Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Mr. T's 12,000 mile service ............... DONE!

Well after what feels like a very short 4 months I was back at Keith Dixon Motorcycles with Mr. T yesterday for his 12,000 mile service.

Here are the individual service, parts and running costs broken down so if you're thinking of buying a Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z it will give you an idea of the financial implications of ownership. This has no bearing on Yamaha or Keith Dixon Motorcycles in any way and is only intended as a guide to people considering ownership of this amazing motorbike. Please also bear in mind the mileage I cover over short periods of time, not everyone will cover this sort of mileage so quickly!

6,000 Mile Service

1.      Air Filter........................................   £30.70

2.      Oil Filter ........................................  £11.70

3.      Engine Oil ...................................... £44.58

4.      Shaft Oil ........................................  £11.50

5.      Sump Washer ................................ £2.26

6.      Labour @ 2.5 Hours......................  £120

        Grand Total  ......................................  £220.74

Running costs at 6,000 miles (excluding Petrol, Tax & Insurance costs) = £0.03 per mile

Tyres fitted at 7,500 miles at a cost of £241 bringing running cost up to = £0.06 per mile

12,000 Mile Service

1.      Air Filter........................................   £30.70

2.      Oil Filter ........................................  £11.69

3.      Engine Oil ...................................... £43.49

4.      Shaft Oil ........................................  £11.50

5.      3 x Washers .. ................................ £3.39

6.      Plugs .............................................. £28.76

7.      Labour @ 4Hours........................... £120

       Grand Total ......................................... £321.53

Running costs at 12,965 miles (excluding Petrol, Tax & Insurance costs) = £0.06 per mile

Please note I have not included any "Farkling" costs in the running costs for the simple reason I  have done them through choice not necessity.

Having sat  down to write up this Blog I realised there was an increase of an hour and half in labour cost over the 6,000 mile service. Not being a mechanic and knowing I had left the bash plate on. Plus the throttle was sticking from using too much glue when I stuck the throttle heated grip back on. So rather than guess, it was a quick call to Ian to see if there was anything else amiss which was not mentioned when I picked the bike up. I really do need to get a K&N Air Filter fitted too as the recurring £30.70 for an air filter is going to start to get very expensive over time.

True to his word Ian called me straight back to run through the service details. The added cost was explained as half an hour  to the removing and re-fitting the AltriderSkid Plate, stripping and re-greasing the break callipers plus removing the excess glue from my repair job on the throttle grip. So all in all a great service as always. Many thanks to you and your team Keith for the great personal service you always provide.  Oh and can I pass on a very a special mention to Mrs Dixon who made me a lovely  mug coffee when she noticed how white my fingers had gone on the ride back to the shop, thank you very much indeed it was just what I needed. Why are all dealerships not like yours Keith?

The throttle is now working spot on and lesson learnt Raymondo , "take the bloody bash plate off yourself before you take Mr. T in for his service, you idle git you". I did think about it but "I was running late guv, honest"!

Still I did get a nice 600 Diversion to use for the day, well to ride home and back actually which cost me £10 in fuel and was back on reserve some 65 miles later so it's a thirsty little beast in my eyes, or is it just me!

A beautiful brand new 12 plate
Diversion 600

The riding position on the 600 is tucked up and putting my feet on the ground made me feel like I was on a small push bike, how ridding a Big Beast distorts all concept of size. Still the Diversion is nippy, agile and a dream to ride. I would recommend it to any learner who has just passed their test as the all round view and riding position, except the tucked legs that is, is really good. I took it well steady as the tyres were new but Keith had warned me off about them before I set off. Can't wait to get on the Fazer8 next service, hint, hint, ...................... Keith!

So what's next? Well it is the IBA National Meeting on Saturday the 31st March being held at the Colorado Way at Castleford  followed on Sunday the 1st April by the Wirral Egg Run.

I'm also busy compiling the RBLR1000 entrants listing including their chosen routes so we can produce certificates to be presented to participants straight after the event. This event takes place 22nd - 24th of June and is a great way to join the IBA with lots of support and guidance plus the camaraderie of entering an organised event. There are two routes of 1000 miles which can be ridden clockwise or counter clockwise with set petrol stations on route to collect receipts from. If completed in less then 24 hours participants will automatically become members of the Iron Butt Association UK.

Finally the great XT1200Z Tank Conversion Project continues in the USA. Jaxon has been an absolute star in producing what I feel is a work of art. The tank has been primed and the colour laboriously matched to perfection and should be being sprayed as I write this blog. More to follow on the Project once I am in possession of the tank.

Here's a sneak preview in "primed mode"
More to follow in due course.........
Watch this space

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The road to Zaragoza

I spent a few days in Urbanization Camposol just North of Mazarron meeting up with Dave for a good look around the area but was keep to head to the Hondon Valley region about 30 minutes inland from Alicante. So on Wednesday morning I took a leisurely ride up to Alicante and based myself at the Campanile Hotel just on the outskirts of the city and just on the edge of the "Red Light District" I found to my shock later in the week when walking back from the centre with J but the less said about that the better.

Having had a good scout around before J flew out to join me on the Friday afternoon I had ridden up to Alicante Castle. The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking in every direction and well worth the trip up to the top. Just one note of warning mind, the old cobbled roads inside the castle are like glass to ride on and not very forgiving so take it steady if you venture into the tourist car park. There is a bike parking area just through the gate on the right which is watched over by the locally based police who just happened to take great interest in my sat nav which I'd forgotten to turn off!
I picked J up from Alicante Airport on the Friday early afternoon. Once settled into the Campanile Hotel we headed into the city on foot and enjoyed a great tapas, even if we did have to return three of the five dishes to be re-heated (Ping n Ding at its best)!
The local area is made up of a mix of local Fincas set in orange and lemon groves surrounded by mile upon mile of fields full of the sweet smelling fruit trees There is a mix of small localised villages with supermarket which we would describe as corner shops at best, cafe bars, and the odd gift shop adorn the pedestrian areas in the village centres. I preferred visiting the smaller villages like Hondon de Los Frailes with its fantastic village centre walk way. The atmosphere  is so laid back and easy going with everyone chatting away in a mixture of European languages. The people were friendly, polite and very helpful when it came to being served. There is also a large British population in and around the area who all gather each morning for "Bacon Butties" at a British owned cafe, home from home no less. It suited us down to the ground.
I found this style of living was in stark contrast to the highly populated sprawling high rise apartment blocks that make up a lot of the coastal towns where just trying to find a restaurant to eat is a chore. How the Spanish people live stacked so close to each other amazes me especially when they have so much open space that is totally unpopulated. Still they all seem to be at peace with each other and my word can they talk fast. I thought the Germans were speedy but in comparison to the Spanish they are still in second gear whilst their neighbours are in top gear, it's great to listen to but in very short bursts.
The Royal British Legion Poppy cable tied to my crash bars got a lot of attention from the locals. I was asked on a couple of occasions by passing youths in their cars

"What is the flower for?"
Explaining that it was to support of the work the Royal British Legion does to help our armed forces veterans all fell on deaf ears sadly. Hey Ho, something to work on in the future no doubt. I must admit though I did get a little annoyed when I came out of the services after calling in for breakfast one morning to find a local youth knelt at the side of my bike. As soon as he spotted me approaching he jumped into the open door of the car parked at the side of him and sped away. When I gave Mr. T a once over I notices my "visitor" had pulled the cable ties out and had been attempting to pull my poppy off, the Muppet only needed to ask and I would have given it to him!
Quick as a flash we were packing our bags and checking out. I took J on the back with her luggage on her knee to Alicante Airport for J's return flight home. Something I would not dream of doing in the UK, strange how you come over all local once you've spent a little time engrossing yourself in the culture. It was 9.30am Sunday morning as we said a fond farewells for the second time in a week. At least this time it was only going to be until tomorrow evening. A last wave goodbye from the entrance to the airport building, of cause after signing my SS1600Km start witness paperwork,  and I was on my lonesome once again. It's a strange feeling to be alone now as we spend every waking hour in each other company since I gave up work to help care for Lilie Rose. My God I realised right there and then that just how much I was missing Lilie Rose and Ben and a crushing feeling of loneliness just washed over me, I could have cried, so much for being a "roughty toughty ex-squaddie". "Get a Grip Raymondo, get a grip lad, you'll see them all tomorrow"........
I'd already planned and up loaded my homeward route taking great care to circumnavigate Valencia once more. The plan was simple, I was just going to ride straight home via the shortest route I could see that I had not already ridden in the past. This meant riding back up the coast road a short way and then just past Valencia, hang a left and ride straight up to Los Santos then onwards higher still up to Zaragoza. The roads looked amazing on MapSource with twists and turns all the way for almost 300 kilometres. 
Once up on the Plato it was a case of cutting straight across Spain and then dropping down into San Sebastian one of my favourite locations on the French Spanish boarder. Then it was the long haul straight up through France past Bordeaux past Le Mans and keeping to the left of  Paris then  finally up to Calais docks. 1824 kilometres and a nice SS1600KM a good  18 hour ride, all things being equal that is! I had also remembered to upload the route in two parts first being from the airport to just south of Bordeaux, 1001Km or 622 miles followed by part two from Bordeaux to Calais an further 876Km or 545 miles.

First fuel and start receipt was on the AP-7 almost overlooking the infamous holiday resort of Benidorm. Start receipt in wallet with mileage on the back and location saved into the Garmin as P1 I was on my way. Following the same coast road I had travelled down the week before up past Javea, Denia then onwards up the coast passing Gandia heading towards the dreaded Valencia. Yet again I totally missed the ring road around Valencia but at 10.15am on a Sunday morning there was next to nothing on the roads so I sailed straight through give or  take 50 sets of lights and at least 10 roundabouts of varying sizes and shapes. Bliss!
Hanging a left just before Sanguto onto the N225 I headed North West onto the N234 towards Zaragosa, what a road. This section of road is biker heaven, not a toll in sight which made such a difference. Smooth long curves with a very undulating surface which made for some spirited riding and as the temperature was a very comfortable 20 degrees I was having a ball. Not one bit of heated clothing or grips switched on.
There seemed to be plenty of service stations until it came time for me to go to the loo and fill up, nothing, not a one. Typical I was now full to capacity and every bump felt like an ear wash. Nearly bursting in the distance I spotted the sign "Petrol 10Km" Great that's all I need so I opened Mr. T up a little and we headed over what felt like the top of the world, for mile after mile until the sign indicated 1Km to services. Off I turned down to the roundabout third right and off up the hill bouncing on the very uneven surface of the mountain road. It was no good I could not wait so I pulled into a country lane, standing on the pegs  I bounced my way down the track come path for about 50 meters then stopped switching the motor off with the side stand, bike still in gear and "Jogged" manically whilst tearing at layer after layer of bloody underwear...... "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhgggggggg" I'm sure they heard me back on the motorway but I was well past caring. Giving my waterproofs a good brush off I re-adjusted my "undies" and had a drink of water from the 1.5 litre bottle of water in my top-box, out of one end in at the other!
Heading back to the road I realised I was on the track to an outcrop area and by the time I got back to the mountain road Mr. T was white with dust. Heading further up the hill I arrived at a quaint typical Spanish Service station where the attendant "almost" filled Mr. T up...
"No, he will take 3 more litres"
"Full, Ok!"
"No, 2 and a half more litres"
"Full, Ok!"
"NO, 2 more litres............. Oh forget it! Thank You!"
"You pay now" he said pointing to the door.
"Sometimes I really hate that damned filler cap insert...........!
Sandwich in hand I pulled to the side of the  forecourt and stuffed my face with a cheese and ham butty, another good glug of water and a mars bar. Fed and watered I was off to Zaragoza.
Riding over the top of the world as it felt I got to thinking about John, Phil and Michael who, amongst others had completed the Iron Butt Rally in the USA last year. 11,000 miles in 11 days and mentally took my cap off to them. Here I was feeling as low as a snakes belly when in all honesty I should have been buzzing but when you have no one to share your experiences with it's sometimes hard to see how lucky you really are. I could not believe I was bloody missing Big Lad, shit now I must have been feeling sorry for myself as I know for a fact if we had ridden the last 3,000 km together we would have had at least 3 major rows and 1 bust up followed by the proverbial 100 km silence............. still it would have been great to have my best mate with me all the same.
Zaragoza 10Km the sign read, I was getting ready for another loo break so was happy to see the sign, even 300km of twists and turns gets a bit tedious after a while.
"In 300 meters take exit 276b on right on to the Z40" Mr's Garmin
Right, fecking right, how can I turn fecking right, there's a bloody barrier in the way, SHIT!"
One thing that really gets on my nerves is being told to turn off the motorway to then realise the road layout has been totally changed. No use I had to follow the path I was on being instructed in no uncertain terms to....
"At the next junction turn right, TURN RIGHT, Take the fourth exit!"
Why does it not just say it as it is, "Go around the roundabout and go back you prat! you missed your turning"
The Spanish do have a great infrastructure of road, rail and airports, proof of which was all around me but they also have an annoying habit of building filter lanes and not telling anyone they've done it, especially my little "Garmin helper".
Heading back the way I came I realised what a massive sprawling city Zaragoza is with so much construction going on I wondered what on earth kept the population alive as it felt like it was stuck on top of a mountain in the exact middle of nowhere. However a quick look at Wikipedia tells another story and all the major cities of Spain are within a 300 km radius, Bilbao, Madrid, Barcelona and my favourite city Valencia.
Still when I made exactly the same mistake again at the next junction and watched the motorway I wanted to be on go underneath me I could not have given two hoots where the hell Zaragoza was. I was starting to get really hacked off big time......... so much for lane assist hey!
Once heading west on the AP-68 I pulled over to go to the loo and fill up. Big mistake, big, big mistake. Met by a burnt out car, closed facilities, another car with no wheels and every window smashed I was not a happy teddy at all. Pulling further through this scene from a war move I found the services some half a kilometre further on. "Splash and dash" sprang to mind. I filled up, popped in the loo and was on my way within 6 minutes.......... gone!
"BANG" what the hell was that I thought as I pulled hard first left then right  on the bars.
Again "BANG" the force was so ferocious I thought someone was hitting me from behind either that or the tyre had gone. "This is not good" as for the third time I swerved from one side of the dual carriage way to the other. "What the hell is going on" I screamed, then I realised it was the gaps in the bushes at the side of the motorway. Thank the Lord I was only travelling at 90kpm or I would have been off.
The side winds where horrendous. I slowed to 50kpm and waited for the next smack at the side of the head and sure enough it came, over and over again, I was struggling to go in a straight line with the bike over at an unbelievable angle. "This is not good, not good at all" I screamed, not that anyone could hear me as I'd not seen another car in over an hour. I rode like this for a further hour and a quarter. My shoulders set solid, my wrists were aching. Eventually as unexpectedly as the winds came I fund they subsided, or did they? No actually I was heading straight into this ferocious wind that was blowing straight off the sea and straight over the mountains. I then entered a sea of windmill generators that just went on and on as far as the eye could see.
It was right then that I realised why I had not come across and tolls. No one used the dammed road that's why.
Eventually I turned off the AP-68 onto the AP-15 the past Pampolona and eventually left the wind behind as I headed through the mountains towards San Sebastian and the border crossing at Behobia.
Now this is where the toll's really started to get on my nerves, heading through tunnel after tunnel is great stopping every 3 to 5 kilometres to pay, 50 cents, 95 cents 1 Euro, 90 cents drives me mad. Slow down, glove off, high vis open, jacket open, liner open, wallet out, pay, re-dress, repeat, again and again. What is it with stupid boarder tolls. just charge what you normally charge and have one either side the boarder job done!
Manc Rider be warned on your Tour de Spain later next month, those side winds and tolls need watching out for!
Once I had followed the three detours through and around San Sebastian as the main motorway is closed for re routing I was just happy to pick up my first sign for Bordeaux.
Northwards and back to Calais I rode stopping quite a few times to pay the toll's. As the sun set the temperature dropped back towards the 8 degrees I had been used to. Luckily I had brought Ben's dual portable controller for my Gerbings jacket liner and so plugged in and started to warm through nicely once more.
Now the only issue I had riding through France was the tiredness and by 2.00am I was shattered once again. I think I may have been pushing myself a little hard or the wind had taken it out of me more than I realised but after a refuel up near Le Mans I pulled up in front of the services walked over to a bench. lay down on the seat and fell fast asleep for about 35 minutes. When I woke I could hardly lift my head up then realised I still had my helmet on. No wonder my ears were so warm. Searching my pockets as I walked back to my bike I could not find my key............ "Bloody hell, here we go!" I thought then for some reason realised I'd done what I tend to do quite often I'd left the bloody thing in the ignition................ Luck does not come into it, thank you who ever is looking after me, you are my angel x .
Once back at Calais I asked if I could get the first ferry available and was sent straight to lane 592 and was loaded with the truckers. I was the only bike on the ferry and not a sole in sight till I got upstairs the ferry was rammed to the gunnels with children, 1,000's of them everywhere. Food, no chance, coffee, no chance there were queues on queues.  I got in line in one of the cafes I had not come across before only to be told it was for freight drivers only when I got to the front to be served. I wondered why everyone seemed to be overweight and speaking eastern European! Thanks for that!
I accosted the first English speaking group of adults I could find to sign my end of ride receipt only to have some very well spoken German gentleman ask me the ins and outs of why I need the form signing. My explanation must have been a good on as he signed my form without further ado.  
So to sum up the ride back I must say it took it out of me both physically and mentally. Weighing myself at home that evening I had lost 6lb's and 4 oz in the 7 days I was away. I had ridden 1877 KM in 22 hours having stopped a further three times during the night for loo and rest breaks. The SS1600Km was done and other than the horrendous fog through which I had to ride from Ruen all the way north to Calais I was heading home.
Over the course of the trip I logged up a nice 5,262 kilometres bringing my riding total for 2012 to well over 7,000 miles. I told you 2012 was going to be a great year for riding...... and yes Mr. T is booked in for his 12,000 mile service all be it a little over, sorry Keith won't happen again!

Alicante Castle

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rochdale to Reims in the rain and then some.......

I woke at 5.00am to the sound of rain hitting the bedroom window and Jeannie quietly putting her walking  gear on in the dark at the side of the bed.

"Say hello to your Mum from me"
"I will, love you"
"Love you too, take it steady"

With that I fell fast asleep only to be woken again an hour and a half later when her ice cold feet touched me.  It's been 8 years since we scattered J's Mum's ashes but J and her brother and sister walk to the other side of the valley every year for 5.30am on the dot to pay their respects.

Well, try as I might there was just no route to Camposol near Mazarron in Spain that I could see to give me 2500KM that did not mean me riding miles out of my way. I fancied doing a Bun Burner Gold 2500KM but just could not be bothered to ride all the way to Monaco to clock up the miles. So I thought stuff it and decided on an Saddle Sore 2000KM instead.  Just as well really as it was going to turn out to be one of the toughest rides I have done in a very long time.

I was booked on the Sunday 4.25pm ferry from Dover to Calais. I have always liked chilling out for an hour and a half on the ferry after the 4 hour ride down to Dover. So at 11.00am I was all set for the off, bike packed, kit on, waiting for "Buggerlugg's" to get back from his sleep over at his mates down the road. Typical, Ben was late which meant I was now 20 minutes behind schedule. Not my best start to a two and half thousand kilometre ride.

Farwell's said, we all kissed and hugged, along with a few wet eyes,  I was off and was going to be gone until the following Monday. The M62 is still a pain with the ever growing average 50mph speed limit which seem to be getting longer every time I ride across to Leeds. Turning off to head down the A1(M) the traffic lightened up and I was doing really well pulling back a few minutes every few miles.

The Gerbing jacket felt really good but kept heating up as I increased my speed  to 70mph. A bit of fiddling with the controller and  I was set for a comfortable if not wet ride down to the Dover ferry. Then it all started to go a little pear shaped and I'd not even got out of the country. The A14 was closed!

I now knew for a fact I would miss the 4.30pm ferry for sure.  The detour took me and at least 5 miles worth of trucks and cars back towards the A1 then across A428 wrapping us round St Neots where I took the decision to fill up. Finally the detour signs fed us back through the outskirts of Cambridge and onto the M11. Riding along the M25 I suddenly noticed it was 4 degrees and my hands were starting to feel it. The heated grips had gone off, no  little red light, shit! .............." this is not happening!"  I just could not believe how quickly my hands lost all feeling. "I'm getting to old for all this malarkey" ....... I thought to myself. I reached down and turned the jacket up to compensate, mmmm nice!
As I rode down the M20 I caught sight of some deranged driver waving at me like someone possessed. As I drew level with the car I recognised the great big grin at the window. It was our very own "Deb's" waving away at me. I smiled to myself for the first time in 4 hours and gave her a return wave. Strange coincidence that, as it was her other half Steve's words that were going around and around in my head.

"You make it sound so easy" Steve had posted in respect to my "Leap of Faith SS1000" the week before.  If only I thought to myself, if only!

I eventually arrived at Dover just in time to see my ferry pulling away from the docks. I hate being late for anything and this put me in a really depressed mood as I knew the "Night Shift" through France would now be starting not only in the pouring rain but in the dark as well. This was not what I wanted in any way shape or form.

Right first things first, get out of this wet clobber. It was then that I found out I had left my top press-stud open since filling up at Cambridge and my t-shirt was a little damp to say the least. I hung my jacket over the back of a seat in the corner next to a young chap working away on his lap-top.  Now as I was planning on riding an SS2000KM I went to the bar, witness  start form in hand............

"Could you witness my ride please?"

"Oh no sorry, can't tell you where I live, no you can't have my mobile, I rent you see and I can't give out my mobile to anyone I don't know!"
"Ok no problem, that's just too complicated for me"
Wet, dejected, hungry, thirsty, I returned to my kit and smiled to myself when I saw the size of the puddle around the bottom of my jacket, whoops!

The young man was now chatting away in French to his female friend. I fell asleep with my head on the table. I woke half an hour later and got something to drink from the bar.

"Could you sign my witness form please?" I asked my French computer user.

"Yes, no problem at all, where are you going to?"

"Spain, thank you I really do appreciate it. Watch the puddle when you move"

We both laughed.

So refreshed from the nap, and watered I was all set with my witness start form signed ready for  the ride ahead, rain or no rain.

Now there is absolutely nothing worse than putting wet gear back on especially when your t-shirt is also damp. So to say I was not really in the mood to ride 2000 kilometers was at best an understatement.

"I'd be looking for the first hotel I could find mate if I were you, it's absolutely foul out there  tonight" the deck hand informed me as I struggled to loosen the tie down over the bike as it was also wet through.  I put my thick ear plugs back in, dry head-over, helmet , Gerbing plugged in, dry gloves number two on.

It  came as no surprise to see rain coming down like stair rods as the doors went down. "I must be bloody mental" I said to myself in my helmet.

It was pitch black, raining and 4 degrees centigrade. "All I need now is a start receipt" I thought aloud looking around at total darkness. A start receipt from where? Easier said than done riding out onto the Calais duel carriageway heading toward Paris in the pitch black rain.

Now not to put too fine a point on it but at that exact moment in time I was so hacked off I could have just sacked logging the ride all together. It was just the fact if I did I would have regretted it in the morning that made me look out for any form of light that indicated life! No chance, not a thing was open.

It was another 25 minutes before I came across a petrol station at 8.25pm I'd been riding for 25 minutes  but at last  I had my start receipt all tucked away in my wallet. Mileage written on the back and I was off.

It was then I spotted mistake number two, as I had planned to do a BBG2500Km I had broken that route down into 5 bite size pieces but as I was now riding straight to Camposol I realised I had not broken the route down. There in front of me was the thing I hate the most 1280 miles to my destination. Damn!

It rained and rained and rained but I will give Dianese one thing their touring suit is bullet proof and with the addition of my ex-military Gortex Socks I was bone dry and warm as toast. As I passed the services at Reims where Ben and I had turned around last year I felt somewhat better and my dark mood started to lift. It was just heading to midnight and the night shift was starting to dig in.

Now one thing I do not tend to talk about when writing my ride reports is the problem I have with my back and the excruciating pain I sometimes have to endure due to sciatica. 6 hours into the European ride I felt it for the first time. It is like having someone stick a screwdriver into the top of your right (in my case) buttock cheek and try and thread the thing through your right thigh. It is agony and with the temperature stuck at a miserable 4 degree centigrade it is no fun at all.

Time for a brew and a rest. It was just after 3.00am when I pulled into the services. I just put the side stand down lay with my head, helmet still on, onto my handlebar bag, feet on the pegs and fell asleep. 15 minutes later the cold got a hold of me and woke me from my nap. Refreshed I went indoors to the loo. Two coffee's, a sandwich and a mars bar I fell asleep again for 10 minutes. This heated kit is great but it really does make you tired.

Back on the bike.  Lyon was just ahead and for the first time since leaving Rochdale it was not raining. To be honest I didn't even notice when it stopped raining as I had been in so much discomfort for the last two hours I just concentrated on riding as comfortable as possible. Then without rhyme nor reason the pain was gone. as quickly as it had arrived it was totally gone.

Montpellier looked amazing as the sun was coming up over the river. I was due to make a detour to visit somewhere but sadly I was still not in a good place mentally and chose to slip through the morning build up of traffic as unhindered as possible.  "There will always be another trip" I thought to myself at the time.

As the sun came up Spain loomed large on the horizon. I pulled into the services just south of Montpellier and swapped my visor out, much to the amazement of a young couple who watched every move I made. Breakfast was a big mug of milky coffee and a croissant!  Within an hour I was starving again. Give me a "Full English" any morning of the week.

Now as the sun rose so did my mood and I made good progress down the Spanish coast, Figueras, Barcelona, Tarragona, then straight through the centre of Valencia. Now why does my damn sat nav do this to me every single time I plot a route around the edge of the city I end up slap bang in the centre of the sprawling city complex.

Still popping out the other side I realised there was only a couple of hundred kilometres to go before I would pass Gandia, Denia, Benidorm and on to Alicante finally an hour and a half later I pulled off of the main motorway and headed across land towards Murcia and on to my final destination by Mazarron.

The trip was testing, painful at times, wet, miserable and very lonely but it was over. I had covered 2087 kilometres, got soaked due to not fastening my top press stud. Had my heated grips pack up then unexpectedly come back on half an hour later. Forgotten to break down the ride so had to watch as over 1200 miles slowly counted down. Also the Gerbing single portable controller gave up the ghost for some un know reason.  My sciatica had given me a hard time for a good few hours and finally  I'd managed to scratch the top of my tank whilst sleeping on it but hey. "What does not kill you makes you stronger".

Spain here I am, time to enjoy a little sunshine, sadly alone it held nothing for me at all until J arrived on Friday afternoon. Still there was always the ride home to look forward to...............

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The "Leap of Faith" SS1000

SS1000 in 24 Hours

SaddleSore 1000

As I snuggled up on the rickety old two seater sofa with a pint of Timothy Taylor sat in front of me, on the stupid wooden coffee table with a hole in it, which the new landlord has recently bought. I could have just fallen asleep but for one thing, I had company, Deano, Marie, Sean and Rita my in-laws and of course my long suffering "Biker Widow" wife Jeannie.

There was a lovely feeling slowly washing over me, like the feeling you get pulling a great big warm quilt over you at bed time, That feeling has a name, it's name : Contentment.

It was 11 o'clock on Thursday night & I had been awake exactly 24 hours. The date was the 29th of February, yes you've got it, it's a leap year. So what do you do to celebrate a leap year? Well in my case I rose to the challenge thrown down on the IBA UK Forum  by Phil the IBA UK President.  It read:

Wednesday 29th February........... Yes it's a leap year.

What a good day to do a ride that nobody else can do for 4 more years.

Don't miss this chance. You will have to wait 4 years for another opportunity.

So after a little negotiation with J that evening of the 22nd , cover booked to look after Lilie Rose, I got my "leave pass" signed on the Thursday morning. "What a great riding year 2012 is turning into, Ace cafe last week, Waterloo tomorrow and now I was on to do the "SS1000 Leap of Faith" next Wednesday, blinding" I thought to myself laying there soaking in the bath........

As soon as we got back from Waterloo on Sunday night I whipped the panniers off and packed them away. Pointless dragging them around the UK and with a width of 110cm they are not the best bits of kit have fitted whilst filtering through traffic. I pulled out my emergency kit and sat it on the bench ready for getting sorted for the upcoming ride on Wednesday.

Now although the SS1000 or Saddle Sore 1000 miles in less than 24 hours to give it it's full description,  is an entry level ride into the Iron Butt Association in my opinion it still needs as much care and attention as any of the longer extreme rides. The reason being is, if you don't give every long distance ride the amount of care and attention it deserves, you will find it hard work, stressful and ultimately less enjoyable. And in my opinion a total waste of time, energy and what's more important cash. Riding 1000 miles costs, so why waste it.

Here's my personal approach to successfully planning, preparing for and completing as SS1000 ride.

(Please be aware this is only my OPINION and in no way has any bearing on or to the IBA in any way at all).

Plan Route

As the IBA UK Ride Verifier I see so many routes and it always amazes me how many different ways a 1000 miles can be ridden around the UK. This route was going to be yet another.

I just wanted a simple, straight forward 1000+ miles route that did not involve covering the same section of road twice. It had to be circular, starting and finishing in Rochdale.

Now, strange as it may sound, I like to work on corners, yes even for a circular route there are corners, points that are clear turn points. In this case all four turn points are again in my opinion perfect for a number of reasons. Easily accessed meaning straight in and out as opposed to off the motorway, around  the roundabout to other side of motorway then back the same way (one exception to this rule is Gordano Services on the Southbound M5).

Remembered this ride is against the clock, 24 hours is the cut off time so less wasted time the better. My advice is to use stops that you know and have used in the past or Google an unfamiliar stop and have a look at it, and yes! I really do, do that.

On this occasion it was a case of simply plumbing in, Wardle Road services, Gordano services on the M5, Clacket Services on the M25 East Bound, Berwick upon Tweed Morrison's Services on A1, Bothwell Services on the M74 and back to Wardle. 1005 miles cutting the M4/M25 corner off, something MapSource is renowned for doing or 1011 miles putting the corner back in.

Now I always break my route down into "Tank Range" bite chunks. 350 miles is the maximum IBA rules allow between receipts no matter how big you tank , petrol tank not bike, is so I always try and aim for 220 miles maximum. Plus 220 miles is about as long as my bladder will work for before, "involuntary jogging on the spot at the side of the bike whilst watching petrol trickle out the nozzle", kicks in! Sadly Berwick was one of those stops! My apologies to the dear lady in the Ford Focus who had to witness this yesterday, along with a few expletives, sorry!

So this route was stop to stop numbered, with the addition of a stop being added between Clacket and Berwick at Doncaster as I had see the £1.33 a litre on Sunday on the way up from Dover. In comparison I had paid £1.40 8 miles south at a Jet Service station, most annoying to say the least.

So that was my Route! Next!

Bike Preparation

1)                  Full walk round visual check looking for anything that looks loose or out of place

2)                  Check all lights work correctly including brake light and indicators

3)                  Apply ACF50 as required (I'm no mechanic but use common sense)

4)                  Check tyre pressures and oil level

5)                  Check "Emergency Kit" and pack as required (on this occasion in top box)

6)                  Re-fit Garmin to bike and CHECK ROUTE HAS LOADED CORRECTLY!

Now as Mr. T had decided to blow a side light bulb on Sunday when I started him up outside the hotel, causing  countless folks in Belgium reminding me of said blown bulb at every opportunity. I had to set about replacing the bulb on Monday morning. Little did I know this would involve having to remove the whole of the head light cluster. Even Keith Dixon's didn't know how to change it! The bulb is mounted in the probably the world longest grey holder. It took almost three quarter of an hour to sort out. Now I have done it once replacement will only take about 5 minutes but it's not a job I would readily undertake at the side of a motorway. Final job is always......

This must be the worlds largest side light holder 

Food & Drink 

Having "naffed-up" one ride by not eating and drinking correctly I learned my lesson the hard way. So my staple diet is always

1)                  Tuna Mayo Sandwiches wrapped individually, (note to self, do not use tin foil again as it rubs through leaving grey marks on the rolls, taste not affected!).

2)                  4x 250ml Bottles of Water

3)                  4x Small energy drinks

4)                  Selection of chocolate bars or snacks

This time I decided to down load Instimapper onto my iPhone and was pleased to see my account was still active since 2009 which was the last time I had used it! I set it all up and had the map opened on the laptop for everyone to check during the night and day. Links posted on the IBA, Super Tenere and Manc Riders forums.

Kit laid out on sofa down stairs, boots, helmet the lot all ready to go on. That was me all set for the ride................ so without further ado it was off to bed at 8pm with alarm set for 11pm.

Job Done!

I won't bore you with the "Cock-a-doodle-do", teeth cleaned in the dark, fair wells said quietly.  I headed down stairs, kitted up and made a flask of black coffee with 1 extra sugar. Put my sandwiches out the fridge (which my super gorgeous wifey made), into the top box along with the water, chocolate bars in the handlebar bag with iPhone plugged in so as not to drain it, iPod set to shuffle. I was set.

Packed and all set for the off

Wow this Gerbings stuff is amazing, I'm so toasty and warm as I set off at 11.35pm to the garage at the bottom of the road.

"Shit! Its shut, no lights on, great start!" So much for me thinking it closed at midnight.

Plan B, 24 hours Shell garage at the other end of town, a quick U-Turn and I'm off through Rochdale along Kingsway. 2 bloody miles and when you only have 5 miles in the bag meaning your 1005 as now just plummeted to 1002 miles I'm chuffed I had factored that in, "no honest I had, you really do not believe me do you?!"

So bike on centre stand, full to brim, and it's still only 5 to 12, I've photographed the clock, filled in my form now what it has to be gone midnight. "I know I'm pedantic like that"!

"Evening, just wondered if you could do me a favour" I said to the very apprehensive cashier who had been watching me "faf about" for the last 8 minutes

"Yes no problem what do you want me to do"

"Empty the till and give me all your cash, NOW!" no I didn't say that but it did flash through my head............. no idea why!

I then went into the regular spiel about being a ride witness. It worked and by the time he had found the station address and put my petrol through it was believe it or not midnight. My receipt read 29/02/12 00:00

5 minutes later I was heading out of town to the empty M62 nothing to report past Manchester along the M60 heading for the M6 3 miles down the M60 big neon sign

M60 Junctions 9 to 10 CLOSED

"Bloody hell, here we go again" Thoughts of another 10 Closed Roads Report sprang to mind.

I kept going thinking the M6 was junction 9 anyway, WRONG it's junction 9

Riding through some industrial estate following little Yellow Diamonds everywhere had me smiling to myself. Just as well Ron had been unable to join me on the ride as he would have been giving me what for right now. Less than an hour into the ride and the first start point was shut and now I was in some pitch black god forsaken industrial estate. I just cracked up laughing, only another 17 hours to go............. I'd set my mind on an 18 hour ride.

Riding down the M6, eventually, the fog came down just after Lymm. "Can this get any worse" I thought only for it to lift just after Kiel Services, sorted.

The roads were all but empty give or take the row of HGV Trucks in the slow lane. Sat at a nice comfortable speed I made "good progress" all the way down to Birmingham, through s a few miles of 50 MPH road works then on to the M5 again, all but empty. What I neglect to state is the Northbound M6 had been closed for repair between four junctions and now it was the turn of the M5. I was so pleased I was not doing the route the other way.

Now this is when I had my first strange encounter with or friend the "Boy's in Blue". Sat minding my own business listening to my tunes, I spotted the Big Blue mist behind me.

"Shit, shit, shit" I'm only just over surely!" I thought.

But he didn't stop, instead he sat in the middle lane about 100 meters ahead and we drove all the way from just south of Worcester junction all the way down to Gordano Services. Well at least the roundabout just before the services, as yes you've guessed it, the M5 was closed. As I indicated to pull into Gordano's my personal police escort switched off the  blue lights and carried on. "How strange is that?"

8 minutes and I was pulling out of the services, refreshed, re-fuelled, toileted, fed and watered. M4 came and went, a few 50's along the first section but nothing of interest. The M25 did exactly the same. Pulling into Clacket Services I realised I have never been in the Eastbound services.

9 minute later I was pulling out onto the M25 this is where I made my one and only mistake and before I knew what was happening the gantry above me told me I was on my bloody way to Dover. So much for just covering the 1000 miles 7 miles later I was informed to turn right by Mrs Garmin  who's MUTE button I had switched off. The detour gave me 15 miles and put me back onto the M20 and in turn the M25. Next stop Doncaster, just as well really as even at 5.30 in the morning the London crowd were wakin,g and the M25 car park was filling up.

M11 northbound was nice and clear leading straight on to the A14 Huntingdon Road and then the A1(M).

Now as I travel the A1 regularly I rode  all the way to Doncaster Services thinking about everything and allsorts. My recent rides from the Ace Cafe, the ride up from Dover at the weekend, déjà vu sprang to mind. Mind this time being alone gave me more time to ponder and appreciate what fantastic company Ben has become on the back. Even if he does drive me mad sometimes with the dreaded word "Pardon" every single time I speak to him on the bike he says it "Pardon, what did you say dad?", I missed him! Pulling into Doncaster Services I felt fresh as a daisy and pleased the "Night Shift" had gone so well.

15 minutes later I pulled out, as per Gordano's, Clacket's but with the addition of a phone call home and the swap of ear plugs from my thick high density 35db silencers to my normal 28db type.  This was the first time I had removed my helmet and it was nice to get some air round my head.

Before Long I was heading towards something I have wanted to take a picture of for some time "The Angel of the North" So I followed the brown information signs and got my picture.

At last I have my photo of
"The Angel of the North"

Pleased with my efforts I carried on up to Berwick-upon-Tweed Morrison's Service station. Now as this is a know stop on the RBLR 1000 which I have done a couple of time I knew exactly where I was going. What I had forgot was the dammed toilets are in the main shop. 5 litres, 9 litres and then it started ..............

"the involuntary jogging on the spot whilst crossing your legs and trying not to ........ "

"I need a wee"

"I need a wee"

"That will have to do I am busting"

I looked over and this poor traumatised woman was looking at me through the pumps as if I had ten heads...............

"Sorry, I wasn't just thinking that was I? "

She shook her head!

"I was actually saying it wasn't I?"

She nodded! I went red and looked away

"I'm really Sorry"

With that I dashed in to pay.

"Do you have a toilet"

"It's in the main building, love!"

By the time I ran back to the bike and started her up the old lady at the side of me was hiding in her car...................

This really did give the phrase, "Splash 'n' Dash" a whole new meaning.

4 minutes and I was off up the road destination Glasgow, stopping briefly at the Scottish boarder for another photo I carried on and eventually my tonsils stopped floating and I just rode on.

Now is it me or has Scotland spent 75% of the GDP on bloody speed cameras? They are every couple of miles, it's mad. If every one of them is live then Scotland must be the richest country in the UK. All the way up the A1 and even on 70 MPH sections of dual carriageways they have speed cameras. It is un-believable.

Still passing Edinburgh I had my second encounter with the "Boy's in Blue" in the form of un-marked vans parked at the side of the road pinging everyone on the way past. Speed on this trip, the chance would have been a fine thing. By the time I reached Glasgow services I had passed no less than 8 vans of various sizes, Ridden through two 30 man check points which was very impressive to say the least, I even got a smile  form a couple of Police Bikers stationed at the exit sections. I have no idea what was going on but they were doing a mighty fine job as far as I could see.

15 minutes and I was pulling out of Bothwell services or Motherwell as it was sign posted up, having called home to say I was on the home run, eaten a couple more Tuna butties drunk a whole bottle of water and polished of the last snack bar.

815 miles done and another 210 to go and feeling great, I like the ride down from Glasgow as it cuts through one of my favourite places, the Lake District. I was tempted to have a ride down the A6 Shap road which runs parallel to the M6 but thought better of it as we were off out this evening. The ride down the M74 on to the M6 which then runs M61 past the M65 turn where the Garmin wanted to take me and on down to the M60 back along the M62 to Wardle Services.

17 hours and 17 minutes later with 1025 miles clocked up on the Garmin I was back where I should have started from in the first place. I had averaged 19KM to the litre, ridden 1692 bike odometer kilometres and ridden 34.6 KM on reserve fuel because I did not want to fill up on the M61 when the countdown started.

Now you may have noticed the readings are in kilometres well that is because when I fitted the Gerbings heated clothing wiring looms to the bike, the clocks switched to KM. With so many rides in Europe planned I have left it that way for the time being.

So what's next..........................well as it happens it's Spain this Sunday. Happy Day's!

 Last Job is to submit the paperwork to the IBA UK President, who better to "verify the verifier"

Job well done Mr. T