Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Berlin Blitz 2009 Ride Report

The Preparation
When I first found out about the Berlin Blitz I thought to myself, here’s a good opportunity to bag myself some more IBA awards.

But which one to go for??

So out with the Garmin MapSource and the most direct, fastest route from Derby to Berlin and back was 1636 miles - so that was good for a SS1000, but I’d already done a SS1000 and I wanted something different.

I then had a look at all the IBA rides that are available and decided that it would be nice to get some kilometre rides, so I then started looking at a route to get me a Saddle Sore 1600km and a Bun Burner 2500km. Both these rides had to take place solely in Europe, which then meant that the mileage from Derby to Folkestone and back couldn’t be counted towards a kilometre based ride…….hmmmm.
I then thought about a Saddle Sore 2000 mile ride. - But could I do in effect two SS1000’s, back to back?

I then decided that my route to Berlin should be planned so that it would incorporate a SS1600km, a BB2500km and a SS2000mile.

The theory behind this decision was that if all went well, I’d get the extreme SS2000, but if I missed out on that, then there would be a good chance I’d bag either the BB2500km or a SS1600km.
The route I came up was Derby to Folkestone, Calais, Antwerp, Eindhoven, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Dresden, Berlin, Hanover and back to Calais and under the English Channel back to Derby. I’d also need start witness’s in Derby and Calais and end witness’s ion Berlin, Calais and Derby.

The Derby and Berlin witness’s wouldn’t be a problem, but Calais might be a problem, as I can’t speak French.

The other problem I had was working out how to plan my start time so that I’d arrive in Berlin for 6pm local time, but found that Microsoft’s AutoRoute could work that out for me, all I had to do was factor in all my petrol stops and allowing time for the Euro Tunnel crossing. I eventually settle for a departure time of 7pm on Friday 31st July.

Now all I had to do was get a new clutch fitted to the Hayabusa plus chain and sprockets. The last chain I had had fitted for the RBLR1000 ride, but it now had a tight spot and needed replacing after only 1700 miles !

Now all I had to do was decide on accommodation in Berlin and decided that I’d camp at the Tent Station, which just happened to be a mile down the road from the hotel that everyone else was staying at.

When I’m doing time critical rides, I don’t like to have my side panniers on the bike as it hinders filtering in traffic, so I had to pack my tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, change of clothes, waterproof oversuit, spare gloves, energy bars wash bag and tool kit all into the top box and a tank bag that is mounted on the auxiliary fuel tank. I also need to leave enough space in the tank bag to store the thermal liners of my Hein Gerike Toureg touring jacket and trousers and jumper. Fortunately I’d brought from Decathlon a selection of vacuum bags which are brilliant at reducing the volume of clothes and sleeping bags and hence I was able to get all my gear into the top box and tank bag.

The Ride
I got my wife to sign my start witness form at 6:47pm on Friday 31st July and then headed to my local Somerfield petrol station and filled up the Hayabusa and got my official start time of 7:01pm - the trip had now started !

At 32 miles into the trip, on the M1 heading south, I was in 6th gear and rolled on the throttle to do an overtake and all that happened was the revs climbed from 5000rpm to 10000rpm but with no corresponding increase in velocity - the brand new clutch was slipping - damn! I now had to make a decision, to carry on or abort the ride? I made up my mind that I’d press on down to Folkestone and re-evaluate when /if I got to the Euro Tunnel.

Fortunately the clutch seemed to settle down and bed in and I had no further problems with the clutch or anything else with the bike for the rest of the trip.

With the 17 litre auxiliary fuel tank on the Hayabusa, I was able to make the 200 mile trip down to Folkestone non stop - the only time I put a foot down was at the Dartford Tunnel toll booth. I arrived at the Euro Tunnel at just after 10pm, which was about 1 ½ hours before AutoRoute had said I’d arrived! Fortunately I’d brought a Flexi+ ticket and just got on the next train heading to Calais at 10:50pm. Whilst waiting for the train I took the opportunity to stretch my legs and spotted a gold plated Ferrari - some people have more money and sense !

After a quick call to the wife to let her know I’d arrived at the Euro Tunnel and a toilet break it was time to get back on the bike and board the train. On the train I met a fellow biker on a HD V-Rod who had travelled down from Birmingham and was heading to Sardinia and he kindly agreed to be my start witness for my SS1600km and SS2500km ride.

With 30 minutes to spare, I hit the Iron Butt Motel and was able to get some sleep before we arrived in France.

At the petrol station within the Euro Tunnel complex, I re-filled my ‘busa and got my official start time for the kilometre based rides and then I was heading north up to Belgium and The Netherlands before heading east to Germany..

At around 3am I was getting a bit tired. This was the “witching” hour and from my previous experience on the RBLR1000 I knew it was my low point. Time to take it easy, so I pulled over near Venlo for fuel and watched the sun rise whilst having a couple of snack bars. It’s amazing how quickly you feel better after a bit of food and a rest of 15 minutes.

Now with the sun rising on my left, as I headed south towards Frankfurt I was able to pick up the pace with the improved visibility - thank god for the autobahns, more liberal speed limits, and the good lane discipline the Germans have when driving. They never seem to hog the outside lane and always pull over to let you pass - why it’s not like this in the UK I don’t know!

After Frankfurt I had to do a short stop to get one of my “corner” receipts before heading east towards Stuttgart. Somehow I managed to take a wrong exit and ended up in the middle of Stuttgart and wasted 30 minutes trying to get back onto the autobahn and to continue onwards towards Munich.

By now the traffic was beginning to build up and at about 70 miles before Munich the autobahn became gridlocked. I now had to filter for the best part of 30 miles - thankful that I hadn’t got my side panniers on!

Once again, the German drivers seemed only to happy to move aside when they some me filtering, with my extra spot lights blazing away and thumb ready on the air horn button and my right hand and foot covering the brakes. However, not once did I have to use the horn or brakes in anger and I made sure to give a quick wave of acknowledgement when drivers pulled over - thank you drivers!
Having skirted around Munich and collected my “corner” receipt before heading north towards Dresden and then Berlin, I realised that I had lost too much time whilst “exploring” Stuttgart and caught up in the traffic to make the deadline of 6pm at Brandenburg Gate. My GPS was telling me my ETA would be 8pm - bugger! Knowing the other IBAers would probably hang around for no more than an hour before going off to find food and beer I had to think how I could lose an hour off my trip, without losing any distance.

Up until this time I’d been quite happy cruising on the de-restricted autobahns at around 100mph - so now was the time to up the pace - the ‘busa was more than capable of higher speeds and I was feeling good, so time to up the pace.

Just after Munich, heading north, I had a good run for nearly two hours, now cruising at an indicated 150mph, where it was legal and safe to do so. I had a lovely ride following a Mercedes AMG55 that must having been near to it’s restricted top speed of 155mph. It was here that I found I had a problem with the cruise control, as it wouldn’t hold the bike’s speed at anything over 140mph. The cruise control unit I had fitted was imported from the USA, so guess the unit was never designed to count the wheel pulses at over 140mph as the speed limits are much lower over there!

By the time I’d got to Dresden, my GPS was telling me that my ETA at Berlin was 7pm - mission nearly accomplished !

Once into Berlin, I missed a turn-off and my GPS now gave me a scenic route of Berlin’s slums. I’ve never seen so much graffiti on buildings.

Just as I reached the Brandenburg Gate I was flagged down my two German bikers, one on a Ducati with a bent rear number plate holder and the other was on Honda VTR, I think.? Amway, they had seen my IBA licence plate and said I’d missed the photo shoot and were about to go to the hotel. The only problem was they didn’t know the route, so they flagged down a taxi and told the driver to go to the hotel whilst we all followed on our bikes.

Needless to say, after three sets of traffic lights I’d lost them, so I programmed by GPS with the address of the hotel.

At 7:40pm, I was in the hotel bar and Roger very kindly brought me an orange juice and gave me the receipt as my clocking off time. Roger also signed my end witness form which could be used for my SS1600km if I didn’t succeed in doing the BB2500km or SS2000.

The thought or now going of to the Tent Station, setting up camp and then finding food and then packing up all again wasn’t very appealing, so I bite the bullet and stomped up for a room at the hotel. I then ordered some food and went up to my room for a quick shower and to change out of my bike gear and into something more comfortable.

By the time I’d got back down to the bar, my food had arrived. This I munched down and then joined the other guys and girls for a few more non alcoholic drinks before retiring to bed at 9pm.

After a quick phone call to home I turned off the lights and immediately later the alarm was going off at 1am in the morning. Time to get back on the ‘busa and head for home.

Once again I had trouble with my GPS at it wouldn’t tell me whether or not to turn left or right out of the hotel - so I took the wrong one and once again I was taken on a scenic route of Berlin before making it to the autobahn and heading west towards Hanover.

After filling up at Hanover I had to slip into my waterproof suit as the heavens had opened and was attempting to drown me. With forked lighting striking the ground in the distance I was in two minds as to whether or not to pull over and just settle for a SS1600km, but the skies started to brighten and I decided to press on. Besides, I’ve never heard of a biker being struck by lightening !

Another stop at Venlo for fuel and I was now on the homeward stretch to the Euro Tunnel at Calais.
There I was following the signs for the Euro Tunnel, with lots of UK cars going in the same direction and then all of a sudden, there was no UK cars on the road and no more signs for the Euro Tunnel. Yep - I’d somehow missed the turning. I pulled off at the next exit and the GPS now said to take an un-paved road by the side of the motorway. I’d have attempted to take the unpaved road on if I was on a BMW GS, but not on a Hayabusa, so I got back on to the motorway, heading the wrong direction until I found an exit where I could rejoin the motorway going in the right direction - a detour of 35 miles !

Once at the Euro Tunnel terminal I got my end receipt and then got on the next train back to England. Once again on the train I meet up[ with some Italian bikers on GS’s who were heading to Scotland for a weeks touring. We had a nice chat and one of the guys agreed to be my end witness for my BB2500km ride.

Now all I had to do was get home before 7:01pm and I’d have the SS2000 in the bag!

The ride back up the M20, M25, M1 to Derby was uneventful, which is the way I like it and got to the Somerfield petrol station and clocked off my SS2000 ride at 4:04pm, nearly 3 hours inside the 48 hour time limit - mission accomplished.

Lesson’s Learnt
During my 2000+ mile ride, I’d learnt the following:-
Fitting a HID low beam light is worth it’s weight in gold while riding in the dark.
Heated grips are a godsend
Airhawk seats still give me a sore butt
German drivers are the best in the world
English drivers are the worst
Frank Thomas waterproof glovers are crap - the lining sticks to damp hands and are nearly impossible to put on - they are now in the wheelie bin!
GPS’s are stupid - take a paper map next time !

So would I do it again - most certainly, and I think an SS3000 or European End to End is now on the cards - or maybe a RTE to Moscow anyone?

Now just need to get my paperwork submitted for the SS2000


IBA # 40051

How I went via Bratislava to Berlin.

I loaded up the Fazer, put the route in my Zumo 550 and packed trousers, teashirt, spare socks, underwear, toothbrush razor, tools, compressor and paperwork in my top box on Thursday night. No room for spare shoes but I would not need any. I rode in to work in Bristol on Friday as I wanted to get out of Bristol and round the M25 before the traffic built up. The ride started when I left work at 2pm on Friday to go to the Chunnel in Folkstone. The traffic was heavy but I still managed to get on the 1715 train through the Channel Tunnel. On the train I got chatting to Glenn on a lovely looking golden Harley who agreed to sign my start witness form.

Leaving the train I called into the garage at the terminal to get my start receipt at 1908 giving me 23 hours to get to Berlin for the 1800 photo opportunity at the Brandenburg Gate. I first headed north then east through Belgium, Holland and into Germany.
 In Germany on the autobahn I was able to pick up the pace with the clearer roads and drivers more appreciative drivers who move out of the way. Crossing the river in Cologne at night I had a brilliant view of the Cathedral all lit up on a bend in the river. It was a bit chilly and I was glad I had put the lining back in my Hein Gericke jacket. Under it I was wearing just EDZ thermal two piece. I saw a thermometer that read 13 degrees C.
As daylight approached I was in Austria and starting to feel a bit washed out so decided to stop in a picnic area where I booked into the “Iron Butt Hotel” for a 10 minute power nap on a picnic bench.
I was awoken by what seemed hordes of Eastern Europeans with families presumably heading home but felt completely refreshed. Stopping at the next service station for fuel and a coffee I noticed they had vignettes for sell to allow access to the Austrian autoroutes so bought the minimum of 10 days. I would only be there a few hours!

I knew this route having been this way before so it didn’t feel like I was riding off the end of the world into the unknown. The scenery was typical rolling landscape with occasional hills covered in pine trees. The sun was coming up as I approached Bratislava , Slovak Republic on a new road (EU money I suspect)and  a Tesco supermarket.

Looking at my list on the tank I should have been here at 0815 and I was just ½ hour late which usually happens as the pace slows at night. I also knew I had a couple of spare hours built in. In the early sunshine it soon warmed up and I was comfortable though a little warm when I stopped. I always carry food and drink and was having a bit of each every time I refuelled.
Heading north I went past Brno in the Czech Republic.

There were road works there and I needed to filter for several miles but was half hour ahead of my schedule when I got to Prague around lunch time.

My route took me to the end of a motorway through some back streets onto another motorway in the middle of Prague but even though it was Saturday lunch time it wasn’t too busy. Crossing the river I had a lovely view of the Castle on the hill.
North of Prague I headed to Dresden and as I crossed the German border the terrain became distinctively more hilly and scenic. I arrived at a garage near Cottbus at 1500 where I was to meet three German friends at 1600. I got chatting to a BMW rider who was there on a ride out for the day locally. I also took the opportunity to eat a roll with meat and cheese and a coffee. With time to spare I again booked into the Iron Butt Hotel for a nap. Matthias, Bernt and Toby arrived at 1545 to ride into Berlin with me. As I had the Zumo I was sent to lead the way in which seemed to follow several tunnels without too much traffic. On the way I decided to go straight to the Hotel in InvalideStrasse as we would be early if we went to the Brandenburg gate. Outside the hotel I met Roger who signed my end form for the SS2000K and I bought a beer in the bar for my end timed receipt at 1722. So far I had covered 1500 miles in the last 28 ½ hours.
Bernt and Matthias outside the hotel.
John couldn’t resist admiring a non triumph

A quick shower then it was of on the inaugural Iron Butt UK hike. Roger, John  and Sonia, Dan and Vicky walked to the Brandenburg gate. Matthias, Bernt , Toby rode over with Raimond and Vicky so they could take pics for us. At the Brandenberg gate we found Mark and Emma who sold me my Berlin Blitz badge (the only place and time it was available).
Matthias and Bernt at the Brandenburg Gate. Fort many years they had lived trapped in the East. Then English Rob arrived to be in the pic before riding back to Nottingham! I thought I was nuts. Goodbyes were said to some and the rest of us headed back to the hotel via a souvenir shop to get the obligatory stickers for the screen.

Back at the hotel beers and currywurst were ordered as we settled in for the evening. Little Toe arrived and managed to get a room for a short kip before heading back.
I later had to eat a second meal for additional sustenance. There was no consensus on who was going back and when so goodbyes were said then it was off to a good nights sleep at 2330. My 1st since Thursday night!!

Arising at 0700 it didn’t take long to pack, a big advantage of not taking too much. I had decided to get breakfast on the way. John, Sonia,  Dan and Vicky were leaving at the same time so goodbyes were said again and it was off to the Brandenburg gate for a picture of the bike.
I noticed that if I ignored the Zumo I could go directly west on a wide avenue and meet the route.
There wasn’t much traffic early Sunday morning. It was fine until I took the wrong direction on the Autobahn. As I left Berlin I stopped at the 1st service for fuel and who should be there but Dan downing a baguette. He left as I went in and I decide breakfast just had to be sausage and bread with mustard washed down with a coffee.
Heading west the 1st part of the trip consisted of mile after mile of straight autobahn. I had always figured it was the stretch build to get to West Berlin via the shortest route across East Germany.
The trip was largely uneventful until around lunch time. I stopped for another snack and filled up at an Aral fuel station. Their pumps are confusing as it is all blue so I took a time to make sure I got 95 blefrei. 10 minutes later and in the outside lane of the autobahn the fazer motor suddenly died. Coasting to a halt at a junction my mind was racing, had I put the wrong fuel in. Stopping I had nothing to loose so hit the starter button and it started 1st time with a bit of a backfire. Taking off I cruised slower in the nearside lane and tried to decide what had happened. It couldn’t have been fuel as it backfired due to unburnt fuel in the exhaust when I restarted. It must be electrical. Side stand switch, neutral switch, kill switch or a chaffed cable shorting something. It couldn’t be anything too drastic as the motor was running fine. I took it up the 7000 revs as that is where the exup valve works and it was fine. Gaining confidence I sped up and half hour later it happened again. I coasted into a picnic area. Again it started fine so I tried out the kill switch, side stand and neutral switches to see that they worked ok. They did. I removed my phone charger under the seat as it had a bare end though I couldn’t see how that could stop the motor.

So with only 500 miles to get home there was nothing to do but bash on. I decided I would increase the speed in 10 mph increments every 15 minutes so if it happened again I could stay below that speed.  I eventually got up to the flow of the traffic and maintained it through the rest of Germany, Holland and into Belgium.
There was a bit of a shower near Hanover. It seemed to have cured itself.

I stopped in Belgium for my last continental fuel stop and bought a ham and cheese roll and a continental strawberry tart to eat on the train.
I arrived at the terminal around 1700 and ended up chatting to the book in clerk about his Ducati Monster as the queue built up being.
On the train I chatted to a biker from Greece on a GSXR750 who had just ridden up from Monaco.
It’s the 1st time I have used the tunnel and I have to say I was impressed. Out of the terminal and back onto the M20 within minutes. I was conscious of our lower spped limits so took it easier. It does make me wonder though why 81mph (130kph) is a safe speed on the continent but dangerous and illegal in the UK. I was away from the chinnel around 1800 for an uneventful ride to Bristol there was a storm after Chippenham but that was all. I got home at 2110.

Some statistics.
         Away from Bristol for 55hrs
         40 hours on the bike
         7 ½ hours sleep and some power naps
Paperwork for a SS2000K to be verified and around 1000 other miles ridden making a total of 2330 miles through eight countries.

Phil Weston
President Iron Butt UK 

Monday, 15 June 2009

SS1600km attempt ride report

On our recent touring holiday to Norway the Better Half let me have a day to do what I wanted. That opportunity, combined with my juvenile sense of humour at a town called Bastad in Sweden which just happened to be about 800km away from where we were staying, sparked the idea to try and pick up a SS1600km ride.

I plotted a simple out and back route via Oslo and Goteborg. The big downside was the grindingly slow speed limits in Norway and after a week of touring I knew getting anywhere fast in Norway was unlikely. The plus side was the 21 hours of daylight and the other three hours were twilight.

I knew it was going to be a long day but I decided on a dawn start which meant 3.30am. It was a clear but chilly morning but the weather gods were with me. I had previously found a 24 hour petrol station about 5km away and after it produced the receipt and I got my papers squared away then it was time to set off. Straight out the petrol station was a 25km tunnel! The Norwegian civil engineering is just amazing.

I took the E16 to Oslo and I hadn't realised that after the tunnel the road went up to 1000m past the ski hills on the snow line. The temperature dropped to 1 degree and fog was busily coming off the high lakes and drifting over the road. An hour in the ride I came across the first vehicle going my way. The truck spotted me and pulled over to let me pass. I didn't see another vehicle on my side of the road for another two hours - bliss!

Many of the petrol stations in Norway have at least one pump that works 24 hours on a credit card. I had no problems with using UK credit cards. Some stations even leave their toilets open through the night to use - can't see that catching on here!

I knew I was going to hit Oslo during the morning rush hours but bikes can use the bus lanes and so I pretty much sailed through. Turning south down the coast and across the Norway-Sweden border the road was a mass of roadworks and numerous local diversions. Slow, slow going. I knuckled down and put in a full to empty tank leg of 240 miles to get to Bastad once the road cleared even though I had to go through Goteborg.

At the turn round in Bastad the distances on my odo and GPS were far too close to midpoint for comfort so on the way back north I put in a small diversion to add another 50km to the distance. Made sure I got a petrol receipt and the end of it though! Caught the evening rush hour in Goteborg and no bus lanes meant slow going.

At 10pm I stopped for my last planned fuel and knew I had 3 hours back to the start/finish point. The light was fading but I managed to get across the high part of the E16 in reasonable twilight. I got back to the start petrol station at 1am. Just as I filled out my papers and tucked them away in the tank bag it started pi**ing down. I just had to laugh the 5km back to our cabin.

Pretty tired but pleased the next day. Better half thinks I'm mad but's that's not news!! Papers off for scrutiny today so fingers crossed that this tucks the two "entry level" rides away and time to start planning some others.

Oh, and the RBLR1000 this weekend!!

PS. If you have thought about taking the bike to Norway and haven't - do it! Fantastic place.

David Pevalin IBA #40019 FarRider #333