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

1 comment:

  1. Nobody could ever accuse you of messing about could they ?