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

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