider error can occur and road surfaces can be unpredictable. The risks range for minor injury to serious injury and even death. Here are some statistics from Northern Ireland.

We as organisers do our utmost to highlight and reduce the risks involved but ultimately it’s up to you to do the research and weigh up for yourself whether or not you're comfortable accepting the risks involved and how you can go about reducing them. Knowing the Highway Code, joining a cycle club, having cycle insurance, following the rules of the event, using the proper equipment and regularly maintaining your bike are some ways of reducing the risks BUT not removing them completely.

How far is it?

It’s just shy of 100miles/160km, around 97.5 miles.  If you really want to make it up to 100 miles we might include a “century car park” to add that bit extra.

Can a team of us do a relay?

You can but you’ll have to organise all the logistics yourself and do it safely. We can give advice on this if you contact us. Many charities, clubs and groups do this when fundraising.

Can I register over the phone or by post?

No. Everything is done on-line through the website.

How do I know if I’m registered?

When you register online you will be sent a Paypal receipt and also a receipt from our Wazala store with a 6 digit code. This is really all you need. If you haven’t received it check your spam folder before contacting us.

Can I register for someone else?

Yes but make sure they are aware of the safety instructions and event rules before you register them. Give us their name and address in the ‘notes’ section of the registration.  Any correspondence will be emailed to the email address provided - either use their email address or pass on any correspondence to the person you registered.

Can I register on the morning?

Unfortunately not. Once the event is sold out we don’t accept any more entries.

Can entries be refunded or transferred?

Refunds are available up to 14 days after purchase. Sign-on sheets are finalised & printed about 8 weeks before the event (July 1st), after that transfers are simply not an option. Before July 1st we’ll do our best to help out (note this may incur an admin fee of £10). We work hard to make everyone familiar with the event, the safety instructions, highway code etc - well in advance.

I’m coming from mainland UK - any ferry discounts?

Yes! We have team up with Stena each year and have a 15% discount for everyone travelling from the UK mainland. Contact us for the discount code.

I’m not getting any newsletters or information?

We send out 4-5 newsletters between January and August. Maybe someone registered for you using their email? If you registered using your personal email address then you should be receiving them. However, they might be going to spam/trash folder, so check there before contacting us. Also keep a check on our Facebook page for updates.

Will I get my registration number/pack sent out in the post?

No - we do everything on the morning of the event. When you register on-line you will get a receipt of payment. At that stage we have your name and address on the data base. You simply come to the sign-on area on the morning, find your name on the sign-on sheets, sign on, pick up your wristband, helmet numbers and remind yourself once again of the safety instructions before going to the start line.

Is there a time limit to complete the event?

There’s no time limit - however the majority of people finish between 2-6pm, there’s a lot more atmosphere then and it begins tailing off after that. It’s a long day, volunteers and other services have homes and families to go to but our core staff will be there until the last person is home.

How long does it take?

In 2016 the first person home was at 11.55am (4h 25min) and the last person home was 7.20pm (10h 20min). Everyone else was in between.

Can I do it on any type of bike?

As long as it’s roadworthy… yes. We’ve even had someone ride it on a Belfast Bike. However, we’d recommend a road bike or a hybrid bike with skinny tyres - they’ll cover the ground a lot quicker and use less of your energy. The heavier the bike and the chunkier the tyres - the longer and tougher it gets.

Do I need to carry a bag or rucksack with food and clothing?

Absolutely not. A bag isn’t essential, will probably slow you down and use up valuable energy. Travel as light as possible. Use your jersey pockets to carry stuff. If you feel you need to carry lots of things use a bar bag or pannier bag instead.

Do I have to be in a cycle club?

No, being in a cycle club isn’t compulsory. However, we would recommend joining a club as you’ll get fitter, faster, pick up some good habits and learn how to ride in a large group safely. Most importantly you’ll also get insured and you never know - you just might enjoy it! If you’re not keen joining a club then we recommend gettnig some cycle insurance and taking part in progressively longer ‘sportives’ leading up to LTL so you are used to riding in larger groups over a variety of terrain on open roads. You can find these on Cycle NI or on Cycling Ireland.

What do I do if I need info/help on the day?

For general help and assistance just ask a volunteer, they’ll be easily identified by their event t-shirt or high viz. You can also flag down a support car or motorbike marshal. For emergencies use the numbers provided on your wristband.

Why no tea/coffee and sandwiches at the lunch stop?

When the event was smaller we provided tea/coffee and sandwiches (as smaller events still do). As the event grew queues at the lunch stop stretched for miles as people pondered over the options of tea or coffee, milk or black, sugar or none and which sandwich. As a result the event finished at 9.30pm. We switched to soup and a roll, the queues all but disappeared and the event finished at 6.30pm. The logistics involved in boiling 2500 cups of water in a field with no electricity or running water are also impractical.
The main focus at the lunch stop is to get people refuelled quickly, back out on the road and home again as soon as possible. It’s not meant to be gourmet experience - it’s a chance to take a short break, stretch, take on some extra energy, water and get going again within a half hour.

Do you provide water stops?

Yes - every 25 miles or so. We use 30lt water containers distributed at the main stops. These are refilled once empty. It produces zero waste and we reuse them again the following year. We also installed taps at Ballyronan and Gawleys Gate a few years ago to provide unlimited fresh drinking water.
We have some bottled water at the lunch stop but we don’t rely on bottled water - due to the problems that can cause and the amount of waste generated. 
A while back we were asked, “where’s the bottled water??? I’m not drinking water from a tap!!!!!”  Tap water is one of the great miracles of modern engineering. It’s collected, filtered and piped directly into each home and free at the point of use. We’ve no issues using or drinking tap water.

Are there marshals on each corner?

No. Only the PSNI have the authority to stop traffic on a public highway. We have support marshals along the route, they’re there to keep an eye on things as the day unfolds and to respond to anything that may happen. They may park up along the route and point in the direction you should be going but they‘ll not stop traffic and they’ll not be on every junction. As long as all road users follow the Highway Code, we should be fine.
Over the years lots of race terminology and phrases have trickled down into the traditional cycle touring event in an attempt to make them a bit more “exciting”, a bit more “like the Tour de France”. Things like “lead cars”, “race numbers” and “marshalled corners” are essential in a competitive road race on a closed race circuit but for a non competitive event it can start to confuse things. LTL is not a race. Placing a marshal with no ability to stop traffic on each corner won’t necessarily make anything safer - especially for the marshal. The Highway Code/Rules of the Road apply at all times.

Is Lap the Lough a charity event?

No, it is a not-for-profit event. Lap the Lough started as a charity event back in 2006 to raise money for the RNLI’s David Roulston lifeboat and children’ charity Sporting Hearts Charity . The 1st Lap the Lough had 170 people registered and took about 6 weeks to organise.  By 2009 participation had increased to over 1000 and was taking several months to organise. The time and costs involved running the event led us to establish a not-for-profit Social Enterprise in 2010 called Upbeat to make Lap the Lough a sustainable event. Any profits are used to create other events that promote bike usage and cycling in general.

How can I use the event to raise money for charity?

All you have to do is register to take part and visit the fundraising page for more info. It’s that easy. We don’t take a ‘cut’ of the money you raise or ask your charity for a “registration fee”.
Organising fundraising events are costly and time consuming. Most events lose money or at best break even when insurance, logistics, promotion and admin are factored in. The charitable sector need large scale events that they can use as fundraising vehicles. Since 2010 we have encouraged local charities, clubs and groups to use Lap the Lough as a ready made fund raising vehicle. We estimate in that time well over £500,000 has been raised by 100s of charities/groups/clubs using the event.

Can I get my logo listed on the fundraising page? Can we use the official LTL logo?

If you’re a registered charity - yes. Send us your logo (the larger the better) and tell us which category you’d like us to place it in. It’s free. If you wish to use our logo you must contact us in advance.

Where does my money go?

Everything goes into the event. If we have a surplus left over we channel that towards other events that promote the bicycle during The Fred Festival.

Who organises the event?

Upbeat organise the event. It’s a not-for-profit, social enterprise that promotes bike usage, participation, cycle culture and encourages people to use Lap the Lough as a fundraising vehicle. We’re also long-standing, active members of local cycling clubs.

Why did you move from Peatlands?

The primary reason for any change is safety. In the past we have used 5 different venues for starting/finishing LTL. LTL began in the Kinnego Marina area when we went around Lough Neagh clockwise. The move toward Maghery/Peatlands allowed us go anti-clockwise and get through the 2 largest towns (Portadown & Antrim) before the lunchtime traffic built up. The move into Dungannon in 2016 removed the large tail back on the motorway at Peatlands Park (Exit 13), centralised car parking, removed the long trek to and from the start/finish and left the last 2-3 miles within a 30mph speed limit. It also gives us a stunning venue to start and finish the event. It might be a slightly a tougher finish but it brought many safety benefits.

Why not have 2 starting towns to make it easy for people coming from Belfast?

2 starting towns means 2 of everything - registration, lunch, support cars etc. The costs involved prevent this.

How hard is the finish?

It’s a bit of a push but it’s certainly not Torr Head or Mamore Gap and there’s absolutely no shame in getting off for a break or walking. It’s an iconic start/finish experience where you get to see most of Lough Neagh/Ulster.