Saturday, 4 April 2015

Fools Gold 2015

'Fools Gold' is an Iron Butt ride where a 'Bun Burner Gold' (1500 miles in 24 hours) is ridden entirely on 1st April (April Fools' day).  A non-participating observer comments:

1. There is very little margin for errors of any kind.
2. You have to ride like the wind in order to keep to time.
3. In the UK this ride means bombing around the motorway and dual carriageway network.
4. Kind weather and a good sprinkling of luck is a great help.

For 2015 some 19 riders planned to ride the same route clockwise between points at Dover, Swansea, Plymouth, Perth and Darrington near Pontefract. Each rider chose a start point close to home and would finish at the same point having ridden a complete circuit. All rides would start at one minute past midnight on 1st April and be complete before midnight.

Seven riders withdrew for various reasons before the start but shortly after midnight on the day the remaining dozen set off on one of the toughest rides in the UK. Here are some of their stories:

After work I slept from 6pm until 11pm then headed to Gordano. In the petrol station Linda (who knows me well now) signed my start witness and asked her colleague to sign the 2nd.

I left at a few minutes past 12 heading to Plymouth. I have no idea what happened to the Spot as I now run a Spot 1 and a Spot 3 as I must have one working for the IBR. They both showed up on my smart phone app. The ride to Plymouth was uneventful. I worked for 2 years just south of Exeter so know every ripple in that road. The 40mph road works are a pain on the A38. The receipt does say Marsh Mills over the London address with a phone number. I bought a bottle of Oasis for a quick turn round then exited via the shop car park to save getting stuck on the wrong side of the dual carriageway. I was there at 0139hrs 110 miles. 

The road was damp but no rain. SatNav showed arrival at 2100 but I knew I would use 90 minutes stops. I usually do a BBG in 22.5 hours. My moving average was 75 mph just by sticking with the traffic at 80 mph... not over and not under. I planned to keep my overall average over 63 mph. The ride to Strensham was uneventful with empty roads. I had a good swig of flavoured water as I filled up both tanks at 0353hrs and ate a KitKat on the walk back to the bike. After filling up at Strensham the zip pull on my jacket came off but was quickly fixed with a zip tie. 

I got to Newton Le Willows at 0540 hrs 390 miles. I was thrown a bit and ended up riding 1.5 miles down a dual carriageway and back only to find that an entrance to the garage was off the roundabout. I only filled the main tank as that was plenty to get me to Hamilton. 

As I crossed into Scotland the wind increased and the signs over the M74 said Slow down Icy conditions and snow which was a bit of a worry initially. I passed a snow plough parked in a lay by on stand by. As I climbed higher it got whiter even pitching on the hard shoulder but there was running water on the road so the salt was doing its job even though it was snowing lightly. I had ridden in Germany when my visor had frozen up and that wasn't happening this time so I was confident it wasn't icy. 

When I got to Hamilton the traffic was starting to build. I bought a breakfast bar and as the temperature was down to 2 deg C I had a Costa hot chocolate. Leaning on the bike I realised the heated grips where cold when they usually have some residual heat. Taking the seat off I changed the fuse for a fresh one which blew straight away. A second one worked but as I switched the grips on smoke came from the handlebars. I switched it off quick. Poking around I found the feed the switch fell off and was all melted on the end. No chance of fixing it. I taped up the end and rode on while I thought of an answer. I remembered I had seem some "Feminine fast action heat pads" but didn't think they were any good. It was 0814hrs 584 miles and I was 3 minutes ahead of my schedule. 

The traffic was building in the rush hour and some serious filtering was needed. One of the reasons I don't carry panniers. The other reason is that they just encourage you to carry more. I took the paperwork, pens, puncture kit, compressor, tool kit, phone charger, spare heat jacket lead and the clothes I wore. LD comfort underwear and helmet liner. Gerbin's heated jacket, waterproof socks, Winter buff, Alt Berg boots, Hein Gericke suit with thermal liner and gloves.

In Perth I filled both tanks at 0945hrs 641 miles and took the time to warm up. I looked for heat pads but they didn't have any. I figured the BP station going south would have the same pads I saw in the BP going north in Hamilton so decided I'd get some of those. I was haemorrhaging time with cold hands, close stops and traffic. I was 41 minutes behind my schedule when I got back to Hamilton and bought the pads that cost £1 and a drink. It was the best £1 I've ever spent. It said attach them to your clothes not skin so I stuck them on the inside of the top of my gloves. There was an instant feeling of heat and the packet said they would last 8 hours enough time to get me to the warmer south. 

The A66 was busy with a couple of sets of road works but with overtaking as soon as our lights went green I soon got through. I arrived at Darrington at 13.57 having covered 911 miles I was now 54 minutes behind my schedule but still looking to arrive at 2300hrs. I had enough fuel to get to Dover though the A1 was slow in places needing some more serious filtering and it was extremely windy on the Dartford Bridge. I have always found that wind doesn't bother me. I put it down to the years I spent racing sailing dinghies and the fact that if you keep the speed up it moves the effective wind to the front. 

Going down the hill to Dover it was solid with lorries held up because of the high winds.I filtered between lorries for a mile or so managing to squeeze between lorries to get into the garage. 1754hrs 1156 miles. I was flagging a bit so bought a sandwich, a snack bag of chicken Tikka pieces and a malt loaf slice. My bank card was declined so I switched to the backup. It happens often on IBA rides due to automatic security not understanding purchases of fuel all over the country. 

I had lost 10 minutes getting into town and used another twenty minutes taking care of body and soul as I could make Swansea without stopping 272 miles away. I was on roads I knew well now which is always less stressful. The roads were damp with the odd shower. It was very windy across the Severn Bridge and it started to rain and was foggy at the same time. I was having trouble keeping my visor clear as the rain seemed to just spread rather than bead and blow off. It was like looking through a fish tank!!! I slowed to a sensible pace as I had spare time still. I arrive at Pont Abraham at 22.02 1428 miles and the rain had stopped. I filled the tank only to give me enough to get home. On the homeward leg I felt good and it soon passed by, the rain had mostly stopped though it was foggy in places. At Gordano I bought an all day breakfast sandwich and hot chocolate before chatting to Linda about my ride as she signed my end witness form.2329hrs 1522 miles. Luckily she asked me is I needed the receipt again as I had forgotten!!

I then rode the 6 miles home before getting to bed at 1215hrs to sleep until 0515hrs when I got up to get to work in Bath at 0730.

My over all average was 64 mph and moving average was 75mph. I pretty well maintained that throughout. I used up time extending stops because of the weather and heated grips problem. I stopped 1 hour longer than I normally do on a BBG1500 2.5hrs as against 1.5 hrs. Sorry there are no pictures but it's really not wise to waste time taking pictures. And pictures of fuel pumps are not very interesting !!! It's not wise to stop on motorways to take pics of some of the fantastic scenery of our country.

GSears & bobbyc
Having found the keys to the garage to release the bikes........  off to the petrol station for a start receipt. Pumps not authorised, never having used the station late at night, didn't know it was prepay at the kiosk. 

Paid, checked receipt 23:59 31/03/2015....Mars bar purchased 00.01.   SatNav showing 22:35 hours arrival. 

Off to Dover. Signs indicating M2 closed, not a problem, using M20 & A20 anyway - or so we thought. 

A20 closed so diverted through the villages to the north of Dover to the A2 and fuel. SatNav now showing 23:00 finish.

Off to Swansea. Fuel consumption down to 35mpg. Even on the GSA refuels needed to reach Pont Abraham Services. This was fortuitous as others have said, there was no unleaded at the services. Chocolate bar later and off to find fuel. Satnav now showing 23:15 hours. 

Down to Plymouth accident on the Northbound A30 just outside of Plymouth causing 5 mile tailback, remember that for return. Check receipt at Sainsbury, City of London address....... Receipt from hole in the wall, with address.

Filter through traffic to front of queue. A little smile from the traffic WPC who was dealing with the accident as we passed her. (Nearly finished the ride then). SatNav showing 23:20.

M5 speed restriction for obstruction, HATO parked on the hard shoulder so move to lane 2, straight into the gravel that had been deposited in lane 2 and 3.

Onto the M6 speed restriction for Q then stationary traffic. Filter 3 miles to the front. Road closure for recovery after accident. Stationary for 10-15 minutes. Rolling road for 4-5 miles at 5mph. SatNav showing 23:30 hours finish.

Newton-le-Willows for fuel and off to Scotland. M74. Hard shoulder and lane 1 closed. Not a problem ? Slow moving traffic, filter to the front. Abnormal Load (Quarry truck on low loader) taking both lanes., up hill 15mph.  No room to pass. 3 miles later off to the roundabout and down the other side, clear road ahead.

Fill at Hamilton Services and off to Perth. Twix and then  return to Bothwell Services to top up. SatNav showing home by 23:35.

Off to Darrington. All the way down the M6 Matrix signs showing A66 closed after junction with A67. What to do? Along A66 and try and find local diversion nearer the incident was the call. A66 was very quiet no traffic. Dived off through local village and rejoined A66 after A67. Round the corner to be confronted by blue lights. Creep up towards the incident and speak to a recovery driver "It's OK mate it's only the other side that's closed." SatNav now showing 23:42hours....

Off to Darrington, at Scotch Corner note road closure for westbound traffic and then through the roadworks on the A1.

Fill at Darrington and off on the final leg. Now it was the turn of the gods. Rain, visor covered, visibility down to ..... Speed fell, Bob leads and I follow the glowing red light.  Hurray, 10 miles and the rain cleared. Off again. Matrix signs warn A14 closed junction 30-31. That's Cambridge I thought, but which side?  Cones and flashing lights on the approach to the M11. Sigh of relief as it's the offslip at the junction with the M11 that's closed.

M11 more rain and as a result slower moving traffic. The few minutes we had recovered started to slip away. Time was close would we make it?

Arrived at the petrol station at 23:46 but you pay before you dispense which in this case was a bonus. 

I started a little late at 00:14 but never mind, my riding plan allowed for a total of 2 hours 40 minutes stopped time so I just needed to concentrate and ride the plan.

Unfortunately for me I had made the decision to ride without my top layer rain suit and about 60 miles out the weather changed with the temperature dropping 2-3 degrees and the wind picking up quite a bit. I made an unscheduled stop to don my rain suit. Precious minutes ticked away but getting back onto the open road I was now able to feel comfortable again and crack on.

The first leg down to Swansea is pretty straightforward, straight down the M4 but this morning the ride was hampered by overnight roadworks, then a spreading lorry, then a large contingent of trucks and then there was the wind. The forecast had wind speeds dropping from steady 13mph but at several points on the way down to Wales I was hit by quite sharp gusts, quite disconcerting to find you've just move three feet sideways before flinching enough to stop it.

By the time I passed Cardiff I was almost 30 minutes behind schedule. Still manageable but I'd need to keep everything tight from now on. Unfortunately, the motorway past Bridgend is quite exposed and the wind gusts were much more frequent and much stronger than those I'd encountered so far. Damned hard work coping with those gusts, especially among the big lorries, and very tiring.

I decided that, if on arrival in Plymouth (the next leg) I was an hour behind, I'd call the ride and go home but, for now let's just press on down to the Road Chef petrol station at Swansea, the turnaround point.

What is the point of a petrol station, in deepest, darkest, Wales, in the middle of the night, which HAS NO FUEL! None: no petrol, no diesel, no fuel, at any of the pumps. The station was open, all the lights were on, the night clerk was at his station but no fuel.

Enough already, time to go home. I rode very gently back towards Swansea to find petrol, all that fighting the wind stuff meant that I'd been using rather more fuel than I'd planned for so was running on vapour.

So this is how my ride went, or as it happened didn't go. 

I Arrived at Swansea Road Chef in good time expecting it to be a little quiet & thinking I may have to be patient to capture my two witnesses, only to find as Saphena had that they had no fuel. No worries I thought I can buy anything from the shop, get my receipt & fuel later. 

So I take off my rucksack pull out my paperwork, only to find that I've not put the cap back on my hydration pack properly & I've now got soggy paperwork. 

I did have an attempt at drying it out using the exhaust which sort of worked to a degree, however by the time it was dry enough to write on I’d lost over 30 mins & still needed fuel & two witness signatures, as I thought I only had 20 mins spare on the trip I gave it up. 

Tom Tom
My catalogue of near disasters wind wind wind it was like going through the bow wave of a truck all the time, but for me it was predictable,, just.

Set off 00.02 am straight into a 10 mile stretch of 50 mph roadworks. When I got out of the end of it I had only averaged 35 mph I had cleared the trip data whiles having a coffee in the services waiting for the witching hour. By the time I got down to Dover 68mph average, spot on I thought, wrong the A20 is closed at the end of the motorway so I followed a truck until my wonderful Garmin could redirect me through the town. Wrong. It leads me back to the closure of the A20, so back up the hill and I followed my nose until I was sure that the Garmin would not take me back from whence I came. Only to be sent at 4:30 in the morning down a single track road with soil, grass, gravel and any other detritus you can think of in a large hump down the middle of the road.

An hour after I was kicked off the A20 I’m refuelled and on my way at least 40 mins wasted only to find the A20 is now fully open Arghhhhhhh.

Heavy ish traffic on the M25 and the M4 meant my overall mph is now down to 65 still well on schedule for the ride. The Welsh stop came and as has been said no fuel at the Inn so to speak, now the bike I'm on only does 185 miles ish (I like that word) on a tank full  and I'm on 178 miles and it's 10 miles back to the next services. So a Mars bar and a bottle of water for the receipt and its off at a very careful pace to the services and I am still shocked that I made it, filled to the brim and off I go.

Now from these services to Sainsbury's in Plymouth it's about 190 miles so it was with some very light touches to the throttle I head out, switched to reserve at 164 and hope, normally reserve is needed at 150, you could hear the echo in the tank as I took the fuel cap off it was that empty, I’ll not do that again, in fact I switched the bike off at the roundabout just before the petrol station I was that concerned.

One fill up part way up the M5 and off again only to come to a grinding halt where the M5 joins the M6, with the help of a bit of mildly aggressive filtering I'm through and on the M6 but it was still no better as the traffic was nose to tail, but as the 1000 miles come up it was 16:03 so I'm spot on for the final 500 miles, wrong.

Manchester ring road got in the way, 4 lanes of standing traffic as it goes over the Thelwall Viaduct and the wind was so strong I thought it better not to filter unless I had an empty lane to one side. As the M62 came into view my sensible head said call it a day but the little devil on my shoulder said ‘Go on you can do it you know you can a bit more throttle and away we go you can’t quit now’ I am pleased to say the Captain sensible won the day and I headed across the M62 in you guessed it 4 lanes of stop start traffic.

At least I'm back and I have the paperwork for an SS 1000 which I’ll send in when I get it sorted I had a great ride spoilt only by the volume of traffic, must be a holiday coming up soon?

I got home at about 20:00 hours with 1200 miles on the clock at a overall average speed of 60 mph it was as low as 58 mph not bad from a bike and rider with 98 years between them.