I planned the ride, did it, submitted the paperwork and Mike has provisionally said that I did it correctly (although Phil has to agree it - see below). I promised Phil a ride report so here it goes.
For various reasons I struggle to get many free weekends to do long rides; a combination of work, family, part time university study, and refereeing basketball around the world means I don't have that much time.
As a result I thought I would try and do something a little special. I have completed four SS1000's up to now, but lost my paperwork for one of them so that does not count. I have however learned a lot, one of which is to get duplicates of ALL receipts and keep them in separate places.
The End to End appealed and was not too long - I figured I could do that within the time at the end of a working week. I also liked the idea of the Four Corners, if only because I have visited all four locations in the last year for other reasons and doing all four in one go seemed like fun. In the end I decided to see if I could complete the two at the same time as a combined ride.
Starting at John O'Groats involved a 570 mile ride to the start point so that meant I could also do a SS2000, assuming I could do everything in time. A quick email to Phil said that would be ok in principle so I planned my route out in detail.
I purchased a SPOT tracker so my wife knew where I was and could help in an emergency, but also because it meant I did not have to call in so much. A constant track is created and every so often I can send an 'I'm ok' message. As another point, it also creates a pretty picture of the ride.
I planed to start on the Saturday morning and finish Monday morning, taking advantage of the Summer solstice to get as much daylight time as possible and reduce the chances of stray dear in the Highlands; a few work issues meant that I had to bring it forward 24 hours. So on Friday 19th I planned a 0300 start to avoid the M6 traffic and have an easier run in daylight.
The best-laid plans never survive contact with the enemy… In this case my wife had to be somewhere else on the Friday morning for work at last minute so a minor delay was a good start. After the school run (driving in my leathers and getting a few odd / admiring looks from the other parents) I set off at 0855 to the local Sainsbury's to get fuel and two start witnesses.
In an interesting example of time travel, my bike said 0900, the clocks in the Sainsbury's said 0900 and the printed receipt said 0850… Two happy start witnesses, being kind and cheerful meant I had five people asking to sign my paperwork, although most of them thought I was mad.
To avoid the traffic around the NEC and Birmingham centre, I thought I would take the M6 Toll, just as well as it turned out (see later). An uneventful run up the M6, with only light traffic, meant I was out of England and into Scotland just after midday. First fuel stop of the day, 10 minutes later and I was off again.
A nice run up to Perth, all motorway and good A roads came to a sudden and unhappy discovery on the A9 towards Inverness. Average speed cameras set at 50 / 60 / and 70 with a mixture of forward (good) and rearward (bad) facing. This slowed me down and meant I started to run behind plan, given I had planned on the road being a mixture of 60 and 70 (so 65 and 75 in practice).
A quick stop to refuel in Aviemore (and given I got married on the top of Cairngorm, I also picked up a rock to give to my wife (don't ask)) and then back on the A9. 150 miles later, and through some of the most stunning scenery in the UK, I arrived at John O'Groats pursued by 15 cyclists completing their own pedal powered end-to-end.
Short break for food, witnesses for the start of the End-to-End and the Four Corners, a freshly brewed coffee, and off I go again. Fastest fuel stop of the ride at Wick Tesco and then off again but this timing heading South towards St Davids and another battle with the A9 speed cameras. Get to Perth four hours and 215 miles later, plan to refuel and get some food, only problem being I left my card in Wick… Time for the spare card and a call to my wife to get my card cancelled - problem solved within 15 minutes and already heading towards Stirling.
Starting to feel the ride, I remember the advice I have been given before so I stop for a 20 minute powernap at M74 services - strangest looks from a group of students when I get off the bike, lie down, and go to sleep. Even stranger ones when I wake up, mount, and set off as they are leaving 20 minutes later.
On the M6 I eventually reach Tebay services and time to refuel - the best services in England I think - great scenery (in daylight but not at 0230), friendly staff, and good locally sourced food. A quick 20 minutes asleep in the saddle on the bike at the night pay station and I am off again. Keep heading south and turn off the M6 towards the delights of Wales in the early morning. Not sure why I planned it this way with hindsight, but the twisty country roads route I took made the riding a little more fun than I needed at this point. It did however keep me fresh and my mind working.
Getting to St Davids was easy enough, quick refuel, and off again towards Lands End. Nice mixture of A roads and Motorways takes me past Cardiff and Swansea and then over the Severn Bridge and back into England.
A straightforward run down towards Lands Ends along the M5 and A30 - the only interesting part of note was being followed for 10 miles by Devon and Cornwall's finest on the A30 whilst sitting at 70. Once I hit the inevitable roadwork's they were not bothered and turned off. A little filtering through the roadworks and alongside the inevitable traffic was stopped by a gentlemen who pulled his Astra into my line to stop me getting through - fair enough, it had been a long tail back and he was frustrated. The Policemen getting out of the unmarked car in front of him and telling him to move and let me through really made my day. A friendly wave to the nice gent in HV and I am off again.
At Lands End, I get a car park ticket to get the End-to-End final point evidence and also a stop point for the other rides, it would have been free as the bloke did not want to charge me but I thought that £1 was going to be cheaper than anything else there! The two ladies in the visitor centre sign off the Finish Point witness whilst I grab a quick bite to eat - no receipts available so the car park worked out for me.
Off to Penzance for the fuel receipt and a quick sleep in the forecourt. 1000+ miles - 21 hours, 18 minutes - later and an End-to-End Gold is complete.
Again, the Police are there (is it just me?) and watch me sleep before waking me up after 20 minutes (a sign on my bike asking somebody to wake me and also an alarm as a back up). Obviously a very quiet day for the Police, or they wanted to make sure I got out of their patch as soon as possible…
Now the final leg of the Four Corners starts, across the bottom of England to Lowestoft. This was just a long slog, only broken by awful planning that meant I was going past Stonehenge on the evening of the Summer Solstice. Lots of traffic and Police in the area - the Police on bikes were friendly though - lots of waves and nods and a little bit of banter whilst refuelling.
A night-time ride around the north of the M25 and then onto the A12 for a run to the East - the plan fell over at this point as the A12 was briefly closed for an accident. A small delay walking up and down the road whilst the road was re-opened and off again, a very quick re-open means I just have time to pull my helmet back on but not set up properly. As such I have to stop again after a short while as the wind is now coming in around my neck and I am feeling uncomfortable. A stop, some water, brush my teeth (it really does make you feel better), and off again.
The country roads in Suffolk are generally good from my memory, but at night in drizzle, and after close to 1900 miles they are not. I arrive in Lowestoft just before 0200 on the Sunday. No manned 24 hour fuel stations, but an ASDA automatic one. The first three pumps have no receipts but number 4 does - success! Now I need to find witnesses, at 0200. I ride to the seafront where the bars and clubs are; thinking that I may be able to find a doorman or something. Better still, there is a Police van parked up with probably the only two working Policemen in Suffolk sitting in it. A quick chat, a quick odometer reading, and paperwork signed. Job Done. 1400+ miles, and 31 hours, 31 minutes I have completed the Four Corners.
Now I just have to try and make sure that I get the mileage in to be over the 2,000 needed for the SS2000. I make it 2025 at this point but advice says to get a cushion just in case. I head off towards home, the A47 and A14 beckon so off I go. Unfortunately the fatigue is really starting to catch up on me as I reach Cambridge. I get to Cambridge services and decide that discretion is the better part and call it a day (or morning). I think I have enough, even if Mike can find a shorter route so I am done, get the paperwork signed and have some food. I have plenty of time and could have made it home within the 48 hours and got another 100 miles but better safe than sorry.
A short break later and I feel great, so head home and encounter the closed A14. A little detour, with my map reading skills shot, and I finally make it back on track. A warm bed is calling me but my wife insists, in her own subtle way, that a long shower is needed before I get anywhere near the sheets. The traumas of long distance riding! Total time was 45 hours door-to-door.
A week or so later I have sorted the paperwork and wait on the verdict of Mike. I received an email saying that I completed the rides but that my first submitted receipt (the start one) did not have a time on it, as such; I only started at the M6 Toll pay station. I had completed all three rides but officially the first 30 miles or so did not count - I offered to resubmit the full receipt, including the back of the first one that had the printed time on it. He was however kind and said I could do, but that it was not an issue as I had completed the rides even without the extra distance.
It is also interesting to note that that Mike calculates the route on the shortest possible distance basis. For point to point that is not an issue but for the SS2000 it was. If I had not built in a contingency and also documented all stops then I could have had problems. Particularly towards the end when fatigue set in.
My ride was three separate rides completed at the same time, you need to be careful when doing this because if they have to completed to do another then only the bigger one is allowed. I checked with Phil prior to the ride to be sure; he will have to take a view after the event and I think that is right - it stops people like me taking the michael.
- Prepare a checklist for fuel stops, probably make it slightly quicker to complete paperwork on the move and also prevent losing my cards
- Sainsbury's receipts are two sided to save paper - the time is on the back. I know what the receipts say, but make sure I photocopy everything correctly so that Mike knows as well and I don't get docked
- I live in a area that has lots of Police (and Airport, the NEC, Warwickshire force headquarters, and West Midlands dog training school all with a 10 mile circle), but on a long ride you see lots of them and they are really helpful and supportive. Some will even act as an alarm clock if you ask them
- Make sure you have a spare card and enough cash for a couple of refuels (to get home). Silly mistakes and / or haste can otherwise create problems
- The IBA Archive of Wisdom is well named (although the toolkit list is beyond my competence); read it, follow it, and you will have a good start to your ride
- The SPOT trace is helpful when trying to remember what you did, especially on the final stretch when you are tried and the roads are closed. There is no logical reason for me to have taken the very roundabout route I took to avoid the closed stretch of the A14, but it did make sense at the time