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16 October 2014
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North West 200 - What's it all about?

The biggest sporting event on the N.I. calendar with upwards of 100,000 motorbike fans.

Joey Dunlop - Photo by Clifford McClean

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Article by Davy Apsley.

The biggest sporting event on the N.I. calendar with upwards of 100,000 motorbike fans coming from Ireland, Great Britain and Europe to witness the high octane spectacle of the 'North West 200', and that's just the burgers!

So what's it all about?

Map of the North West 200 circuit
The 7.5 mile circuit on public roads where speeds can exceed 180mph!

The famous races, held over the public roads of Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart, are regarded by some as a warm up to the bike fest that is the Isle of Man TT. The races are fiercely contested nonetheless.

Essentially the course is 2 long straights, where the bikes can reach speeds over 180mph, with a twistier section from Portrush along the beautiful North Antrim coast towards Portstewart where the finish line awaits.

Most of the spectating is on the coast road, although other popular spots are at the 'Magic roundabout' at Ballysally in Coleraine, (so called because the riders race round it the wrong way), or the 'Metropole' in Portrush where the riders are braking from 180mph down to 30mph before heading out the coast. The viewing is mostly free of charge although it is a good idea to buy a programme as not only does it tell you who's racing but you use it to wave at your favourite riders as they go past, and of course you can keep it as a memento, tatty and covered in tomato sauce as it will be!

If you can, go on a motorbike as it's the best way to move around when you approach the NW200 area. It's also the best way to feel part of the occasion. If you have to travel by car leave early as the traffic can be busy on the main approaches. You will be directed to the various car parks as necessary.

When you have parked up, the first thing you must do is seek out breakfast in the form of an 'Ulster fry', as you will not make it through the day without it. Be prepared to queue though as everyone knows of the essential qualities of this meal for the NW200. Around lunchtime you must also top up your system with a burger and chips. Just follow your nose, it won't be far away.

If you are a very brave soul you could also go to the practice sessions before Saturday and set up a tent in one of the many temporary campsites (i.e. fields) that are dotted around the circuit. Remember though that the 'Ulster fry' is even more essential. Not only does it set you up for the day it will also help you recover from the night before!!

So how do you get the most from your day?

Firstly, look and listen around you. The variety of people is interesting in itself. The craic is great even if you are just overhearing it! You'll also hear who the favourites are so you can wave your programme at them!

If you are into seeing bikes in their natural habitat look no further, you'll be amazed at the sheer quantity. You could also see some very exotic machinery that you might only have seen in magazines before.

Oh yes and there's fast, close racing as well.

So there you have it. Go and enjoy a great day out. Oh and dads if you take your kids, be prepared for the request for a scooter on their 16th birthday. You have been warned!!!!

Click here for a personal account of the 2003 event

Click here for more information about the 2005 event

Let us know how you got on. Send in your stories and pictures, be you a first timer or an old hand.

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