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.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Russian Ride To Eat

Previous instalment here.

The M-9 motorway runs from the Latvian border some 400 miles into Moscow. For context, that's roughly the distance between London and Glasgow. In Russia that entire route is cut from the forest with only a few settlements the size of English villages along the way. Don't be fooled by the term "motorway" either. The last 75 miles are recognisably motorway but until that point the road is at best equivalent to a minor English A road, not even dual carriageway. Not always surfaced either!

Every now and then we came to junctions offering side roads. These tended to have tarmac for 30-100 metres before trickling off into dirt tracks. I'm pretty sure that most of those deviations led to places where dragons are still living.

The Russians have a different approach to the roadworks strategies employed elsewhere in Europe. In England roadworks involve diversions, reduced speed limits, average speed cameras and massive inconvenience for road users. In Germany roadworks involve very sudden lack of road followed up with no useful information whatsoever. In Russia the roadcrews all wear hi-vis orange and you're expected to drive round them. If they've felt the urge to remove the road surface you'll obviously need to go a little slower and more carefully and you'll definitely want to swerve round large diggers etc.

Eventually the time comes when even we, World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders, have to stop for sustenance and we duly pulled in to a rather charming roadside diner. Unfortunately the staff only spoke Russian (and none of us could manage more than 'pojolsta'), the menu was in Russian using the Cyrillic alphabet (which none of us could read) but a Russian diner came to our rescue, translated the entire menu for us and placed our orders with the waitress before returning to finish his lunch.

As the food arrived, our rescuer finished his meal, came to us and told us that to welcome us to Russia, the meals were a gift and he got into his car and drove off. The stuffed chicken legs and rice were delicious, even more so as they're free.

I had received a text from the president of IBA Russia telling me that he wished to meet up and lead us into town from a convenient point on the motorway rather than have us struggle across the city in traffic. I'd interpreted that as "on Friday for the photo in Red Square" but no he was insistent that he'd meet us on our way in today. I added the suggested petrol station as a waypoint but also sent him a link to my tracker.
As we approached the city limits we noticed a biker frantically waving at us headed out of town. It didn't seem to be the normal "hello fellow biker" thing we'd had right across Europe and we pulled into a petrol station to fine-tune our entry to the city.
Moments later Dmitry flew in beside us on his Honda Silver Wing and introduced himself.

After spending a little getting-to-know-you time we lined up for a group ride to the Cosmos hotel. Dmitry asked what would be a comfortable speed. I said "100-110kph" so obviously we hit 145kph until the traffic became thick enough to reduce the speed. Moscow traffic is busy even at 10pm and in the midst of it I was buzzed by two local bikes which distracted me for a split-second, long enough to lose the flow and I came to a hard stop behind a broken down Mercedes van in my lane. It took perhaps a minute for me to find a way round it and of course the others were all now out of sight. I switched to following the satnav but after a little while I realised that all was not well and pulled over. The Zumo was calmly taking me back to the motorway to meet up with Dmitry! I reset and found the Cosmos within ten minutes or so.

The Cosmos hotel is a huge Soviet era thing with almost 2,000 rooms and an enormous statue of Charles DeGaulle; we were given rooms on the 21st floor with magnificent views across the city. See if you can guess where we ended up half hour after checking in? Obviously!

So there we were, a small group of gentlemen of a certain age, sat at a bar, helpfully labelled "pub" enjoying the protection of some other gentlemen wearing ill-fitting grey suits while being entertained by the sights and sounds of a busy international congregation of people out for a good time, in various ways. Fortunately I don't speak Swedish.

We slept well.

Friday morning had us join the melee in the vast canteen for breakfast. Almost anything you can think of is available for breakfast in the Cosmos, every kind of meat, vegetable, fruit, cereal, eggs, fish. Nobody goes hungry there, not even vegetarians.

A gentle morning followed at lunchtime by an excursion on the Moscow Metro across town to Red Square. Walking onto Red Square felt surreal to all of us, even those who'd been before. It's like another world and it felt slightly odd that we were even there at all. The square is huge and takes some getting used to.

We had some time to enjoy before the 4pm standard group photo so we had Borscht followed by ice cream in a cafe in the Gum shopping mall and visited St Basils cathedral, now a museum.
4pm official photo

After the photo we agreed to an early supper in a biker bar some distance away.  Fun & games with taxis finally saw us gathered in the Double Bourbon Bar for beer & bourbon followed by steak & chips accompanied by Pink Floyd.

next instalment here.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

To the Russian Border

When I called, 18 months ago, an RTE [Ride To Eat] in Red Square, Moscow I was concerned that people would just laugh and nobody would come. I was wrong: initially some two dozen IBAers signed up, a big number by IBA standards. Many dropped out along the way due to a variety of circumstances ranging from ill-health to clashes with several major IBA events. On the day we were four from the UK, two from Finland and one from Switzerland. May not sound much but that's actually a pretty good turnout for what would be a ground-breaking 4,000 mile journey.

What's the big deal? What's different about going to Russia than, say, going to Riga, Latvia?

The short answer is "it's Russia". Will I be able to get a visa? How long will it take to cross the border? to reach Moscow from the border? what will the roads be like? what about bike insurance? breakdown cover? The answer to all these questions was "I don't know". Garmin don't supply maps for Russia and the road signs will be in Cyrillic.

In Leicester for the Brit Butt Rally I developed a problem with a tooth. Dilemma: should I delay my departure, possibly making the trip impossible, by getting my tooth fixed or should I risk having to get emergency treatment far from home? Resolving that took a couple of hours but I finally opted for hoping the tooth would settle down and be ok (it was). Off to Folkestone!

30 miles from home I realised I'd forgotten to fit the Airhawk - too late now, I'll just have to tough it out. 20 miles further on my Zumo felt the need to cycle power, that's not good. On the train I inspected the cradle and connections for the Zumo but all seemed good so maybe it was just a one-off. (You know it wasn't though, don't you).

First stop Hannover, Germany, a fair old trek given that I'd been up since the crack of dawn exchanging IT kit for bike trip kit, fiddling with a tooth, fiddling with the bike but only 400 miles from Calais and I arrived around 1am in desperate need of a shower as it was still 27c.

Day two began with breakfast followed by a 700 mile group (mostly) ride to Suwalki, Poland. We rode quite quickly for a while before analysing the effect on fuel consumption at various speeds. At one point I noticed the effect on my fuel consumption quite suddenly and made a hasty decision to stop for fuel in the middle of some roadworks. That decision was spot on as I took 19 litres (into my 20 litre tank) but in re-establishing contact with Mike the run leader, I guessed that he would continue on the route but slow down for us to catch up. After about 70 miles of hard, fast, catching up, we stopped and texted him. He'd opted for the "wait at next services" protocol but had given that up after a while and was now ten minutes behind us.

About 100 miles from Suwalki I cocked up again and failed to turn off the freshly opened dual carriageway as I watched JB and Mike disappearing round the corner. I texted that I'd find my own way then set about looking for fuel as I was quite low at that point. The Zumo's first offering involved crossing the central barrier AND  a two metre high chainlink fence. After ignoring the "Do U-turn when you can" for some distance I was directed to a place where a petrol station will be one day, but this wasn't the day. The signs were all in place, unlike the actual buildings and pumps, but they were all crossed out. After yet more U-turns and other physically impossible suggestions from the cutting edge of technology which is the latest Garmin offering I resorted to dead reckoning and some improvised route making to reach an actual live petrol station.

The rest of the journey, 100 miles or so, passed through small villages, pretty churches, country roads and some thoroughly attractive scenery. If I was a half-decent travel writer I'd have taken photos along the way but you'll just have to take my word for it, or ride it yourself. I arrived at 10pm, just in time for the restaurant to close, no problem as I wasn't hungry, but joined the others for a beer. They stopped serving beer at 10pm also but IBA riders are handsome, smooth and resourceful and able to order beer in multiple languages while juggling 2-litre fuel cans and singing Land of Hope & Glory.

Day three, an extremely lightweight 285 miles only, introduced us to the rather different environment of the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia. It was here that we discovered that, whereas in Poland Garmin had included petrol stations yet to be built, here Garmin had included roads that had yet to be built and we spent quite lot of time waiting at temporary traffic lights followed by some manly offroading on what was loosely described as a "road surface".

Those 285 miles took all day because quite a lot of the day was spent doing 20mph and a fair bit spent doing not much more to avoid being flashed by speed cameras in Lithuania.

Day four - to the Russian border!
A quick blast, 20 miles or so, followed by a masterclass in waiting. Those wishing to transition from Latvia to Russia must learn the art of patience because most of the process involves waiting. Wait for the Latvian policeman to call you forward, then Latvian border patrol, then Russian I can't remember what they all were or in what order but I remember many faces and many pieces of paper.

To describe the Latvia/Russian border as an exercise in bureacracy is to grossly underestimate the process. Those with a prior exposure to Kafka's The Trial will be better prepared than others. Fill in the form, in duplicate, hand it in for inspection, get told off for incorrectness and given two more forms, try again, hand them in, wait while they're keyed into a computer and printed out, then wait while they're stamped, then, finally, move on to the next kiosk for more waiting.

Only three hours though and we're released into the wilds!

Next instalment here.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Full Monty

C:\Users\MSF\Desktop\IBA UK Logo.gif

'The Full Monty'
(The lot, the whole lot, and nothing but the lot)

Ride report by Mark Fowler

In 2015 I contacted the IBA UK President with an idea I had for a new certificated ride. I'm not a fan of riding for hours and hours around the UK motorway network for the sake of it so remembered back to 2012 when I rode my first 4 Corners ride.  

Those that have not ridden a 4 Corners ride may want to give it a go as the nature of the locations means there's a bit more variety in the roads ridden, plus it takes a bit more planning so you can get receipts when you arrive at each place.

C:\Users\MSF\Desktop\IBA UK 4 Corners Map.jpg

In the rules for a 4 Corners ride there is some leeway given if a rider isn't able to get a receipt from either Land's End or John O'Groats if they arrive outside normal working hours.  A receipt from Penzance will be accepted but when the ride is verified 20 miles and 30 minutes are added, likewise a receipt from Wick will add 32 miles and 40 minutes.  

My idea for this new ride still encompasses the 4 Corners but has a few subtle differences:

1. A rider may start their route from any location they wish. Currently the clock starts for a 4 Corners ride with a receipt from the first one.  This means riders often have to ride many miles and hours before even starting the ride.

2. A rider must visit each corner in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction once the first corner has been clocked. Currently you can ride the corners in any order you choose. I know some riders start at Lowestoft, head back west over to St.Davids in Wales then go down to Land's End before blasting north up to finish at John O'Groats.

3. A rider must get a receipt from every single corner location. As mentioned above you can currently get away with a receipt from Penzance or Wick during a normal 4 Corners ride.

So after creating my own rules for this ride I sat down and worked out how far I would ride and how long it would take.  I did a few random routes starting from different places around the country and discovered that regardless whether you live in Birmingham, London, or Edinburgh if you start your ride from where you live,  then go to your first corner, ride in either direction from there on and come back to where you first started you will always ride well over 2000 miles. So that fits nicely with the current 48 hours for a Saddlesore 2000.

I then sat down and started some serious number crunching to calculate what time I would need to start from Norwich near where I live to get me to three out of the four corners that don't have 24 hour receipt options.  I also wanted to build in a rest stop half way round and this also helped me to be at every corner during normal working hours.

Next I looked at when to do the ride.  Nearly two and a half years after my serious bike accident and I still struggle riding long distances due to niggling pain in my hip joints. Probably an after effect of my Pelvis almost being split in two! Despite this year's mishap after the Brit Butt Rally I find the planning and riding in rallies more rewarding due to the stop start nature so I knew I was in for some pain with this ride.

Early September therefore looked like a good time to do it.  The weather is still usually very good and it's my birthday on the 9th so a weekday ride looked like a sensible choice with the ride taking place on a Thursday and Friday.  This also meant I would have the weekend to recover before going back to work.

I took the Wednesday off work too and took time to prepare and load the bike, get some rest and try and relax.  I ended up going to bed a bit later than planned at 7 p.m.  My alarm then quickly went off again at 01.15 and I was on my way to a nearby 24 hour Esso garage ready for my start receipt.  At precisely 02.00 hours I was off and heading to my first corner which handily for me is only 40 minutes down the road at Lowestoft.

I pulled onto the petrol station forecourt and brimmed the tank. When I checked the receipt the bloody time was wrong by exactly one hour.  It said it was 01.39 not 02.39!  Their clock setting must have still been on winter time.  Hopefully as I can't ride to Norwich from there in 21 minutes I hoped this would still be accepted when verification checks were done.

I never usually use the A12 when heading south as the first part to Ipswich is slow single carriageway but at three o'clock in the morning there was virtually no traffic apart from the odd lorry and van.

I reached the M25 and intended to go south over the bridge round to the M3.  Shortly after joining though there were signs up saying the M25 was closed ahead! I did a u-turn at the next junction and headed off anti-clockwise instead.  As I passed Heathrow more bad news came in the form of warning signs that the M3 was also closed between junctions 2 and 4a.  I turned onto the M4 then headed south to Basingstoke to rejoin the M3 then A303.

My first fuel stop after Lowestoft was at Wincanton in Somerset. I was now 10 minutes ahead of schedule so nipped into the Morrisons store to use the toilet and grab a hot sausage roll for breakfast. It then got light and my mood improved.  The further I headed into Devon and Cornwall the sunnier it got.  Unfortunately the dualling road works the other side of Bodmin slowed things down and on the approaches to Penzance the traffic brought things to a standstill.  I eventually reached Land's End 30 minutes behind time and only had a short stop for my receipt and food/water.


Next fuel stop was at Oakhampton and there were no more delays on the A30 or M5.  I got held up a bit waiting for the queues at the Severn Bridge toll booths and around Cardiff.  By the time I pulled into the Texaco garage on the outskirts of St.Davids I was now an hour late.

The route north through Wales was a wet one and I was thankful to follow a fast van driver along the winding roads on the approaches to Oswestry where I could join familiar roads once again up to Chester and across to the M6.  

I'd previously booked a cheap Travelodge at the Lancaster M6 Forton Services but by the time I arrived I was and hour and a half behind schedule.  I decided to have an extra hour here and was in bed at eleven and up again shortly before three o'clock in the morning. I did a another fuel up and was heading north again with all the lorries at just after 03.30 hours.

My original plan was to take the scenic route via Fort William and come down the A9.  I knew the A9 should be quicker so changed my plan and did a quick fuel/breakfast stop at Pitclochry.  It was still raining.  The A9 north of Inverness is one of my all time favourite roads and it was virtually dry so made good progress. I got my John O'Groats receipt from the Post Office at just after 11.30 which was now only 30 minutes behind my schedule.  

The A9 up to Inverness had been dreadfully slow though because of all the average speed cameras and road works.  I'd quickly calculated that the journey south via Fort William was only a few miles different so thought I could make some more time up going that way back instead - WRONG!!
I ran into rush hour traffic crawling into Fort William and the rain had set in once again.  I did a short stop at the Esso garage and decided to put my over suit and winter gloves on as I wouldn't be stopping again until Gretna Services. The traffic continued to be busy but now the wind and rain picked up.  Going up Glencoe and across Rannoch Moor was dreadfully slow with gusts of wind and rain.  To cap it all a traffic warning pinged up on my Zumo 590 through my phone app and heavy traffic had added 19 minutes onto my arrival time at Gretna.  I took a gamble and headed down to Glasgow via Calendar instead of Loch Lomond. Mistake number two.

I hit the tail end of rush hour and joined 8 miles of gridlock on the M80.  I managed to filter for 5 miles before it slowly picked up and then I joined the M74 South.

The next few hours were the most nerve racking I've ever spent on two wheels.  The weather worsened considerably.  The daylight went, the winds became gale force and blustery, the rain became heavy and don't even get me started on standing water.  Cars continued to wang along at 70-80 but I had to slow to more like 50 or 60 to keep the bike upright.  It was at this time I seriously considered binning the ride, especially as my arrival time at Gretna had slipped by 2.5 hours.  I only had a 3 hour fiddle factor time for the whole ride so thought the game was up.

The one good thing about very long rides is you have time to re-calculate and think about what to do to improve things.  My fuel up distances were around 270 miles which were nice and comfortable as my GSA has an easy 300 mile range.  After Gretna though I was planning another fuel stop at Kings Lynn but calculated If I pushed on to Penrith I wouldn't need to stop any more and would still be under the 350 mile re-fuel limit.

So I pushed on and got my last fill up in Penrith and headed over the still wet and blustery A66 to Scotch Corner.  My finish time at Norwich was now 01.45 so only 15 minutes to spare which was never going to happen considering you only lose time and rarely make it up.  I then had a panic thought. They close the A1 at Scotch Corner for more road works.  This would scupper me, having to divert over onto the A19.

When I reached Scotch Corner there were no signs about closures so my morale went up a gear as I headed south on the A1.  The weather also improved and the further south I rode the warmer it got.  The finish time also started ticking down too.  I had a quick stop south of Doncaster somewhere and removed my over suit and changed my wet winter gloves and neck tube for thinner and drier ones.

By the time I reached the A17 turn off I actually thought I might do it.  I know the A17 like the back of my hand, even in the dark and the later the hours got the lighter the traffic became.  It was a dream riding back the last 100 miles and I even took great delight in flashing my Clearwater Krista's at anything that thought they were bright when on dip beam and at their lowest power setting.  That usually shuts them up :-)

By the time I got back to Norwich I knew I was easily going to make it and got my finish receipt at 01.14 hours. Yippee! I took a leisurely ride the short distance back home and crawled into bed at two in the morning.

Later that day when I eventually rose from my pit I reflected on what I'd just done.  I ached all over, especially my knees hips and shoulders.  The sat nav had said I'd ridden 2174 miles. My maximum speed was 82 mph, moving average was 56 mph with overall average at 53 mph.

The bike went like a dream although I think I might have a tiny leak from a seal on the bottom of my final drive unit, but it was only a black mark and not wet with oil so I'll see how that goes.
It's only when we ride these sorts of distances in the time we do that we truly appreciate just how congested and roadwork ridden this country has become.  This certainly makes riding the plan far more difficult to achieve, and it was certainly the hardest ride I've ever done. From now on I'll mostly stick to rallies I think.

'The Full Monty'

2127 miles in 47 hours 16 minutes

8 - 9 September 2016