My first SaddleSore1000!

So here I am. ‘Certifiable Phil’ is my handle, and certifiable as far as most of my friends are concerned that I did this at all!

I returned to motorcycling in 2015 after one of those long 'marriage-mortgage-kids' breaks from two wheels. Now I don't have to commute by bike, all my riding is for pleasure and I thought the odd tootle out to the cafe would wrong I was.

In 2012 I raised money for charity by cycling (pedal) London to Paris in 4 days, 75 miles a day - I have never been so fit, and I am not that fit now! Thought about another charitable fundraiser for this year and decided to combine my love of motorcycling and a charity challenge. Quick surf of the web: just what is this 'Iron Butt' thing anyway? Fast forward to March when I made the fateful decision - a SaddleSore1000. Started to canvas folks for donations to my favourite charity, most figured it was sufficiently mad enough to be interesting, and once I had over £700 in sponsorship for the charity, I figured I couldn't back out! Planned for 1st weekend in June (good weather right?)

The last week in May I took the week off. Get some R & R and prepare for the Friday/Saturday (1st/2nd June)...thunderstorms hit the UK! My plan had been to ride from the Charity's headquarters in Stevenage, Hertfordshire to Inverness and back (approx 1080 miles) up the west coast and back down the east, but knowing I stood to be drowned all the way up the west side of the country, I elected with 24 hours to go to take the east coast up and return down the very same path. By and large that you'll see.

Set off from the Esso petrol station by the charity HQ in Stevenage at 2:56pm, got my receipt and a witness statement - I'm off roaring onto the A1 with my trusty 15 year old Honda CB900F Hornet raring to go. As a byline, I can say with total conviction that the Hornet proved to be an absolutely brilliant bike for this job. Not once did it miss a beat, gave all when asked for it, and was dead comfortable, and ironically by the end of the trip my saddle was not sore! Result! - and mostly thanks to TrimFix in St Ives, Cambridgeshire who had very nicely re-foamed and re-covered my seat in 2017. The proof was in the pudding - it was brilliant at keeping my butt cosy and pain free!

Up the A1 to my next fuel stop at Blyth services just south of Doncaster, in the first hour traffic kept my average speed down to 40mph - and I was getting worried! Thats not quick enough! The next hour saw better roads and I blasted up the A1M at a much more respectable 70 mph, thus by the end of hour 2 I was feeling I was ‘back on track’.

Fuel stop at Blyth and remembered that whilst as a strategy fueling at service stations on main roads was fast and had the least impact on time, they have the greatest impact on the wallet! Ouch! So having modestly boosted Esso’s profit margins again, I headed back up a sunny A1.

Fairly uneventful for the next few hundred miles, I made good progress, stopping at Scotch Corner and then Alnwick for fuel, then headed past Berwick-on-Tweed and over the Scottish border! It was then I discovered that in Scotland, the flies that hit your visor are industrial sized compared to our puny English flies, and when I rolled into my next fuel stop at Musselburgh, my vision through the visor felt like trying to see through a coating of Vaseline! Serious visibility problem! Thankfully the petrol station had a jumbo pack of Pampers Baby Wipes for sale - take note: they are darn good at cleaning multiple kamikaze flies from visors!!

Headed up the M8, M9 and M90 over the Queensferry crossing and up the M90 to Perth where I rolled into the Tesco filling station at 10:45pm. I didn’t discover until later on that the time stamp on the ‘Pay at Pump’ receipt was still on GMT, not BST! So apparently I made it from Musselburgh to Perth in 10 minutes…!

I had booked a cheap Travelodge room at Perth and at 11pm stumbled into my room and grabbed 2.5 hours of needed sleep, woke at 2am, showered and back on the bike at 2:15am.

I ride out onto the A9. Into the thickest wall of fog you’ve ever seen! 25mph felt too quick, despite the dual carriageway. It was impossible with my single headlight and less than 100 yards visibility. I really thought this was the end of my attempt, there was no way I could make the 110 miles up to Inverness at this pace and have a hope of success in 24 hours. After a couple of miles I was ready to abandon, figuring it wasn’t worth taking my life in my hands at 2:30am at night in thick fog! Then as I dithered with the decision, two things happened. The fog thinned (a bit) and I was overtaken by a 40ft articulated truck that was doing a comfortable 60mph and was lit up like a Christmas tree! I had found a good shepherd, and knowing he was only heading one place (Inverness like I was) I followed him four cars lengths behind and he lit my way for 100 miles! By the time I hit the Pay at Pump Tesco fuel stop in Inverness at 4:25am, it was daylight and barring a few fog patches, the return was much nicer, and whilst I was primarily concentrating on my road and my progress, got some nice views of the Cairngorms, which I had not seen at all on the way up!!

Refuelled at Perth (with the GMT time stamped pumps!!) and then blasted all the way to Berwick-on-Tweed before stopping again, this time for half hour break and a cheeky McDonalds breakfast! Took opportunity to lube chain, check bike over, rid it of the worst of the Scottish mosquitos welded to the front of the bike, filled up at Morrison’s supermarket next to Maccy D’s, and off down that beautiful bit of the A1 past Holy Island and down to my next fuel stop, back at good old Scotch Corner.
Having now covered the best part of 80% of my required mileage and with at least an hour in hand for contingency, I headed off to Blyth services, when by Doncaster the heavens opened! The rain lashed down so hard it was bouncing nearly a foot high off the tarmac! 10 minutes of this and despite my waterproofs I was feeling a little damp! water running down my sleeves into the back of the gauntlet of my gloves meant the internal lining turned into a sponge. I pulled into Blyth services feeling quite soggy - and thankful for packing the spare pair of gloves!

From here I’d like to say that the next few hours were uneventful…no such luck. Bombing down the A1 at respectable pace, just north of Peterborough see the signs for…total closure of the A1 south of Peterborough down to St Neots! Panicky diversion via A14 and A428, loosing most of my time buffer and sweating as every man and his dog was using the diversion and pace was no more than 50mph! Back on to the A1 and flew as much as the law allows (Officer!) down to Stevenage where I clocked in on my final fuel receipt at my start garage at 2:39pm Saturday. 15 minutes to spare! I don’t know what the other motorists were thinking as I danced a jig and punched the air…but who cares. I’d done it! Huge sense of personal achievement and a big welcome from my charity friends who very kindly put on a BBQ to celebrate my return (and raising a total of £2000+ for their charity). And I got first shout at the burgers!!

Asked by more than one - would you do that again? I said never. Full stop. That bucket list item ticked. 1106 miles in 23.75 hours is enough for any man.

But that was a few weeks ago now and well…I might be wavering in that opinion!

(Picture below of my trusty 900 Hornet at Inverness Tescos 4:25am Saturday 2nd June - you can see the baby wipes peeking out the open tank bag!!)



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Welcome Phil and congratulations on the ride :)

The bad/good news is of course that that was just the first of many. Are you already planning the next one or will that come next week :cool: