IBA Virgin SS1000 Ride Report

#1
I believe a wee bit of background is probably in order first.


I’m new to biking. I passed my DAS course 22 months ago at the tender age of 53. I always loved motorcycles as machines to look at and loved the sound they made but never really had the desire to ride one. I’m a Paramedic to trade and after some of the things I’ve seen and had to deal with in relation to motorcycle accidents I was known to say, “You’d never get me on one of those things!”


Of course that was before I hit middle-aged puberty and bemoaned the fact that life seemed to be, “Eat, sleep, work, repeat. Eat, sleep, work, repeat….”. Long (and I assure you, interesting and amusing!) story made short, I gained my bike licence.


From the moment I decided ride a bike I became an avid researcher in all things bike and I discovered “Iron Butt” quite by chance. Many questions, what is this madness? Why do this? What’s the point? Jeez that must hurt! Surely that’s dangerous! But like a spreading cancer the intrigue grew.


Whilst my novice riding was enjoyable with mates and local groups I always wanted to go for longer days than most of them did. I was frustrated by prolonged stops for coffee, which led to soup then cake and before you knew it ride time was cut and lunch time ever more prolonged! I began to push out 300-500 mile days when out by myself and loved it. Maybe this Iron Butt madness wasn’t so mad after all; I mean 1000 miles isn’t really that much further is it?


“Plan the ride, ride the plan,” this flicked a switch deep within my psyche, I like to plan! I like to plan for things that might happen, hard to beat a good contingency plan that’s hopefully never used! I like to plan how the plan is going to be planned! I decided this was something I had to try.


I started to plan and research how this is successfully achieved. I read all the after ride reports I could find, useful stuff in there. Maximum daylight was needed and preferably dryness too. Don’t mind the wet but more fun and safer when dry.


I looked at the longest day and my work pattern and considered the RBLR1000. I ultimately discounted this as an option. This was partly down to the logistics of getting to the start point after working all week but mostly due to me knowing my own body rhythms after years of shift work. The RBRL1000 kicks off in the wee hours and would probably end in the dark. I wanted to use the light to my advantage (as I saw it).


I’d start this on the same day as the RBRL1000 but start at a time that suited me and on my route. I would prepare my bike in the morning, sleep in the afternoon and set off as it was getting dark, I’d be fresh and enthusiastic when my eyes were signaling my brain to sleep but have bright daylight and my brain saying, “be awake!”, when I was potentially most fatigued toward the end of the ride.




Double check;


· Plan all Google mapped – check

· Stops all Google “Street viewed” – check

· Muesli bars packed – check

· Water bottle full – 750ml check

· Route map for tank bag – check

· Top box secure - check


A wee bit about the bike and my kit. I have a 2007 BMW R1200r. Lovely comfy machine (plus I usually ride with cycle shorts to assist butt maintenance!) with a small screen. Standard base spec, no fuel gauge or anything beyond trip meters, clock and a gear indicator but with heated grips. I had new PR4s that had about 400 miles on them. I’d bought a Sena comms kit specifically this ride. I knew I can usually amuse myself for hundreds of miles (I can lose arguments to me!!) but this was going to be on a different level and almost my entire route was motorway! I thought some music or radio might help.


I live in the Scottish Borders but was going to start my SS1000 attempt from Abington services on the M74. This would see me maximise my time at motorway speeds as much as possible. It’s a 52mile run from home to there and I set off with the wife following in the car to be there and witness my start. She’d meet me back at Edinburgh the next day to witness my finish. We duly arrived at Abington where she performed her witness duties before heading off home, she’d had a long day at work and it was after 2100hrs at this stage. I proceeded to fuel and do paperwork. While doing this I noticed another bike getting fuel and the associated biker stretching beside his bike. I noted the Iron Butt number plate holder and approached to chat. His initial assumption was that we were both on the RBRL1000 however after we got talking I explained my plan and he said that he was on his homeward journey after taking the Northern anti-clockwise route. He explained his need for Red Bull (Other brands of energy drink are available!) was great; my clock had started ticking so we wished each other well and I headed off straight onto the M74 South and into a growing twilight. By my receipt I had started about 18 minutes before my planned time start time.


I whizzed down the M74 then M6 as happy as a clam! I had interesting conversations with my internal self and we passed comment on the things we saw. This was my first ever time riding at night and I was impressed with the spread and distance of my lights as I sped ever Southwards. My plan for this leg called for fueling at the Lymm Poplar services at Jct 20 of the M6. This, for me, was a long leg of 178 miles. Not sure if that’s long in IB terms or not but considering my range I thought it was. As I mentioned, no fuel gauge and I don’t think my low fuel warning light works, it’s never ever came on. In normal riding I’ve had 180-190 miles but I had no clue how constant running at motorway speeds would affect this range. I expected it to reduce slightly but not significantly hence you can appreciate that I thought the length of this leg was getting towards my maximum tank range at these speeds.


About 30 miles North of Jct 20 signs started to appear saying that the M6 was closed from Jcts 20A-19. We pondered this as the distance closed. Should I re-jig the route when I stop at Lymm? After stopping there must be diversions in place? I knew from my planning that there were road works here but I had no idea that this included closure of the motorway. We discussed this as the signs for the closure became more regular and decided that there must be well defined diversion routing in place, it probably wasn’t a big deal in terms of distance and as I’d be refueled by that point I’d just follow any diversion signs and they’ll ultimately bring me back onto the M6 and on route.


I was due at Lymm at 0100hrs, had set off 18mins early and it looked as if I’d stop around 0030hrs “ish”. I was quite please as all appeared well, a slight plan adjustment was needed by the M6 closure but this seemed minor.


I approached Jct 20 and scoured the area for diversion signs and signs for the services. It was fully dark by this time; flashing beacons of all kinds were on the approaches to the closure as well as an apparent absence of any signage as to the diversion. A lesson learned here; a place can look very different at night from how it appears in Google Street View during the day. Add to that the mass of lights, cones and arrows directing you off the motorway and you have a recipe designed for something to go wrong. I unwittingly obliged!


I very rarely miss signs of any type but I have no recollection of any signs for services apart from the last of those a mile before the exit. I missed the services completely. I was heading down an exit slip road with the only signs visible being those for M56 Manchester or M56 North Wales! Decide, decide, decide oh well, off to meet Jones 33, Jones 46, Jones 82 etc…. (You’ll get that if you’ve had a certain past life!). I’m thinking about my fuel state and the fear of failing at the end of the first leg due to running out of fuel in deepest, darkest Englandshire began to enter my thoughts. Must get of this bloody motorway. Services if any are normally about 30-40 miles apart and I had no clue about their locations on the M56 as I hadn’t planned to be here! Must get off but how far is the next exit? Oh sweet lord this could be embarrassing in the extreme!


A-ha, an exit, just a few miles ahead, half saved! That felt like the longest 3 miles (I’ve since checked it) of my life. I pull over and fire up TomTom Go Mobile. Places of interest, Petrol stations…..Bingo! Off I go, TomTom speaking to me via Sena, I’m saved!! I’m guided into Warrington and straight to a petrol station.


It’s dark, all boarded up and overgrown. There then followed an in helmet rant which I won’t detail here beyond, oh bother! I bin TomTom and fire up Google maps. 4 miles, off I go. I’m directed down what I assume to be Warrington high street. Many…….interesting sights on Warrington high street at 0100hrs. I take particular note of the latest fashion for what can only be described as a “micro skirt” unless the young ladies concerned has issue with the settings on their washing machines and they’ve shrunk from the minis they once were! I pass by another very large group, I mean like hundreds, of women in fancy dress wearing their bras on the outside and carrying glow sticks (a “Moon Walk” for breast cancer charities??) before finally seeing the bright lights of my destination.


I have an 18ltr tank and consume 17.45ltrs having done 189 miles. I can confirm my low fuel warning light does not work! My receipt is timed at 0111hrs. I’m 11mins behind my original plan but as I set of 18mins before plan I’m almost 30mins behind schedule! When planning I timed every stop at 15mins and didn’t plan any longer stops. The rationale for this was that my stops will usually be slightly shorter than 15mins meaning I’ll gain time every stop and my overall buffer based on that plan was about 2hrs. I’d in effect gain time with my stops that’d increase my buffer and allow me to extend any stop with minimal impact. The more experienced IB folks may comment but from my novice viewpoint this made sense to me.


I got Google maps to direct me back to the M6 but at Jct 19 South of the closure. As before I’m not sure what the hell went wrong with that plan but Google took me back to the M56 heading for Manchester airport then onto the A556 to Jct 19 and once again all was well with the world, next stop Gordano!


The original plan had me arriving at Gordano at 0315hrs. With the new start time taken account of I should hit Gordano at 0255hrs. I fuelled at Gordano at 0408hrs! I was unconcerned, fuel, and drink, back on the bike and gone heading for Sainsbury at Marshmills in Plymouth.


This was a leg that was only 110 miles but it was the hardest one and was also anticipated to be that when I was planning. Those last few hours of nightshift, that last stag before “stand to” are a killer. Every method the body can employ to force you to sleep kicks in. I’m bored with everything me and myself are talking about, we’ve put the world to rights over the past few hours. My wonderful plan of music/radio via Sena is in tatters. Below 50mph this plan works. Above that speed, due to the nature of my bike, the wind hitting me from the nipple line up precludes any form of noise penetrating to my brain bar the wind noise through my ear plugs. Sneaky brain lowers by body temp in an attempt to make me seek shelter and sleep. I’ve been at a comfortable temperature for the entire journey. Base layer with Merino wool layer over that and no liner in the jacket or trousers, cycle shorts and all have been grand until now. I feel cold!


A light drizzle starts. I knew rain was a possibility on this leg but that it’d be light. My gear will keep it out provided it’s not too heavy or prolonged. I made a conscious decision not to put the wets on at Gordano after re-checking the forecast. God I’m tired, not physically, not aching, not butt-sore just dog tired! I know that this will pass in a relatively short time and it was part of the plan that at this time of year it’s getting lighter every minute which will eventually fool my sneaky brain into waking me up!


I know the approach to Plymouth well. I have family in Saltash and visit once or twice a year but on this occasion it looks different. It’s strangely like approaching Edinburgh from the Borders! There appears to be a thick Haar laying over the approach, I’m talking about 10 miles out from Plymouth here, then again, I’ve never approached Plymouth at about 0530hrs! The original plan had me fuel in Sainsbury’s at 0540hrs. Now I’d never considered, until now sat in on the closed petrol station forecourt of the Marshmills Sainsbury, that it might be closed at that time on a Sunday morning! I wasn’t in fuel distress so once again turned to Google maps that directed me to fuel about 5 miles away. I leave Sainsbury’s heading into Plymouth when directly across the road is a tiny 24hrs petrol station, superb! I fuel at 0557hrs, only 17mins off the original plan, life is sweet!


I head back up the A38/M5 to Gordano, fuel at 0748 and take a longer break for coffee and muesli bars. I review where I’m at with 581 miles completed. Bike is running sweet, no aches or pains. Butt holding up so far with the help of the cycle shorts, sun is out and I’m on the homeward journey about to head East then North, not bad at all really.


My next stop is on the M4 at Reading. A real short run of about 80 miles then another short run of 75 miles to near Harlow just off the M11. I top up in Reading at 0936hrs (now 9mins ahead of the original plan!) During my planning I could not find any services on the M11 hence I opted for a BP station just off the M11 on the A414. As I approached this there were signs for service about 10 miles or so ahead so I remained on the M11 and stopped at Birchanger Green services, across the M11 from the Stansted runways. Nibbled on “Chicken on a stick” I bought In the shop after Fuelling at 1133hrs. I then continued North for Doncaster 158 miles distant.


An uneventful Northward trek to Doncaster before the longest leg of the trip. Fuelled in Doncaster (Morrisons) at 1357hrs. I seemed to be comfortably ahead of the original plan now having fuelled over 30mins ahead of the original plan. Perhaps the whole over timing of the stops is working out? The next leg was the longest planned, 185 miles to Morrisons in Berwick-Upon-Tweed. When planning I was unsure if my tank range would allow me to do this but there are other places to stop if I “lost confidence” in my ability to make this however after my dalliances in Warrington I knew it could be done. Off ever Northward I went!


It’s on this leg that the butt finally gave out and I learned the true nature of why it’s “Iron Butt”. It really began to ache. I moved about, clenched, unclenched, drove for mile after mile clenched, I clenched one then the other and both together, every conceivable variation of moving two elements of the one whole. I clenched and unclenched in time with the tunes in my head but each time the time between sitting normally and clenching in some form gradually diminished until nothing worked. I felt as if I was sat on an iron saddle from which there was no escape, I succumbed to the spreading numbness!


I knew now that nothing short of a catastrophic failure of some kind could prevent me from completing this within the time. My only niggle, as with many IB virgins I suppose, was the thought of the verification process and have I done everything I should have, has the plan got enough contingency mileage built in, have I got all my receipts and on and on the conversation with myself went.


Berwick-Upon-Tweed at 1729hrs, 59mins ahead of the plan. I did at this point think, “I need to plan this better in future”. I called the wife, told her my eta at Hillend and set off on my final leg. Lovely sea views on my right and familiar sights throughout this leg abounded. Stay focused, don’t switch off or let concentration slip. This is exactly where I’ll miss something and some nutter will have me off, stay switched on!


The end. I arrive at Hillend just below the artificial ski slope overlooking Edinburgh from the Pentland Hills. Big hug. I fuel at 1854hrs. Finished.


21hrs 12mins covering 1132 miles ridden, but I’d only planned for 1097 miles. My Warrington detour had cost me 35 miles but ultimately had no time impact. I just had to ride the 37 miles to home then I could relax a while then sleep, work in the morning!


My butt was numb, I mean really numb for days. I’ve had surgery twice on or around my left knee. Nerves get cut and it feels kind of odd to the touch now, it always will. This is exactly how my butt felt for about 4 days after the ride!


I gathered all my receipts and the paperwork required, copied it all and then sent off the copies via snail mail. I anxiously await verification!


Would I do this again? Absolutely, I loved it! New screen for the bike, two pairs of cycle shorts and I’m up for it!
 

Scott Parish

Premier Member
#6
Congratulations on completing the ride, and great write-up. Hopefully you did something special for your wife driving to the initial/final fuel stop to witness. My first certified ride; I had flowers delivered to my wife which has now become tradition..so be careful where you set the bar. :)
 
#8
Congratulations on completing the ride, and great write-up. Hopefully you did something special for your wife driving to the initial/final fuel stop to witness. My first certified ride; I had flowers delivered to my wife which has now become tradition..so be careful where you set the bar. :)
Would seem I've set a low bar. Doubt that'll continue if the insanity persists!
 

FJRPilot

Iceni Rallymaster RBLR1000 routemaster
Premier Member
IBA Member
#14
Excellent report :D

One tip for future rides - Your start witness doesn't necessarily have to be where you start your ride, that's what the start receipt is for. So when you do your next ride wifey can be the witness before you head off to your start location. :)