Monday, 24 January 2022

Brit Butt Rally 2021 – Steve Kirk

I made my way to the Rally HQ near Coventry on a Friday morning in early September on my Suzuki 1000 V Strom. This would be about my 10th. Brit Butt. I was the first to check in with Phil the Iron Butt UK Supremo and then went to the odo check. It was about 35 miles up the motorway and back and I was followed by Gerald on his Yamaha 1300 which helped the time to pass. We checked back in and had our mileage recorded by Wing Glider and Owl and then went to a nearby garage and topped off our fuel tanks ready for the 6am start the following morning.

I checked in to the Hotel and set up my vast array of electrical equipment in my room ready for the intensive route planning to follow later. Some of this equipment I actually know how to use to about 10% of its potential! Looks impressive though which is half the battle. This year the Bonus Location photo needed to be taken on a mobile phone and then e-mailed to the Rally Master. You could use a digital camera and then download the pictures and e-mail them through but the time needed for this meant it was a non-starter for me.

With everything on charge and clothes laid out for the morning it was off to the bar and meet up with friends old and new. It was good to see some German Iron Butt riders who had jumped through all the Covid regulations hoops to get here to ride the event. Soon it was time to eat and then we all made our way to the meeting room for the handing out of the Rally Books.

We were given a brief run through of the book and the rules by Mark Fowler the Rally Master. The theme for this year was rude and funny names and after a quick question and answer session we were released to our rooms to commence planning.

The bonus locations were e-mailed to us and I downloaded them and opened up Base Camp to see what we had to deal with. The 69 bonuses stretched from Penzance in the South West to the Orkney Islands in the North. With only 3 bonuses in the South West all beyond Plymouth they were discounted straight away. The Orkney Islands was a sucker bonus and so was quickly discounted also. (If it had been worth 50,000 points it would have been worth 15 minutes to check on ferry times and mileage/time equations to see if an all or nothing ride would have been worthwhile) The north and Scotland looked like too much mileage for the points and so left me looking at all the locations in the Midlands/near North, Wales and the South East. There were 4 combination bonuses available and these helped me make my mind up as to which locations I would visit with so many of them close together and of similar points.

I ran a route in Base Camp going north to around Manchester and then West to Bangor down the length of Wales to Cardiff then up the M4 corridor and South West London. Then drop down to Hastings and across to Ashford and my home address for the sleep bonus. Sunday morning down to Dover for a daylight only bonus then up the M2 and Dartford Tunnel and up through Essex and Suffolk to Norwich and then the run back to the Barn. It all seemed to work with the only glitch being the arrival time back at the finish being 2 minutes before penalty points of 100 per minute started. I took out 1 location to extend the available time knowing I could put it back in if I was running ahead on the Sunday. I loaded the route into one Sat Nav and allowed 5 minutes for each stop. The other Sat Nav I run point to point and can play around with on the route if needed. I filled in my hand written form for each location which includes Bonus Number, Availability (day only, time restraints etc.) Expected arrival time, Bonus points and anything else such as bike in picture etc. This lives in my tank bag map pocket and is what I work from during the Rally.

I was happy to be in bed by Midnight which gave me 5 hours sleep before the action began.

Up and dressed with a coffee and sandwich inside me it was off to the car park and get the bikes mileage recorded load up and double check everything and await the start.

At the stroke of 6am Phil did his best ‘War Child’ impersonation and pointed at us in turn to get moving and begin our Rally.

I headed out on the M6 to begin an hours run to my 1st. location at Moisty Lane. The location was easily found (as was the case throughout the Rally] and the picture taken and sent. Then it was on to Knock Her Down Inn and The Devils Arse. This was located in the most beautiful valley and I look forward to revisiting when time is not of the essence.



Next was Upper Thong which was part of a combination bonus and after more fantastic roads and a fuel stop I made it to Broadbottom Road. By now it was 4.5 hours in to the Rally and everything was settling down nicely. Wales was next on the list and the journey along the North coast was taken. Just South of Bangor and Penisa ‘rwaun was the location with the bike needing to be in the picture. Pany y waun and the Three Cocks pub were next before arriving on the South coast and the Cardiff area.







It was a great ride down the length of Wales with most traffic in small bunches with no one wanting to overtake the leader. A bit of throttle and a short straight soon saw them behind.

At one roundabout I got between 2 guys out for a Saturday afternoon blast on matching MV Augustas and had fun for the next 15 minutes as they tried unsuccessfully to loose me. They eventually managed it by ignoring both a 30 limit and double white lines.

The sign at As Fawr was next followed by Silly. Then it was across Cardiff to Splott Road. This sign was 20 feet up a wall on the far side of a junction but I managed to get the shot with my Rally flag in it as required.

On to the M4 and over the bridge back into England to Old Sodbury School gates. It was here I ran in to my first rain of the trip and, as I had gained about 1 hour on my expected time, I took my helmet off for the first time after 13 hours riding and had a sandwich and rest. The rain was heading South and so my run up the M4 towards London was dry.

Epsom and Nork Rise was next. Debi, my Wife used to live 1 mile from here and from now on until Sunday afternoon I would be riding in my own back yard. This was a nice change as most Brit Butts of the past had very few bonuses in the South East.

It was now 10 pm and the ClearWater lights I have fitted came into their own on the lanes around the back of Hastings and the bonuses at Titsey Place and Domb Womans Lane. I diverted up to Ashford and got my receipt to stop the clock at 10.59pm. I took my 7 hours rest bonus in one hit and slept in my own bed which was wonderful! I gave the bike a check over, left what luggage I didn’t need and got my receipt to end the sleep bonus at 06.02.

Down to Dover on the M20 and along and down the White Cliffs to St Margarets Bay and a picture of Just a Posh Shed and then back up the winding cliff road to get to the famous Ham Sandwich road sign remembering to put myself in the picture.



In a dim and distant past I used to cycle passed the Gravelly Bottom Road sign. Now here I was taking a picture of it by a housing estate when it used to be in the middle of the woods.

On to Maidstone and then the M2 North to Thong near Gravesend. This was the 2nd. Part of a combi bonus with Upper Thong up North yesterday. Back on the M2 and then the Dartford tunnel and turn right into darkest Essex. Over the next hour I saw a few other Rallyists as I claimed Turkey Cock Lane and Fingering Hoe.



Here I was about 1 hour ahead of schedule and so I reinstated the bonus I left out during planning thinking I would be short of time. Cock and Bell Lane was obtained much to the amusement of an elderly gentleman who was stood there awaiting his lift.

The traffic so far through Essex had been very heavy so it was good to get back out into the countryside and obtain Dicks Mount. Booty Road and Hooker Road in Norwich where within 1 mile of each other and represented my last bonuses of the rally.

It was a straight 2.5 hour run back to the finish. Near Thetford the sky turned black and I dived into a layby and put on an over jacket ready for the downpour. Within ½ mile the traffic could only use the outside lane as the inside one was 6 inches deep in water. This carried on for about 15 minutes when it stopped as quickly as it started. Another 15 minutes and everything was dry and I was being extra careful as the run was coming towards its conclusion. Sit there and twist that and try to ignore the ultimate numb bum! There was 1 more bonus I had time to collect near Wellingborough but I was happy with the way the ride had gone and was happy to just ride to the finish.

I stopped the clock at 16.03 nearly 1 hour ahead of schedule. Debi, Wing Gilder and Rick saw me back in and noted my mileage. Now it was to the room, slip into something more comfortable and then present myself to the scorers. I was presented with a list of bonus locations I had submitted and confirm they were correct and none missing. That was that – very different to the old system of scoring we know and love!

Of to the bar again to swap tales with the other riders and then a buffet dinner prior to scoring. My objective for any rally is get into the top 10 and I have only managed it twice in the Brit Butt Rally. I was very hopeful of meeting this objective as I felt everything had gone very well the whole weekend. If I was not in the top 10 after this ride I really was in the wrong game!

Phil started to announce the finishers in the mid-twenties. He got to 11th.and the scores were still well short of mine – I was in the top ten! A shook for all was when Robert Koeber, a multiple winner of this event, was announced in 6th.place. After Kim Leeson was announced in 4th place Phil asked the remaining 3 riders to come and join him at the front. The final three places were

3rd. Wilfred Weyers (Germany) 1,392 miles 40,900 points

2nd. Andrew Campbell 1,314 miles 41,750 points

1st. Steve Kirk 1,151 miles 42,275 points

I thought Debi was going to explode! I was still in shock that I had done it. I reckon I must have been a 50/1 shot for the gamblers out there. I was able to thank Phil, Mark and all the other people who put so much into organising these events before being left to the tender mercies of the IBA groupies. (that part was in my imagination).

Back to the bar and some more adult beverages and an effort to realise what I had achieved. There has been much discussion over the phone method of scoring against digital cameras. I can understand the organisers liking phones/e-mail as the scoring gets done live as the pictures come in and are checked. When the last rider has finished the results are known. The drama of the old scoring method is missed but I am grateful to ride any rally that someone has spent a lot of time and effort organising.

The winning route.





Steve Kirk

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

JogLe+

 IBAUK End 2 End Gold & SS2000 Ride 23 – 25 Aug 2014

by Mark Collins & Ken Sanderson.


Intro: 

Ken and myself had taken part in RBLR1000 on 2013, and this gave us the bug for long distance riding and after we had read a few more write ups, it then set us on with the task of next yr we must do more than just the RBLR1000.


And true to our word we undertook yet another RBLR1000 in 2014, along with turning out to a few RTE's and discussing with some of you good folks, some of the pro's and cons.

It was on the squires RTE that we asked about the possibility of combining the E2E with an SS, which seemed the right thing for us living in central England area.


Then quite by chance I noticed on the forum that in July an E2E and SS ride was on the cards, great stuff we thought and then things went a little wrong, Ken had a prior arrangement and I was Making some changes to medication, that made me decided that it would not be the right time to feel spaced out while on such a ride.  The decision was made that we would have to do it on a later date, and as time was ticking and the day light disappearing that we would have to do it sooner rather than later.


The only dates that we seemed to have that coincided with each others shifts, was the August bank holiday weekend.

So the date was set at weekend 23-25 August, and off I went into planning mode “hahaha”  Its not the planning I was laughing about, but the lack of brains when it came to programming the new sat nav, that I had purchased some months before and not really got my head around.  I had used it on the last ride and found it rather frustrating to say the least, and that combined with base camp well enough said!!!


Ken and I then set about route planning separately, and then comparing the routes as and when we could and then decided on the final route to be taken, but in with this we made some detailed plans and wrote down all of our planned fuel stops, and their post codes along with extra ones as a contingency plan.

Once the route had been set out in its entirety, we noticed that the overall time meant that at a push we could actually if nothing goes a stray, do the whole ride as a gold ride.

Yes I thought LMAO, that’s if noting goes wrong which is mine and kens middle name.


Down to business, that week on the run up to the ride the check list was slowly being checked off.  Bikes checked over tweaked and running well, spares for run got, gear cleaned n checked, supplies for trip checked, so as far as we knew all was good and ready to go, and before we could bat an eyelid the day was upon us.


After not such a good nights kip the alarm went off at 3am, and up I got along with the poor wife who signed my paperwork, thankfully I had packed the bike with my supplies the evening before, so all that was required was a coffee and bowl of porridge while slipping into my bike gear, then a quick kiss goodbye and off out through the door to meet up at the designated start point.

3.30 at the local 24hr garage that’s not far off the planned route, I met up with ken who had gone pretty much through the same routine as me, and from the little chat that we had whilst filling up the bikes with a bit of fuel to get our first receipt and start time, we both felt like we had finally woke up, and the jolly laughter and upbeat feel was upon us both.

3.50am start time and we are off, oh no not yet, lets switch on the sat nav!!! and initiate program route ss2000+e2e, ah yes bingo now were off and first stop. 

Scotch Corner services 5.20am on approach to scotch corner services first of sat nav clanger gremlins, no no no I want the esso station over there!!! which is where I went, unbeknown to me until later I had in inadvertently put in 6pq rather than 6nt, but we had made good time and was back on the move just after 5.30am, having restarted the sat nav back up.  We headed off up the A1m to pick up the A68, thinking to myself what else will go wrong? At this point I had then dropped yet another clanger, which I am perplexed to explain but we had taken the A66m.

Head banging the tank in disbelief we did a detour to get back on the desired route, being the A68 which is a scenic road but one you have to be a little steady on in places, as there is a few bits that could easily catch any good rider out.


Stopping briefly at the border to take a pic or two and send out update messages, knowing that taking this road would take us towards our next fuel stop at Dreghorn services, which we got to roughly on time taking into account the detour and quick stop at the border.

8.48am filled and setting off yet again, the plan was to hit sterling services some 33miles up the road and top up, knowing that Ken's tank range is somewhat smaller than mine, and when we landed his thought was that he may have enough fuel to hit Inverness without stopping, so without refuelling off we plodded M9 – A9 Inverness here we come.


To counter act the boredom we took turns to take lead, and on the run up to Aviemore I signalled to ken with regards to fuel, thumbs up from him 2 bars left should be enough to get us there, or so we thought and about 6 miles from Inverness the unthinkable happened, Ken's bike stopped and I rode into the distance thinking he had just slowed down to conserve fuel.

But I had that feeling somethings gone way wrong so I about turned, to thankfully find Ken with another biker and a gallon of fuel just a few mile back down the road.  Luckily he was carrying a gallon, so ken topped up and off we went with ken's saviour in tow to the nearest garage being Tesco's Inverness just off the A9, and to pay thanks we topped him up with fuel had a bit of a chat and then made our way.


Knowing we had lost valuable time with this slight blunder, we got our heads down and as we had fuelled up a little before our planned stop at Tore services, we pushed on as hard as we could without breaking any laws!!! although I nearly broke the bike on the switch back on the A9 around the berriedale area if my memory serves me right, and selecting the right gear is an advantage to stop the bike chugging lol.  


Time flew by and before we knew it we had arrived at wick, at this point Ken decided to peel off at wick and get fuel but I carried on to JOG, whereby the first point of call was the toilet by which time Ken had arrived, and we set about getting our paperwork sign n sorted.

15.33 is the start of our next bit the JOGLE.  

A cupa and a bite to eat and a good leg stretch was in order, as we had covered about 560mile and lost a good bit of time, but knowing this was just the first leg of our trip we knew we had to push on so off we went, although I had to stop at wick for fuel.  


Determined as we were we decided to leave our stops until absolutely necessary, so the next being at.

18.41 in Carbridge Just off the A9, yet again we fuelled not just the bike but us and hit the road again.  Oops 1 glance Ken was there and the next he wasn’t, we had got split up by traffic and taken separate routes back towards the A9, which wasn’t a major problem as we had set our next check point as sterling services, and within mins of each other we were pulling in and fuelling up again.

21.06 as we left sterling services we had noticed that dusk was well upon us and the temp was starting to drop, and we knew that we had to keep a reasonable pace and hit our next stop which should have been Southwaite, but we decided to pull in at Gretna services instead as we noticed coming down the M74 how cold it had become.


22.51 Do we don’t we doubt popped in our heads, as we debated at Gretna services knowing we had come this far and the fact we had wrapped up warm the cold had somewhat crept in, and although we were not freezing to death we knew it was going to be a long cool ride down south, so as planned M74, M6, M1, M25 was the route.

We headed off with the intention of regular stops.

00.41 we pulled in to Charnock services M6 and time flew yet again, so in at 03.22 Shell services Corley and sticking with the M6 the stupid amount of £1.80 at the toll, and before we knew it.

04.45 South Mimms services thankfully, a good 24 hrs had passed and not feeling to bad for it either, but keeping in mind that we had maybe covered about half of what we need to do.


Time was of the essence as we still had the bridge to cross M25 Clacket Ln and Gordando to hit, and fingers crossed not much traffic we hoped, and all seemingly went well.

06.06 at Clacket Ln M4 here we come.  Oops good job we both had our next stop logged as I peeled away for the M4, Ken kept going and had to do a detour, so knowing this I pulled in.

07.39 Reading Services with a desperate need of food, fuel and sleep in what ever order I didn’t care.  I sat in the burger king having had one of those atrocious breakfast buns, I found myself nodding the eyes rolled n lights out, only for about 15 mins but that was enough.


I then pressed on to meet up with Ken at Gordando services as arranged.

09.25 and with luck on our side we met up yet again within minutes of each other.

By all accounts Ken had pulled into Chieveley services to do pretty much the same as me.

09.36 we decided that Exeter Services would be our next point of call, and off we went feeling relieved that we still had a reasonable chance of doing it on time, having said that by the time we hit Exeter services that feeling had well and truly worn off, and the doubt had set in along with a feeling of being yet again tired.

At this point we did actually debate just turning around and heading home, but suddenly after a drink and a nibble the sun shine that we had missed so much, had given us the boost along with the fact that for next next few hundred miles we had left the Motorways behind us. 

10.50 One thing we did know was we had to push on hard as it was the bank holiday, and traffic was building up rapidly and it wouldn’t be long before we may come across standing traffic, which we did but that was only because of some poor driver had jackknifed his car and caravan.

But with careful and courteous filtering we made our way past what must have been a few miles of standing traffic to the scene of the crash. 

After this it was plain sailing but as we got to the outskirts of Penzance the weather turned and a sudden down pour unfolded, and thankfully it didn’t last long but something seemed wrong, I thought for some reason that there was some bike either following us or it was in front whatever it was, it was rather loud.  Arr that would be Kens bike then !!! also at this point Ken realised he required fuel and stopped but I decided that the few extra miles I would be ok.

Landing at Lands End.

13.42 I set about trying to get our paperwork signed off, while Ken attempted emergency repairs to his broken exhaust system, which turned into a rather long winded battle using both tool kits from our bikes.

But in the end a good old tried and tested method of removing both ends from a soft drinks can, and splitting the can down the middle and wrapping it around and holding it in place with a jubilee clip did the trick.  

This took the best part of an hour and yet again our hearts sunk as we could feel the time ebbing away, and the chance of possibly completing the ss2000 in the time required disappearing in to the distance like the horizon, but we consoled ourselves with the fact we had at least made Lands End. 


Knowing we had approx 500 miles to cover and 12 hrs to do it in, was still in our minds eye as we yet again set off in what was again drizzly dank weather, and on the approach to Penzance I knew I would need fuel and pulled into the sainsbury.

15.12 refuelled and off as Ken had made his way on wards to the next check point we had set as being Sedgemoor services, this stop for me was nothing more than a splash n dash and before long I had caught up with Ken, and by this time the weather had turned yet again and a bit of late afternoon / early evening sunshine warmed our weary bodies as we made our way back up the A30 to reach the M5, and by the time we hit Exeter I think that’s when we knew that just a good old steady plod should get us to the next services.

Sedgemoor services.


17.46 what a welcome break it was to as we jumped off the bikes, laughing at the fact we had spent time on the run up attempting to find a comfy position to be in whilst in the saddle, a discussion then about the legalities of riding the bike while stood on the foot rest cheered us up no end while we stretched our sore and aching muscles, whilst feeding our faces with food and drink before we got back on for yet what by then seemed like torture, as we headed for our next point of call.

19.38Reading east and more laughter at our antics and what other peoples perception of us and some of the riding styles we adopted whilst in torture mode.  

Jesus Christ now we really knew why they call it saddle sore!!!


Yet again heads down as we headed for South Mimms services, and before we knew it 20.49 we had made it and both felt rather worn out, so at this point we decided to do plan B.

Plan A being taking a steady run up the A1 to Newark and cutting across on the A617, this would have given us slightly more miles from what I had calculated, but feeling the way we did which was almost flat as a pancake made it seem the right thing to do.

20.59 having said that as we set off yet again the right thing would have been to have got our heads down for a quick kip, as we had not been on the M1 for more than a few miles when both of us realised that the long blink was upon us, so from hear on in we new that despite we only had but a few hours of riding to do on a good day when your feeling alert.

This now became a major task of pulling in regular and Newport Pagnell and Leicester Forest East, became points to head for.

It had now been for us the biggest lesson to learn from as we didn’t wish to become the latest statistics, and what had seemed like a few hour journey up the M1 to our final sign off had in fact taken nearly 3.5 hrs, and we rolled in to the same service station as we had set off from and job done.

00.19hrs all signed off.


Maybe it hadn’t really sunk in until we explained to the guy in the services, whilst in conversation just where we had been that entire weekend.  His reaction said it all as he looked not just shocked but bemused while those wonderful words rolled off his tongue “ No way”  “you guys must be absolutely mental”, a chuckle from the pair of us while we bid him a good evening and then a sigh of relief  as we geared up for that last little bit, the ride  home as the bed was most definitely calling us both, so a thumbs up as we fired up the bikes for the last time and a wave as we departed in our different directions.  We both sent text messages at the point of arrival home so we knew each other had got to our safe and final destination.


Official Statistics:

End to End Gold 1056 Miles in 22 hours and 9 minutes

SS2000 2043 Miles in 44 hours and 29 minutes


My mileage at start 28288 at finish 30329 making it 2041.


Do's:

Next time take more clothing just in case.

Take more fluids and snacks, although the flapjack I took did the trick.

Definitely take the opportunity to inspect my eyelids correctly while stationary. 

Possibly take more spares despite having good breakdown cover.


Donts:

Don’t waste time in the services, we did take a little longer than we should have done.

Don’t Buy at services those crap breakfast bun deals.

Don’t take long blinks on the motorway, if your tired get your head down, Lesson learned.





Thursday, 4 July 2019

Martin's Group RBLR1000


Well this seemed like a good idea back in January…. As the day approached our “whatsapp” group went into meltdown with variations of “Whose bl***y idea was this ???” scattered across the internet “Witchcraft.” No matter, we all arrived at the hotel in good time and registered at Squires as directed. We then adjourned for some “Dutch Courage” back at the hotel and set several alarms for 4am….

By 5am I think we were surprised that all of us were on our bikes armed with combinations of coffee, sweets, chocolate, and various other items, none of which seem to be recommended for a long ride. We booked back into Squires with our official departure time being 0510… The bikes we were riding consisted of 2 R1200GSA’s, an R1200GS, a Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and a Triumph Sprint. With the first stop rattled through at Birch Services we agreed to stop every 100 or so miles so that those not on GSA’s would have regular opportunities to replenish their fuel tanks – Obviously the pair of us on “two wheeled tankers” would simply take the time to replenish out caffeine and chocolate levels…. !

At the next stop it was apparent that we were all slightly chilled and therefore there was much mirth with us all trying to redress ourselves in the services car park. Zippers and poppers are great when you’ve taken to time to work out what part is meant to connect to where…. Still, onwards to Glasgow which is all motorway riding and I was grateful for having spent several hours loading my iPod, although the change from Abba to Johnny Cash and then to The Jam may not be to everyone’s taste. Navigating round Glasgow presented a few challenges as we were starting to get cold and damp, but once we’d survived, Scotland started to show us glimpses of the roads it is famous for..

At Fort William we were joined by another couple of groups and when Pete nearly dropped his GSA we were thankfully unaware that this was due to him having a few “internal” issues that were probably due to the night before. However he managed to style this out and regained control of both his bike, and himself…

The journey from Fort William to Wick was easily one of the most memorable motorcycle rides I have every had – The weather ranged from heavy rain to bright sunshine, the roads from long glorious never ending turns to tight hairpins with the occasion 52 seater coach thrown in, just to keep us awake. The long straight roads encouraged some overtakes that I would only have previously undertaken on PlayStation, and whilst stuck behind a slow moving crane for an eternity, I reminded myself about patient riding…

The scenery on this journey was simply breath taking and some of the bridges made me feel like we were riding in the centre pages of a glossy bike magazine. If I had one regret is was that by now I was starting to feel a tad weary and was concentrating too much on the road and traffic to take it all in. As we approached Wick the mist descended and to be honest, things started to get tough. The Sat Nav happily reminded me that we were yet to reach 500 miles and as such were still under halfway. It was cold, bleak, and the “Why in god’s name am I doing this” ethos started to descend. Paul, on the GS, was the instigator for us being there and obviously became the target of my murderous thoughts. Still, on the bright side I had now reached the 70’s section of my playlist and in my mind I was back in the school disco and I WAS john Travolta….

And then we saw the most glorious sight – Wick Tesco’s – Now not exactly one of the greatest sights ever seen by man (that came later!), but a signal that we now had “only” 480 miles to go…. We were over half way !! – As we dismounted in the mist of Tesco’s most northerly car park there was a joyous feeling that we had climbed the mountain and were on the way down…. Chrissie on the Triumph provided the sugar rush with more Haribo’s, and away we went again…. Leaving Wick in mist and cold was a chore but we were over half way and might actually achieve the aim now. I think at this point we knew it was possible for all of us, and our bikes, to complete the challenge…

And then god spoke to us….. Around 5 miles from Wick I seemed to emerge from the fog and cold into a stunning movie scene.. One of the greatest sights ever.. The sun was shining enough for me to need the sun visor, the traffic evaporated, and I was left to ride the A9 from Wick on a beauty of a bike, with 4 good mates, at a “prompt” speed, awake enough to take in the crashing wave’s yards from my front wheel. Whilst earlier may have been some of the most memorable riding, this was by far and away the best couple of hours UK riding I’ve ever had – I was in a purple patch that I’ve never been in before and it was like riding Nevada for a few hours.

We stopped in Avimore for petrol and I was buzzing….. And then we returned to earth…

Through the Cairngorms there are numerous average speed cameras and whilst this made the journey more relaxed (Cruise control on a bike - brilliant!), we really wanted to crack on. At the next stop in Edinburgh we were somewhat deflated which wasn’t helped by darkness joining the ever present cold. Whilst refuelling both the bikes, and ourselves with an instant Starbucks we were joined by the local constabulary who were riding 250cc motocross bikes. The officers seemed bemused by us being there and when we explained why, they simply looked at us in amazement and agreed with what all of our respective partners has already agreed… “Your mad”..

Still, back onto the bikes with the Sat Nav constantly reminding me that we were nearing our destination but by now fatigue was starting to take hold. As we lost all light other than our headlights I was leading and coming from London have never seen so many cats eyes (They’ve normally all been stolen).. I knew I was tired as I was having to tell myself what the different coloured cats eyes meant, and at one point I rounded a corner to see so many of the gleaming marbles I thought I was having an LSD induced episode…
Another unplanned stop was in order for Coffee and Haribo’s, but thankfully we were now at Berwick…

This was bleak, simply bleak – The only sign of life was the deserted petrol station that thankfully had a working coffee machine, and by now all of us were cold, tired, and had simply had enough. Lloyd on the V-Strom was performing stretching exercise that would put an Olympic gymnast to shame, and even Paul could only mutter “It’s nearly beer time”… I think it was around 1am and the only other vehicle was a mini cab with a few lads on the way home from what was obviously a good night out… Yep, we were all jealous… With the Sat Nav now telling me we had “only” had 120 or so miles to go we sucked it up and started out again…

Now initially this was not too bad. Knowing we were on the final stage of our journey seemed to make the miles roll away along the A1 – My helmet battery expired, which probably wasn’t a bad thing as I was by now into the heavy metal phase – Bat Out of Hell is not always the best to ride a bike too…. In the peace that took over I could hear the BM’s horizontal twin singing, almost in as much delight as me that we were nearly there – And then…

Freezing fog, so bad I couldn’t see further than the very limited range of the Beemer’s lights. Far from needing my sun visor I had to ride with my visor up into the cold and wet to gain a few extra yards vision. Behind me the twin headlights on Chrissie’s Triumph gleamed like a sports car coming through which was a tad disconcerting at times – Now the miles seemed to roll by on an achingly slow basis….. That last hours seemed to last a lifetime, but suddenly we had 15, 12, 10 miles to go and the Sat Nav told me to get off the A1….

My god, we were back at Squires…..

As we rode into Squires car park at 3am two ladies with the clapper hands smiled and greeted us – As I came to a stop a chap held the screen of the bike so that I wouldn’t look two cheap and drop it , although to be honest, that would not have been a problem… Once Lloyd had again showed us his gymnastic prowess there were high 5’s all round – We’d done it. 1000 miles in 22 hours, 1000 miles in 22 long, uncomfortable, but highly satisfying hours….

Once all verified it was straight to The Premier Inn for a planned well-deserved cheeky drop of scotch and then to bed – I didn’t get the scotch, I simply went unconscious….  


We’re now planning a Bunburner 1500, and will be back for the RBLR1000 next year !


All the best

Martin Christianson
Hanovia Motorcycle Tours.



Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Alexandroupolis RTE Report July 2018

A quick intro about myself and my IBA membership. I have been riding bikes for about forty years. About five years ago I realised that apart from commuting I was not doing much riding (busy job and young family……). I had heard about the IBA and it seemed like (and has turned out to be) a perfect solution i.e. large amounts of riding in small amounts of time. I completed my my qualifying SS1000 on a BMW F650cs in July 2015. After years of owning assorted and sometimes multiple BMWs I eventually bought myself a nearly new Honda St1300 for my IBA rides. 

This was to be my fifth RTE after previously attending Zagreb, Verdun, Bran and Moscow. It was also the second year in a row where I would visit two RTE destinations in one weekend (following last years unplanned trip to Riga on my way to Moscow). This year, as well as the designated destination of Alexandroupolis in Greece, I would also visit Bari on my way home  - at least I would be on time for one of the destinations this year  :-).

I planned this trip with my usual approach of there and back via Eurotunnel and staying in  cheapish hotels selected via Booking.com. This trip was though a little different in that it was rather wonderfully interspersed with the World Cup as well as helping me fulfil a family commitment to my late mother.

Wednesday June 27th
Left early Wednesday morning from Bristol and had a clear run to Folkestone. Ended up on an earlier train and then had a pretty clear run to my destination for the evening.

This was a nice little town North of Frankfurt called Altendiez.  I was staying in a guest house that seemed to be aimed at people exploring the local national park. I had a shared Kitchen, Lounge and bathrooms but as there was no one else staying until a French van turned up late on I had the place to myself.

Whilst there was no TV in the place (a nice touch on reflection) I had discovered via the internet that Germany had just exited the World Cup. We are all so used to Germany progressing to the later stages of football competitions that this was a major shock. The English amongst us are used to it being us exiting early so had a fair amount of empathy (what is the German for schadenfreude as the BBC quipped? ).

 I found a local restaurant for dinner and enjoyed beer and pork whilst listening to a large table of subdued locals do an inquest into the day’s football events. I then eventually managed to find my way back to the guest house through a maze of lanes and alleyways and retired to bed ready for an early start.


Thursday June 28th
I was on the road by six and heading to my destination for the evening 700 miles away in the town of Kecskemet in Southern Hungary. Ordinarily I love travelling on German motorways. They are fast and the standard of driving is probably the best in Europe. The A3 on June 28th was not as enjoyable as usual. It was slowed down by a seemingly constant succession of roadworks and accidents. As usual, I carefully filtered through all of this. I am aware that it is apparently not entirely legal to do this in Germany. However, most German drivers though do their best to provide you with the space required. I encountered just the one Passat driver who blasted me with his horn as I passed. I ignored him and put it down to his mood being particularly poor due to a combination of the lousy traffic and the previous day’s football.

I was reminded of my controversial riding attire at a German motorway service station when  a German driver asked me why I was wearing a BMW jacket whilst riding a Honda. I told him it was because BMW make good jackets and Honda make great bikes – he looked at me blankly…….

The other thing that impacted the days ride was the weather. The forecast had predicted the potential for thunderstorms for my ride on the Thursday and Friday through much of Germany, Austria and the Balkans. This proved to be accurate with probably 1200 of those 1500 miles being wet – ranging from light rain to biblical . Once clear of the A3 the rest of the route via Austria and into Hungary was pretty uneventful.  I eventually arrived at my hotel in Hungary about 19.45 just as they closed their restaurant. The hotel was clean and the staff were great but it was a little tired and quite East European - not necessarily a bad thing - good to experience something other than standard western hotel decor every so often. The choice for dinner was either KFC or a large Tesco supermarket. I opted for the latter and ended up in my room drinking a can of Hungarian IPA and making Ham rolls.

Friday June 29th
Mine and Phisdelo’s bikes in the Serbian rain
I set off early again Friday and headed for my destination in Haskovo in Southern Bulgaria. There was a pretty large queue at the Serbian border but I was waved through to the front and cleared the whole lot in about ten minutes. This was my first visit to Serbia and the torrential rain and lousy traffic around Belgrade gave me a less than rosy view (perhaps unfairly??) Somewhere in southern Serbia I ran into Phisdelo and followed him to the border with Bulgaria. We ended up in convoy with a French chap on a Goldwing. Our bid to get to the front of the queue was foiled by an irate border guard so the crossing took a little longer. Not too bad though, about 25 mins I think.
Once In Bulgaria I lost Phisdelo due to a combination of sitting politely behind the Goldwing for too long and then getting snarled up in Sofia’s traffic. Arrived at my hotel early evening and it was great. Immaculate, large modern rooms and restaurant and only 30 euros for B&B. Schnitzel and beer for dinner
Dinner in Bulgaria
Saturday June 30th
I only had 100 miles to do on the Saturday so had a leisurely breakfast and set off. Was a great ride through the mountains to the border crossing which was passed through quickly. The sun came out and the temperature rose pretty well as soon as I entered Greece. Had a great ride to the hotel, part of which was on my first toll road of the trip. The Greek toll roads are cheap and I think I paid about a euro that day and probably a total of 5 the following day.

I arrived at the hotel Erika late morning, checked in, showered, changed and did some washing which I left to dry in the heat on my balcony. Ran into Phisdelo again and we had a very good lunch in a local taverna with a couple of carafes of white wine. I then retired to my room to sleep off that and the fatigue I had amassed over the past few days.

We then met Jaybee and Johnny M for the group photo and then had another pleasant and inexpensive meal in the selected restaurant. The owner was “honoured” and I think somewhat bemused that we had ridden across Europe to have dinner at his restaurant before heading home. On reflection, I guess his bemusement was somewhat understandable.
 Group Shot in front of Alexandroupolis Lighthouse
Sunday July 1st
Jaybee, Johnny M and Phisdello had all planned an early start to head back home via Bulgaria.

I was going home via Italy. My Mum died in 2016 and had decided that she wanted her ashes scattered in three locations. She was a Catholic from Liverpool who had spent a couple of years of her youth in Italy with a mystery Italian. The destinations for her ashes had therefore been selected as Liverpool, Rome and Florence. The Liverpool piece is fairly straightforward and my niece had recently visited Rome and taken care of that piece. I was carrying some of my Mum for a trip to Florence. Having never been to Albania before I decided to get to Italy with a ferry from Durres in Albania to Bari in Southern Italy. The ferry left 22.00 Sunday evening so I had plenty of time.

My route through Greece took me west along the coast and was nicely scenic. Somewhere along here I passed another bike and we exchanged waves. He caught me up at the next toll booth and gestured for coffee so we met at the next services and sat down for coffee after filling our tanks. This chap (Italian) put a few things into perspective. He was riding a 1990s Suzuki and was returning from a month and 15000kms riding around Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Iraq. He had also tried to get into Syria (apparently impossible without a Syrian passport) and Iran (had skipped that as did not want to wait 48 hours for a visa). He described riding in Iraq as a pain in the backside due to constant checkpoints where you have to remove all your gear, present your documents and generally justify your existence. I had been feeling a little anxious about riding through Albania on my own and this was greatly put into perspective by our discussion over coffee.

Albania and Macedonia eventually turned out to be pretty straightforward. The roads are fairly poor but as with most places the people are great and keen to engage. I arrived at the Ferry terminal in plenty of time and sat down to enjoy their air con and the TV in their bar. I watched Russia defeat Spain in the company of the local (Russia Supporting) police and port staff. They provided a great atmosphere.
Durres Ferry Terminal, Albania
The ferry left on time and docked on time in Bari the following morning. It was an Italian Ferry with a joint Italian/ Albanian crew. It was well run and their arrangements for securing bikes where good (relative to my experience of Brittany Ferries at least). A nice clean cabin with shower and chicken and chips whilst watching Croatia Denmark made for a great crossing.


Monday July 2nd
 Bari Lighthouse
Italy was hot, and as a motorist expensive. The fabulous food, architecture and scenery provide great compensation. I had purposely got to the ferry with an empty tank just to ease whatever onboard manoeuvring was required. Therefore needed fuel when I got to Italy and stopped at one the first services on the Autoroute. Italian fuel I subsequently discovered  is expensive wherever you are. This station was attendant only (“Serviced”) and that makes it more expensive. The unleaded was 1.91 euros/litre! He did tell me it was Super and the obvious comeback occurred - Super – it better be bloody fantastic for that price. My route to Florence was Autoroute all the way and I found my hotel reasonably easily. I got directions to the Ponte Vechio from reception and enjoyed a very pleasant walk through the city. I had already decided I wanted pizza and found and great little restaurant in a small square along my route. The annual Palio horse race was on in Sienna that night and was live on the TV in the restaurant. It was great to watch the locals enthralled by the drama of it all. This was followed by the drama of watching the two Japanese businessmen at the table next to mine watch Japan lead Belgium 2-0 before losing to them 2-3 in the last minute – a lousy way to lose a football match.
The Palio on the Telly and two Japanese football fans
Duly sated by Pizza, Vino Tinto, Tiramisu and a couple of Grappas, I set off to find the River Arno and scatter my Mums Ashes. I know that she would have loved the whole evening and it may even have made up for dragging across Europe in the pannier of a “bloody motorbike” as she almost always called them – a legacy to be fair of the number of mishaps I had on them in my youth.
View of the Ponte Vechio

Tuesday July 3rd
I had planned an early start with a shot at a return home in one go in mind. I woke up even earlier than planned and left my hotel by 4.00am. The Autoroute took me to Aosta in Northern Italy and through the Mont Blanc tunnel. The total cost of the Italian Autoroute from Bari to Aosta was 109 euros. The toll for the tunnel was a further 29 euros. Whilst expensive, the advantage of the Italian and French Autoroutes is that you do make good time and despite a couple of French thunderstorms,  I did keep going all the way to Calais. 
Parked up on the France side of the Mont Blanc tunnel
The last hour or so in France and my Eurotunnel route were during the England Columbia game and consequently, everywhere was very quiet.

The view down the Eurotunnel on arrival - the footy is on!
I arrived home 00:30 on Wednesday morning 1103 miles after leaving Florence and 3984 miles after leaving home.

Reflections on the trip.

  • I continue to love the ST1300. It is not perfect – generates massive amounts of heat in hot weather and I really must do something about the seat, but it is a fabulous bike especially in the context of IBA rides.
  • I continue to love the whole concept of the IBA  – a bunch of loosely aligned like-minded people riding large distances to turn up in strange distant places for beer, food and chat – what’s not to like.
  • I need a new sat nav. I am using the seven year old Zumo that came with my bike. It is/was  a great device but is maybe just past its best especially for IBA usage – you have to manually load the maps you require as it will not hold mapping for all of Europe. Consequently, I have had a few instances where I had to divert somewhere and then found I did not have the relevant maps loaded (e.g. Riga last year). In addition, it did not want to route me out of Florence  - I spent 20 mins riding around the city at 4.00am until I eventually spotted a sign for Genova and was on my way

Another great RTE, probably my last this year but I look forward to considering whatever is decided as destinations for next year.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

RBLR 1000 2018

What's new

RBLR 1000 2018

Unwatch
#1
Spectacles Testicals Wallet
We all have a check list that's the basic model you can then make it as complicated as you wish,
anyway 0500 16/06/18 squires café myself and a friend Andy Burnside {a fellow marshal at the Classic racing Motorcycle club www.crmc.co.uk} whom I got interested last year asked if he could accompany me as this was his first time.
Uneventful ride to Birch then up to Glasgow, weather predicted heavy rain they were depressingly accurate it started once we got over the Erskine bridge through Glencoe up to Ft William, as we passed the commando memorial at Spean Bridge to find this cage driver doing a three point turn on the right hand bend by the entrance as he had missed the turn after I had voiced opinion on his parents marital status and the depth of his intellect we kept on to Inverness weather slowly improving.
Sat nav,s why do they on occasion have a mind of their own at Drumnadrochit on the A82 it said turn left after a quick discussion we decided to follow it out of curiosity it made a change.
We passed the collision on the A9 apparently a classic SMIDSY the rider seriously injured best regards and a speedy recovery.
The weather slowly improving as we got further north got to Wick before we saw blue sky, best part about the road from Inverness to wick is you have to turn round and do it again:D
The A9 south of Inverness must be the most boring sleep inducing road ever built might return via the A82 next time however good run south to Edinburgh the new Forth road bridge caused some confusion getting to Dreghorn services bleeding sat nav again but we got there.
On the last leg now not sure why the stop at Berwick-on-Tweed is necessary, the A1 south was quiet hardly so a nice run back to Squires arriving at 0230 Andy Burnside was well impressed and wants to do another SS ride another recruit for insanity.
The bike ran perfectly but blew the oil seal on the final drive and is on the bike lift awaiting parts if I can't get it done by next weekend for the RTE I will be in the car.
thanks