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 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

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} 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.

Friday, 13 July 2018

RBLR1000 June 2018

Sunday morning at Squires Cafe, Yorkshire, I am having an old fashioned instant coffee at the café and thinking about the weekend I had.
I am not the one for bucket lists, I am more looking on a daily/monthly and yearly base what I like to do. So there are no regrets when something didn’t work out in life. One thing on my real bucket list was to ride an SS1000 officially and to become part of the "Worlds Toughest Riders". And the best one to ride is the RBLR1000 to support the British Legion.
There I was at 00:20 riding in after about 20 hours on the road and 1000 miles later. Never underestimate the emotional power when people are cheering you in, people who understand what you did. I felt emotional after the sun broke through at Perth and I felt it coming in.
We started at 5:00 all 138 of us. Being signed in, the rules of the Iron Butt Association are tight, and waved off by people who are committed to riding and to the RBLR, makes it an easy start, even for me at 5:00.
First stop at Birch Services, again the RBLR is waving at us. Signing the first evidence. It is up to Fort William for the second one. The first miles are dry but after 300 km it starts to rain. Time for a first fuel stop for the bike and to feed myself. The route along Loch Lomond is very pretty, when it is not raining….. Fort William, likewise. But it is raining and luckily my jacket is keeping me dry and my trick with the sponge at the screen, to prevent spray under my visor, works too. Talking about the helmet, it felt comfortable at the right time. I had to buy a new one because I broke the visor when I dropped the helmet and replacement ones were not available fast enough. At Fort William I had a small bite and drink and up it was towards to Wick.
It stopped raining about 1,5 hours before Wick. Suddenly traffic stopped too and there was a huge
queue. I rode passed it and was stopped by a cross policeman, he asked me what I was doing and what I did was illegal and that sort of things and that I had to stop. (period, and that was an order). I wondered if it was a bike accident what happened and that this was one of the things that made him this cross. It appeared it was one biker that had an accident involving a car and it was one other rider of my ride. (I found out later, bummer I hope he will be OK soon). With a delay I arrived in Wick and my sat-nav pointed me further, so I went. I ended up somewhere silly, so I lost 20 minutes or so. Note to myself: prepare yourself better next time round.

So in Wick when I filled up and got my ticket for the evidence I was there. I was thinking that it is now only 800 km back and it is only 15:30. Well, it is the same distance to ride from home (Gennep,NL) to Italy. Would I ever consider starting at 15:30 to ride to friends in Italy, well most likely not….. SS1000’s puts things and distances in different perspective.
Riding down it started raining again. Filled up half way to Edinburgh to get fuel and a bite. At Perth suddenly like clouds were cut with a knife, the clouds broke and the sun started shining. There they were, the beautiful colours of Scotland. Stop at Edinburgh, got rid of the waterproof trousers, which helped me enough, only a wet crotch, and mounted the sheepskin. What a luxury! Berwick, the last station, still light. Next stop was back to the Squires, two hours of motorway hammering down the A1/M1 at 120 km/h.

At 0:20 coming in at the Squires, the cheers lifted my emotions, the signing off brought the relief, the verification and the certificate to prove I have done it signed by Phil, was a reward that cannot be underestimated. I was shivering a lot, but after a sausage sandwich and a coffee and some more to eat, it was much better. I believe it was a combination of cold, shortage of easy available energy, fatigue and emotions. Got to bed about 1-ish and fell asleep instantly.
Woken up at 9 in a nice warm tent I felt fit.
Ordering breakfast, I was talking to a lady who did the 500-miles on a Street Twin, she nailed the hammer straight on the nail saying that they/we long distance riders are different. I believe more relaxed and supportive. Camping and talking to other participants was different. It is not about how good looking the bikes are, because most of our bikes are in a well used state, but about thinking and coping with riding conditions.
Leaving me a word of thanks for everybody who made it possible. The team of the IBA-UK, the RBLR, the people at the Squires café and also everybody who supported me in this ride. With donations, words of admiring (or disgust), likes on my posts and everybody else who think I (and we) are nuts, because I consider that as a word of praise.

Paul Ten Broeke

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Lunch in Red Square

This summer I fulfilled an ambition to return to Moscow by calling a #RideToEat in Red Square. Three UK riders crossed the channel separately on Monday heading for lunch in Moscow on Friday.
JB & Mike met up in Hannover, Germany that evening and I joined them for breakfast before setting off together to ride 700 miles to Suwalki, Poland. Sticking together over that distance proved challenging and many pretty villages were inspected along the way. The day finished with a welcome beer in the hotel bar.
The third day entailed a 285 mile route across Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to Ludza, just 20 miles from the Russian border. Here we met up with Phillipe from Switzerland for supper. Next morning Phillipe set off early to the border. Mike, JB & I had a leisurely breakfast then rode to the border where we met the fourth Brit, Phil. Three hours later we completed the crossing into Russia.
Our ride through open forest to Moscow was split at a roadside diner where a complete stranger acted as interpreter and also paid for our food. The Russians are a very hospitable people. On the outskirts of Moscow we were welcomed by a Russian Iron Butt rider who led us the most efficient route across town to our hotel and arranged overnight security for our bikes.
Friday was spent being tourists, exploring the city, lunching in Red Square and dining with a group of Russians who made us more than welcome.
Saturday started with an early morning ride across the city to be photographed with our bikes on Red Square. We then left, each riding at his own pace, towards the border. Mike & I stopped in Ludza Saturday night and on Sunday headed for Warsaw and beyond. We split up near Lodz and I spent my last night away in a small motel.
Rising early on Monday I calculated ETA at Calais, 850 miles, and booked a Chunnel. I arrived in Calais well ahead of schedule and caught a train almost immediately. Obviously when I emerged at Folkestone, despite having enjoyed clear, dry, sunny weather all day, driving rain stayed with me all the way home.

Days away from home: 7
Miles ridden: 3,940
Highest speed: 96mph
Shortest day: 285 miles
Longest day: 945 miles

More detailed report of this trip here.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Monica's Iron Butt

Just like to say a big thank you to Steve who let me go on the back of his bike for the RBLR 1000 miles this year.

I've marshalled the event three times and enjoyed seeing all the riders leaving Squires at silly o clock (5 am) and waving as they go out of the gates wondering what it's like to be on the ride itself.

As the riders come back after 20 hours on the bike some of the tough lads are looking fresh and buzzing with excitement of what they have done and talking about what they have seen on the travels and getting a drink and a bite to eat then getting off. Then the lads that are in the last couple of hours to spare look tired and shattered and as marshals we have to tell them to switch off engines and put stands down and help them from the bikes and sometimes park the bikes for them so that they can have a rest.

One year I said I'd love to have a go on the back to achieve this and tick one of my bucket list of things I'd love to do in my life. This year, 2017, it happened: I managed to go pillion for the Iron Butt with a man that I've never seen before in my life, met him on the Friday night very briefly just to say 'hi' and to see what bike we were going on. 

I hardly slept that night with excitement got up and dressed at 4am. All the lads were getting ready and queuing up for the off as I went looking for my lift. As I'd forgotten what Steve's bike looked like, I started to panic as the bike was not there.

The sound of bikes revving took the panic away and sheer excitement came as the lads were chatting to each other and asked if I'm ok.  I said I'm looking for Steve with the big bike and a few lads said sorry but it's not me and a few said that I could go on their bikes. Then the bikes set off out the gates as Steve pulled up and I was giddy and excited and I grinned from ear to ear, got on the bike and we were off.

We stopped off at petrol station after petrol station, getting on and off the bike seemed easy; it was a lovely experience as we just went on and on and on - the views were stunning and we even went to John o' Groats for a photo.

It didn't feel like I was on the bike for 21 hours, I would do it again given the chance. When we got back to Squires I helped out by greeting the riders back and they all enjoyed it. Thank you to Graeme for asking Steve to let me be his pillion.  I still think about it 😍

Monica Kershaw

The RBLR1000 is the Legion's premier motorcycle fundraising event and we're very grateful to Monica for her efforts in marshalling and keeping it running over the last few years. We're delighted that she's now managed to actually take part in the ride and earn her spurs as a member of the Iron Butt Association. See you next year Monica.

Graeme Dawson
RBLR1000 Squires Coordinator

Monday, 12 June 2017

From Russia with love

Previous instalment.

One of my mates had a problem at the Latvian border on Thursday morning and hadn't come through with us. He was finally able to cross into Russia around midnight Friday and at 0330 he was 120 miles from Moscow and hoping to meet with us before our departure early Saturday morning. Just after 0600 he was having breakfast in a petrol station outside the city. In fact he arrived at the Cosmos just as Dmitry and Pavel arrived to lead us in convoy across the city to Red Square for some final photos with our bikes. A helmetcam video exists of this ride but I won't link to it as it includes 13 seconds of me failing to cancel my indicator after a turn and if you can't see it no such mistake was made. What happens in Moscow stays in Moscow!

Our hosts then led us out of the city and back to the M-9 before pulling over and waving us on our way.

My goodness it was cold once we left the city and eventually I had to pull over and add another layer. There were four of us leaving Moscow but two were now pressing on leaving just the two of us to maintain a steady pace westwards. We agreed that we would just return to the same hotel in Ludza and not press further on as the front runners were bound to. We started to pay attention to fuel consumption again and also to using up Rubles in petrol stations. In most (but not all) Russian petrol stations you hand over some cash or authorise a card then draw fuel then settle up. It can seem a bit strange to stop in a largely vacant lot and pass cash through a small window to an unseen hand but it works just fine and we even stopped again to top up before crossing the border.

We knew from reports by Phil & JB that they crossed back into Latvia in about half an hour. We were not so lucky and it took two hours. Also that was the point at which my Zumo decided that enough is enough and just powered off and stayed dead. I tried the USB connector - yep that still works so if necessary I'll just use that. On arrival at the hotel a while later I discovered that I'd actually dropped my USB cable somewhere along the way so dead reckoning then.

After a brief exchange of views about the price of hotel rooms and the wisdom of attempting a 1,000 mile ride at 0400 Sunday we opted for several beers tonight and a leisurely breakfast in the morning. We used these sessions to cure ourselves of secondary plans like visiting Auschwitz or Gdansk "on the way home". Sometimes when looking at a map you think "I've come 2,000 miles what's a few more?" Well Ludza to Calais is 1,380 miles; Ludza, Gdansk, Calais is 1,662 miles. That's a diversion of 282 miles, the same distance as from Suwalki to Ludza on day three of the ride out. No, IBA RTEs should be there and back not excuses to just wander around. There'll be plenty of other trips to incorporate sightseeing.

Sunday morning after breakfast I cleaned the Zumo's connectors with an alcohol rub and magically it agreed to play (didn't last though, it got tired again later on and went back to sleep). Anyway, we saddled up and headed southwest and were much better prepared this time for the roadworks with "interesting" surfaces. Right across Lithuania and into Poland we were running on Russian petrol; I was getting 18-19 kilometres per litre. Eventually we pulled into a Shell station and I treated my engine to a tankful of V-Power. Back to 22-23 kpl almost immediately! The Russian fuel was pretty cheap, around 60p per litre, but it's not the best quality.

In Warsaw we encountered some weather. Serious, biblical quantities of rain, blowing sideways with some force; thunder and lightning like the end of the world and some traffic. We filtered through  almost 14 million miles of cars backed up in the city centre until we found the cause - an unseated rider being treated by paramedics. After a few minutes we were shown a way round the chaos and we took off, into even harder, faster, rain. Visor open was too painful; visor closed meant not being able to see anything at all. We survived and slowly found our way back on track, a motorway continuing  southwest towards Lodz.

Not far past Lodz I started recognising the signs of "time for bed" and flashed Mike several times indicating my desire to get off the road. Eventually I turned off into a service area but Mike carried on. Well that's just the way it is; ever the lightweight I checked into the motel and texted Mike to let him know what's happening. The motel I have to say was a delight: clean & comfortable with everything I could want - heated towel rail for drying wet gear - and run by a husband & wife? team who bent over backwards for me; breakfast of champions. In fact when I got home I wrote a thank you letter with the help of a Polish neighbour. £33 including breakfast!

 So the last day dawned, my Zumo decided to play again, all by itself with no special treatment this time and did in fact continue to work all the way home. I set off towards Calais at a fair old lick. The speed limit on the Polish motorway 150kph but I don't think anyone drives that slowly. The only interruption is the toll booths (all Polish motorways are subject to road use tolls) and at one of these I learned yet another lesson in the never-ending learning curve of motorcycle riding: when you unzip the top of your tank bag to retrieve the toll ticket, IMMEDIATELY zip it up again. Not long after leaving the last toll booth I noticed that my strip of pills had gone for a walk. Oh well, I'll HAVE to get home today now.

It felt strange having crossed into Germany to realise that I had now slowed down, in Germany, on an autobahn with no speed limit! It's true, the overall speed of the traffic was lower in Germany than in Poland. Those who reckon that speed limits reduce speeds need to pay attention.

I arrived in Calais well ahead of schedule and caught a train almost immediately. Obviously when I emerged at Folkestone, despite having enjoyed clear, dry, sunny weather all day, driving rain stayed with me all the way home.

Days away from home: 7
Miles ridden: 3,940
Highest speed: 96mph
Shortest day: 285 miles
Longest day: 945 miles

Would I recommend riding to/in Russia? absolutely. Lovely country, lovely people.

Being the first group of IBA riders we did legalities by the book but in future we'll be more relaxed: get third party motor insurance from a shack once you've crossed the border. It may well not be worth the paper it's written on in the event of a claim but it does make you legal. Nobody asked to see our International Drivers Permits but they're only £5 from a Post Office so what the hell. Nobody asked to see my fire extinguisher (yes fire extinguisher, what do you mean you don't carry one?) or, as far as I can tell, checked my fingerprints.

Travel the correct way - make yourself at home wherever you are as opposed to trying to make everywhere you go like home. Be patient and calm at border crossings. Our group included a Suzuki, a Triumph, a Honda, a Harley-Davidson and two BMWs so even if you ride a BMW you can still comfortably ride to Russia and back.