BBR 2019: Well, that was crap...

Megabuck

IBAUK Verifier
IBA Member
#1
Reflecting on my BBR 2019, I think I only got two things wrong: my route, and my riding gear. In my defence, that last one wasn't entirely my fault - though I guess you could argue that it was, for believing the lying bar steward who presented the BBC weather forecast on Friday lunchtime.

While the rally 'book' was given out on Friday afternoon, no realistic route planning was possible until after the 8 pm rider briefing, since that was when the combination bonuses were revealed - and they could be worth far more than the individual bonus points. Once I'd got those, I sat down with MapPoint to work out where I could go. As combos were awarded for specific pairs of bonuses, working out a good route wasn't straighforward; alongside the route, I needed a spreadsheet to calculate the points my plan was worth!

Route finalised by around 11 pm (relatively early), I loaded it on the TomTom and did some packing, ready for the 5 am start. My first stop was the Vulcan Arms, outside Sizewell nuclear plant, though I was pretty confused for the first hour, as the TomTom wasn't talking to me and the route wasn't counting down. My fault - I hadn't pressed the 'Ride' button - punishment for getting a new satnav just weeks earlier. But then... I got to the A14/M11 junction outside Cambridge, and the TomTom just couldn't cope. First, it had me turn right on a little road, and immediately started trying to get me back on the A14. Next time, same place - straight on, for Cambridge - and immediately started replanning. Next time, A14 east - and immediately started telling me to make a U-turn! I had taken all three options, but apparently none of them was the right one. I resorted to telling it to take me to Sizewell, rather than using the itinerary I had so carefully put together, and it decided the A14 east was the way to go. A while later, I figured out the best way to use it - search the BBR 2019 POIs I had loaded on.

Vulcan Arms done, up to Gorleston Golf Club, and I was pretty much on schedule despite the navigational challenges. Next stop, Lindisfarne... and things started to unravel. Traffic on the A1 got worse the further north I got; by the time I reached Newcastle, I was an hour late. At that point I decided to drop Lindisfarne and head for the next stop: Spean Bridge, near Fort William. Having gone so far north, it took me up to Edinburgh and on to the A9 rather than across to Carlisle. Still, that was okay - until I got past Edinburgh, and it started raining. This was rain, not the showers in the forecast. Okay - stop, remove jacket, put on Goretex liner, put on jacket and continue. More rain, so maybe an hour later I stop for fuel, then remove trousers, put on Goretex trousers, put on outer trousers and continue. By the time I got to Spean Bridge, I was cold, wet and miserable - though at least I was carrying on, unlike Robert, who told me his slow front puncture meant he'd be stopping in Fort William.

I was still on schedule, but if I only kept to timings from there, I'd get to the hotel just 10 minutes before the cut-off for the sleep bonus - any delay would jeopardise the 9,500 points on offer. So I decided to not go to Traigh golf course, and head south. Around 8:40 pm I got to my hotel - which had stopped serving food at 8:30 pm. Not that I could have eaten, since every piece of clothing I had, apart from non-biking trousers and shoes, was wet. So off to my hotel room, where I did my best to dry stuff off. I got the laptop out and looked at the weather forecast: a solid slab of rain sitting over Scotland and the north west until mid-morning on Sunday. Guess where my next few bonuses were... so instead I replanned, heading south as fast as I could and then doing a trawl across Wales.
 
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Ziggy

Just Another Rider
Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#2
Nice Honest Report Martin .... Thanks for the write-up ..

The hard rides are the ones you'll remember for life ...
 

Megabuck

IBAUK Verifier
IBA Member
#3
I opted to get an extra hour's sleep, setting off around 5:15 am. In the rain. My gear was cold and damp; that changed to cold and wet, as the rain came down. I had my Gerbing heated jacket and gloves on, but was still feeling chilly - wet legs and feet sapping my energy. I stopped off at Alston Observatory, near Preston - but then, with wet hands and sodden gloves, I couldn't get my fingers back into position. My only option was to switch to summer gloves, and rely on the heated grips to keep my hands vaguely warm.

It wasn't until I was south of Stoke that I saw anything remotely resembling a dry surface - 300 miles and five hours of non-stop wetness. By now I was cold, wet, tired and dispirited; I seriously wondered why the hell I was doing this, just for fun. I came to a decision: I dropped Harlech castle, which wasn't part of a combo I could make, and instead went home, south of Solihull. Arriving there a bit after 11 am I stripped off and sat in the bath for 10 minutes or so, the warm water restoring some colour to my cold feet. A couple of cups of coffee and some soup also helped warm me up; I set off around 12:30 pm having changed clothes completely. I was fortunate that my wife's Hein Gericke suit fitted me pretty well, and I also had waterproof socks, so I no longer cared about my wet boots.

M42, M5, M50 - just a few showers along this stretch as I continued down to Sennybridge. Along the way I had the frustration of looking at the clock and seeing 12:46 pm - the call-in bonus window closed at 12:45 pm. The weather continued to improve, and my spirits rose; I could do my sweep, and get back to HQ around 8 pm. From Sennybridge up to the Spaceguard centre, and some rather narrow lanes; but this was Wales, and traffic very light. I even saw the sun, as it turned into a lovely late afternoon/evening. Hereford, and the first well was easy enough. Malvern... and the second well required a walk of a few hundred metres up a very steep, twisting drive. Back down, and it looked like my next bonus - 'donkey bench' - was in almost exactly the same location, so I wandered down the road looking for the steps mentioned on the bonus card. No steps - hmm. So I head back towards the bike - and then a kind lady, just going into her house, asked what I was looking for. When I described it, she told me I had parked in the right place, because it was just a few steps down from there.

One more bonus, and I was done - the GR park bench. An easy bonus to get - but I almost dropped the bike on the gravel drive leading out of the park! From there, it was an enjoyable hack cross-country through Moreton-in-Marsh and up to the Warwick bypass, round the Coventry ring road and on to the M69. I reached rally HQ just after 8 pm, and had completed scoring by around 8:30 pm - relieved not to have dropped any points. I was disappointed; the route I had originally planned was worth some 34,000 points, and I had scored under 19,000. Coulda, woulda, shoulda; if I had not included Lindisfarne (or opted to drop it earlier), I'd have had time to make it to Traigh. If I had used my one-piece oversuit I wouldn't have got wet, and would probably have felt much better. Lessons learnt; let's see whether I take action based on those lessons next time out.

Monday morning, and the results: I was surprised to be 10th, as I thought my poor score wouldn't be worthy of a top-ten finish. Of course, Robert, Gerhard and Lee had pulled out, but my frustration grew when I realised that, if I had just made it to Traigh, I'd have won - and if I'd managed that plus the Sunday call-in, I'd have been close to 4,000 points clear. But them I found out that it was a coulda, woulda, shoulda rally for others; Kim's points dropped due to his flag not being visible would have seen him on the podium; and the Horsfall brothers getting the sleep bonus wrong robbed them of what would have been an impressive 31,000 points or more.

We live and learn; I'm sure Kim will be double-checking his bonus photos next year, and everyone will understand the importance of getting the email subject exactly right. I'll try to resist the temptation of planning an overly optimistic route, and make sure I take my oversuit with me. And at least I've now got a year to understand the foibles of my new TomTom!
 
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Ziggy

Just Another Rider
Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#4
Yep Attention to detail for everything and the right gear tried and tested ....
Prepare for the worst, practice/train hard overcomes a lot of comfort problems and fatigue ...

Some riders ask why we pay so much for clothing .. Ha because it works .. and they need to ride in those conditions to test it for themselves.
With the info you have mentioned I'm sure others will take note and prepare ....

Good luck on your next challenge ..
 

Kim Leeson

Selfie Stick King
Premier Member
IBA Member
#6
Great honest report Martin...lessons learned eh!! Until next time, we keep learning and adapting as you did. I will never have the wind rob me like that again, I already have ideas to overcome such ineptitude!
 
#7
Yep Attention to detail for everything and the right gear tried and tested ....
Prepare for the worst, practice/train hard overcomes a lot of comfort problems and fatigue ...

Some riders ask why we pay so much for clothing .. Ha because it works .. and they need to ride in those conditions to test it for themselves.
With the info you have mentioned I'm sure others will take note and prepare ....

Good luck on your next challenge ..
Wot he said, invest in some quality gear so you are warm and dry.
Good effort though well done.
 

GSears

Premier Member
#10
Riveting read. Remember feeling the pain on other rallies. Potential winning route, well planned. It appears a combination of circumstances and events prevented you from achieving those high points. If you'd known then what you know now. Four locations, two text ins and a sleep bonus COULD have won it. All over in 30 hours......
 
#12
good read Martin
I had a similar experience in Poland last year only the gloves failed on the clothing ( even waterproof glove don't like going back on when your hands get wet) sometimes you just have to make the best of a bad situation.