Is Four a Magic Number

Safari Ferg

Safari Ferg
Premier Member
On mid-summer day 2018, five days after successfully finishing the RBRL1000, I set out with Charlie McRea (aka Splitter 142, well known of this Parish after completing the Dambuster’s SS1000) to attempt the IBA (Ireland) Compass Gold SS1000.
IBA Ireland regards their Compass Gold as:
" a difficult but highly rewarding 1,000-mile journey incorporating the North, South, East and West most points of mainland Ireland.
The distance between these locations IS NOT 1,000 miles so you will need to add additional mileage to increase the distance travelled. This is a great ride as you will visit some of the most scenic locations both at these compass points and along the way. You will journey all sorts of roads - motorway, major road, minor road, gravel track and mountain passes- this ride has it all”.
The Compass Gold (CG) points (for the purposes of this ride) are:
CG(North) - Malin Head, County Donegal
CG(East) - Burr point, County Down
CG(West) - Dunmore Head, County Kerry
CG(South) - Brow Head, County Cork".

Joe Fisher (aka biquer) is a font of knowledge and ever able to provide sound advice, in particular the following, which proved quite prophetic:
"The Compass Gold is a challenging ride, they have gone wrong! Mostly due to not paying attention to the SS1000 element of the ride. Some very experienced LD riders have messed up and not been certified! Be aware that you must prove with computer generated receipts that you completed 1000+ miles, irrespective of the special requirements of the Compass Gold ride. I would advise treating it as 2 challenges in one. Print out and be aware of the specific photographic and receipt requirements of the Compass Gold ride.
Plan and prepare to fulfil those requirements and check it. Then set that aside and test your route for the shortest distance between receipts. Is it more than 1000 miles with a bit to spare? Both sets of requirements must be met. Many have used the West coast from N to W (and vice versa), less motorway but slower. Your choice.
I would try to avoid N, S and W in the dark if possible, I did N at night and it was 'tricky'. It's probably a ride for the longer days unless you're comfortable riding long distance in the dark. I would strongly recommend S and W in daylight, it would take forever in the dark and you'd miss the scenery”.

Our Cunning Plan was to set off from Whitehead in County Antrim at 0400 on the Summer Solstice (aiming in the future to qualify for a 4 Seasons Ride Certificate (Summer/Winter Solstices and Spring/Autumn Equinoxes)), ride to CG(N) then south to CG(S) via the M50 Dublin Orbital then north west to CG(W) and finally CG(E) and then back to Whitehead, which was likely to be comfortably within 24hours and well over the 1,000 miles, with several fall back options for end receipts; however few plans survive intact, after exposure to reality.
We started the clock at 04:18 at the ATM by the Bank House Café (former local bank that is now an outstanding café and gift shop with live traditional music on Friday afternoons),
The run up to Malin Head was straightforward with little traffic and good weather, with requisite receipt obtained at an ATM in Carndonagh (choice of several), the nearest location prior to the Cardinal Point which is noted on a card with a subsequent odometer reading for photo proof at the Cardinal Point, reaching CG(N) by 06:38 and 112 miles showing; the only issues at Malin Head were the last couple of hundred yards are very twisty and with low sun in your eyes could have involved some involuntary off-road manoeuvres, which would have been sub optimal on my BMW K1100 Lardy Tourer (LT) but easy peasy for Charlie on his Africa Twin (AT), in addition my smart phone had (unknown to me) not been charging and was rapidly running out of charge, the spare power bank came to the rescue and a change of leads before departure rectified the situation (note to self to source a camera for photographs).
A nice run back along Lough Swilly and a fuel stop just before Dungiven at 08:00 with 164 miles showing (I am working on fitting an auxiliary fuel cell).
We had planned to not ride through Belfast as the West-link between the M2 and M1 is a time-thief lottery and can slow your journey badly especially when the pond life decide to play bumper cars/run out of fuel/break down, and instead to turn south at Antrim (J1 on M2) and then head for the Moira roundabout on the M1, head east towards Belfast before turning south again on the road to Dublin's Fair City; however after the stunning views of Mid Ulster and Lough Neagh whilst descending from the Glenshane Pass (notable for the highest (year round open) pub in Ireland - The Ponderosa, (a previous IBA(Ireland) RTE) we for some reason ignored the plan and decided to turn off the A6 near Maghera and make a beeline for Newry via Armagh, a decision that would have consequences later (yes I know, Plan the Ride and Ride the Plan).
The SPOT Gen 3 was activated at each stop and at significant road junctions.

Next stop was at the Applegreen Services at Castlebellinghan (S) at 10:11 with 255 miles showing. Charlie refuelled (his AT has a BUMOT Camel Tank with an extra 6 litres and is usually easier on fuel that my LT (excepting when indulging in higher Autobahn velocities)) and we had a quick snack/drink. Note the Applegreen Motorway Services fuel price is no more than normal service stations (currently £1.22 or euro equivalent per litre) something that I ruminated on and fumed at during the RBLR SS1000 where I saw up to £1.59 from the money grabbing B*stards.
Round Dublin (if you go direct from Malin Head down the west side it is way short of the distance required) on the M50 and off towards Cork, stopping at Mayfield for fuel at 11:59 with 337 miles showing. Fuel and snacks at Cork (Kinsale Road) at 13:54 with 457 miles showing; so, under ten hours in with nearly half way to go, the sun was shining and we appeared to be on schedule (or so we thought).

Heading southwest to CG(S) after Cork not only does the motorway finish but so do duel carriageways and often single carriageways (as advised by Joe), but it is very picturesque and is semi sub-tropical with the warming waters of the gulf stream, it got quite hot and it was glorious riding along the sun dappled shores with yachts in the bays and folk sitting outside pubs with Cold Cleansing Lagers with the condensation dripping off them (O but that we could have stopped). The next pre Cardinal Point receipt was acquired at the recommended ATM in Brosnan’s shop in Schull (fortunately Charlie knew where the shop’s car park was as the town was busy (he had done several chunks of the Wild Atlantic Way a few years previously), the last few hundred yards to CG(S) at Brow Head are up a narrow boreen (Irish name for a road little used, usually single track with grass growing up the middle (also know as a Loanin in Ulster-Scots)) and it was just our luck that it was blocked half way up by a farmer unloading cattle from a lorry, which cost us 15 mins (not a lot, we thought) but allowed us to strip off several layers of clothing and switch to lighter gloves, picture taken off the particular rock and marked sheet of card with odometer at 16:24 and 536 miles showing and then a scenic backtrack for a fair distance to the main road towards Dingle.
The roads at this stage in parts were more akin to tarmac covered donkey tracks, which the suspension on my 1996 (designed in the 1980s with the first K series) was not enjoying and neither was my back (note to self, next time I attempt this ride it will be on a GS or similar).
A great variety of scenery traveling round the SW of Ireland, mountain, sea, lake, moorland, farms, without too much traffic apart from Killarney which is always busy.

Dingle was the next designated stop for fuel at the Texaco at 19:31 and 648 miles showing; it is only 11 miles to CG(W) at Dunmore Head but it felt a lot longer, another farmer induced delay with sheep being unloaded this time; however the views after cresting the mountain pass looking out over the Skelligs (as in Star Wars, Episode VII “The Force Awakens”) is really quite moving, especially in the lowering evening sunshine.

We had been able to use Google Street View to pinpoint 3 of the 4 Cardinal Points, it was Dunmore Head that we could not identify the “Stone Marker”, so we had decided to split the several car parks up to search for it, eventually realising that we had wrongly assumed (from the photo on the rules/guidelines document) that it was set in the ground, 25 (precious) minutes later we found it was part of an upright stone/concrete post/obelisk facing out to sea), requisite photos taken at 20:21 with 659 miles showing.
Lovely sunset and head the bikes towards the North East and home, roads were slow going until after Tralee when we were able to pick up the pace but realised that our time buffer of several hours was now much less. Fuel and sandwich at Moneygran Services (now called Barrack Obama Plaza) at 23:01 with 797 miles showing.
Motorways with minimal traffic but with tiredness kicking in meant we stayed at near the national limit. Back around Dublin on the M50 and in for fuel at Applegreen Services at Lusk (N) at 01:05 with 897 miles showing, another 10 minutes lost due to the shop assistant printing the wrong reciept (his poor command of the use of english, did not help (there are large numbers of Eastern Europeans in the Republic of Ireland)).

Time was now tight but we reckoned we had just under 30mins to spare, however the motorway between Newry and Belfast was closed for overnight repairs which lost us 20 mins (note to self to check proposed roadworks in future).

The most easterly point of Ireland is in County Down (not Antrim as shown in the IBA(I) guidelines) on the outside of the Ards Peninsula with the recommended ATM being in a shop in Kircubbin on the inside of the peninsula, however we thought that it was likely the ATM would be inside the shop which would be closed, so as we were passing the Tesco in Newtownards, we called for fuel at 03:11 with 1,007 miles on the LT odometer; the eastern sky was starting to get light when we reached Burr Point via some rather twisty county back roads, at 03:45 with 1,023 miles showing.
Quick photos and hot footing it back to the Tesco where we stopped the clock at 04:14, which meant we had just 4 minutes to spare.
SPOT Gen 3 was activated for the final time and photos of my two GPS (Garmin V and 396) which both showed 1,027 miles and the time.
We headed back to Whitehead for a final ATM at 05:06 with 1,065 miles on the LT clocks; for a well-earned sleep. We now understood why it is categorised as a Gold Ride.

A few days later the supporting documents were dispatched to Chris McGaffin and we waited on tenterhooks to see if our ride would be accepted.

Chris later informed us that it was very close, since his initial analysis showed only 996 miles, but after studying the exact SPOT Gen 3 tracks, the route we actually took as seen on SPOT from Brow Head to Dunmore Head increased the distance and, with a couple of extra detours that the mileage worked out at 1,027.
His comment was “If you didn’t have SPOT you were in trouble”

So, in the end we:
Travelled to the 4 Extremities of Ireland,
Completed a SS1000 with 4 minutes to spare,
and could have been 4 miles short without the SPOT.

Surely 4 is a magic number?