RBL BB1500 I don't do records

I entered this year’s RBL ride on a whim, promptly ticked the 1500 mile box hit send and then considered what I had done as perhaps a little hasty.

No matter, I’ve ridden hundreds and thousands of miles over the years. Entered the Britt Butt Rally for the last 7 years consistently finishing pretty much last. Ridden two SS1000’s (one I still need to submit for verification). I have a Platinum Britt Butt Tour Certificate and the ‘piece de resistance’, finishing dead last in the European Tour of 2016 (by some considerable margin); my proudest moment. I was so ready.

My 2013 FJR was on 126000 miles give or take, so what’s another couple of thousand going to matter? I want to reach the 200K mark in any case. Treating her to a bucket of water, a new front tyre, brake discs and pads front and back and a suspension linkage service (essential as it turns out, one of the bearings had seized) made her feel as good a new. My sat-nav has given up the ghost, but you can’t get lost going to Folkestone from Yorkshire, surely. And besides I have a £2.99 map.

I was now really ready.

Camping? Not a chance. Premier Inn for me. I booked in at Castleford for Friday. Guaranteed good night’s sleep or my money back. You don’t get that in a tent next to a railway line. A 5am start gives me plenty of time for a pre-ride meal and overnight sleep.
Choices? Don’t give me a choice, please. I received an email a week before the ride from Mark giving 1500 mile riders the chance to start at Ferrybridge Services around midnight, avoiding a mass start and perhaps fitting more squarely with the riding plan. Riding plan? Did I need one? I’m just riding around fuel stations, how hard can that be? Well there must be something in this start early suggestion as it had come from an experienced rider and was supported by management. Why would it be suggested otherwise? Starting earlier would mean I’d be well on the way to Wales by mid-morning and clear of the M25 and South East. I’d surely be a mug to ignore this. So, without any further consideration whatsoever I decided that I would now start at midnight.

Ok. That means I now need to sleep during the late afternoon and evening. I’ve worked shifts for 25 years and have never slept at this time of day, ever. Also, I now need to carry on for 18 hours after riding all night. It struck me how I feel after a night shift. Pretty much out of it. No matter, I’ll be sleeping through the evening so I’ll be absolutely fine, right?

I was early for registration but didn’t hang around. Chatted briefly with folk then headed off to Castleford to check-in. I decided to book the Saturday night too so I didn’t have to ride home after finishing, just to the hotel.

Could I sleep? Not a chance! You are surprised? It was quiet enough but the combination of nervous anticipation and time of day meant there was no way could I sleep. The most I managed was an hour or so, and then I was wide awake. I watched the footie on telly and got prepared to ride, far too early. I didn’t even need fuel as I’d fuelled up in Castleford which was a lot cheaper than the services. Map checked again, junction numbers noted for my tank bag as a memory jogger. No Sat Nav remember. I don’t need one of those.

Ferrybridge Services. Only a stone throw, easy to find. Hang on. Why am I going South on the A1M? I should have carried on along the M62. So down to Darrington and back to the Services. That’s the mistake for the ride, maybe.

Two other riders were there with one filling up and one waiting for the clock to tick over before getting a receipt. They seemed really prepared and keen. Sorry I didn’t talk much, I wasn’t prepared or particularly keen at that point having come to the conclusion I may have bitten off more than I could chew. I was helpful enough to hold one rider’s receipt for his photo though, problem was I was holding it obscuring the odo reading, an essential part of the photo. This was clearly and concisely pointed out to me as I was also now wasting what little time he had to do 1500miles, the clock for him had started ticking. Adjusting my placement all was well. I waved them off, intent on leaving them to get ahead wanting my own space to ride my own ride at my own pace. Another 10 or 15 minutes wouldn’t matter and its 24 hours after your start time anyway. Suddenly I was alone on the forecourt save for some interesting chaps who were vocal in their frustration with having to use the night-pay hatch. I tried to imagine who would honestly want to operate a 24 hour filling station alone at night on a major trunk road unless they were locked behind something relatively secure? I certainly wouldn’t. Even if there were more staff they would be no match for the determined criminal. Locking themselves away might be mildly inconvenient for us but is by far the best policy. I waited patiently for what seemed like half an hour, but was only about 10 minutes. I purchased a bottle of water, took my photo, gloved up, started up and thought, ‘am I missing something here?’ Ah, the text message! Gloves off, engine off, phone out, walk away from the pumps…….you get the picture.

The FJR has a substantial tank range when ridden economically. They say Touring mode is better than Sport for this but I haven’t measured it properly. Why would I do something that might be beneficial? In theory I could have run down all the way to Folkestone without filling up, but I chickened out and decided to have a splash and dash at Cambridge Services. Major roadworks renders the A14 approach to the M11 junction a building site. After riding around a couple of gloomy half-finished roundabouts I found the Shell filling station, did my business and left. Ok time to leave, the way I came in? Or follow the sign for the M11 with ‘not suitable for HGV’s’ printed underneath? That’s fine, the M11 is the road I want and I’m not driving a truck. Thirty minutes later, I kid you not, I arrive at the M11 having had a magical mystery tour of several unlit villages to the south of the A14 eventually popping out by Cambridge Park and Ride. It would have been about 5 minutes the other way most likely.

M25 on-slip clockwise, the way I want to go, closed! Flashing red crosses. Mysteriously no cones though and no hard closure, but it’s the cross of death on the overhead gantry so I’m not blatting through that, no way. They are probably in the course of lifting the closure but I’m not risking that. Anti-clock for me then for a junction and then back on course. Another 10 minutes down.

Folkestone was fine but the semi-permanent Operation Stack truck pen taking up lanes two and three of the North-bound carriageway all the way to Maidstone reduces northern running lanes to the old hard shoulder and lane one. Some further roadworks for Smart Motorways slowed me down further. Another splash and dash for both the bike and me at Cobham with some required food, and it was off to Welsh Wales and Swansea. Did I say the M4 is going Smart too? The excellent cruise the FJR has fitted was getting some use. You can set it and adjust speed on the fly, ace.

Rain. It rains quite a bit in Wales and the South West I’m told. Normally when I’m there on my bike it does, and it came down with vengeance. The combination of the environmental reduced speed limits (which are now to be permanent) and poor weather meant my projected time in Swansea was further set back but at least it was a drying track as I neared Swansea leaving the heaviest rain somewhere around Cardiff. Trouble was it seemed to be stuck over Cardiff and Bristol and that was where I was heading. Back out of Wales and the natural instinct for me is to turn left after the bridge towards home. That’s where my head wanted to take me. But I had to turn right. To Bodmin. Not a quick ride as its turns out as a full closure of the M5 south of Avonmouth in the narrow lane section of roadworks for a collision finally put pay to my timings. I sat stationary with the bike on its side stand for half an hour or so. Then there was the stop start residual traffic situation when we were released and it was too narrow to filter unless I went up the inside, as a few bikes were. Ill-advised I think as that’s where the nail fairy lives and it’s un-swept. I didn’t want a puncture in very expensive tyres that would have rendered both the tyres and RBL ride scrap. So sit with the cars it was for me. I was wet (externally), frustrated and feeling the ‘I’ve ridden all night and been up all day blues’. Not a good combination for a safe ride. So an unscheduled stop was essential.
Text sent saying I would be late back as I didn’t want a search party or worrying. I would do the ride but extend the time and come back in for a standard Bun Burner 1500. I felt content with this decision which was safe, sensible and prudent in the circumstances. I relaxed for a bit off the bike and carried on, touring style. In truth this is more my style, I’ll never be a record breaker and don’t particularly want to be. I like to take it all in and arrive alive.

Bodmin. I’ve not actually stopped here before, always found myself pressing on further down. Not much to say apart from the cheapest petrol of the day at Asda. Sunny too. Not strangled by schedule now I cruised back towards Devon enjoying the time on the bike and the views.

Birmingham was purgatory. Walking pace roadworks and squally showers made the M5, M6 section up towards Staffordshire particularly unpleasant. The pace was so slow I wasn’t outrunning the massive rain cloud overhead. I could see the break in the clouds ahead but couldn’t reach it. It was like a mirage. Eventually the congestion eased and I could pick the pace up leaving the clouds in my wake. I arrived in the Lake District basking in evening sun.

The North. The ride up to Perth on the M6 and M74 through the Lakes and then past Sterling and the A9 was absolutely glorious. Sun out, warm, little traffic, no roadworks, no appreciable wind to unsettle the bike on the exposed sections. One of the best rides ever (for a motorway).

Back south. Dark. I had to select my parking spot carefully at Annadale Services where a large flock of geese were strutting and defecating around the car park. The females were guarding the young and foraging for food. My slow riding skills were honed by weaving around the slippery excrement. I had a brief chat with a Moto rider from the Women’s OVO tour who was fiddling with his farkles. He had a rather nice K1600gt. He didn’t seem to grasp I had just ridden almost the crow fly distance from London to Moscow. Maybe he didn’t care. Maybe he thought I was totally unhinged and best avoided. Either way he didn’t seem keen for me to sell the virtues of a tour of British petrol stations so I gave up and went inside to use the facilities rather than use the car park like the geese.

A66. I wanted a truck for cover really as my lights were insufficient to pick out the furry things that threaten to mug you off. It can be a false security though when the truck ejects its road kill off its rear wheels which then hits your screen and face at 120mph. So, better to ride my own ride at a steady pace, with the old adage of being able to stop in the distance I can see to be clear on my side of the road (or half the distance on single and three quarter width roads). I can hear my instructor’s voice saying it even now. That’s all very well, but I could only see a few meters and couldn’t crawl at 10mph. There has to be a balance, some risk management and some crossed fingers.

Fog. The A1(M) was a pea-soup rolling off the North York Moors. I found a coach going well and kept watch on his tail lights, thinking it’s not a good idea to follow lights in fog but unless they go from a horizontal plane to a vertical plane I should be ok at this speed. Miraculously it cleared near York and I found my way back.

Squires. Back to an enthusiastic welcome with big wavy hands in a smidge under 28 hours. I de-welded myself from the FJR with the assistance of some volunteers who reminded me helpfully about putting the side-stand down before dis-mounting. Good advice as I’ve seen that done by riders who have only ridden around the block.

Verification. In the mental fog of guessing the route without a sat-nav I must have guessed wrongly and filled up at non-motorway petrol station instead of the one pre-ordained at Bothwell. It was noticed immediately by the team despite my attempts at subterfuge by handing them all the receipts from my wallet in a wodge, some dating back to January. It was only half a mile difference in actual fact, so made no difference to the overall mileage and was cheaper. Result!

Volunteers. The volunteers and support make the event and all those folk should be thanked most warmly. Thank you.
A Bun Burner 1500 is fine by me. I don’t do records.


IBAUK Webmaster
Staff member
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IBA Member
Well done for the ride and your excellent writeup. A BBG needs a lot of luck at the best of times and the RBL ride is always going to be tricky.


Well-Known Member
I will never forget the year myself and Mike one of my son in laws' riding pillion did the RBLR BBG1500. We did it but it was hard work. There had been months of planning and rejigging to get the route to fit both in time and distance. I look back now with fond memories.