UK E2E - My First Iron Butt Ride June 2023

If you thought there was a good chance that I wouldn't be able to visit the three extremes of Great Britain in 24 hours, you'd be right. I was doubtful myself, so this was indeed a tough challenge. I sent my planned route in for pre-verification and was advised that I was being "ambitious" for my first SaddleSore 1000. I'm delighted to say that I made it and raised over £3000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in the preparation and execution (and recovery!).

Naturally, the first task was to get to the start line. On Wednesday, I left home at 03:00 to head down to Travis Perkins in Wadebridge where the team kindly allowed me the use of a desk to get a day's work done. After work, I rode down the A30 to get an idea of the extent of the current roadworks. The traffic was heavy, but I was confident that it would be OK in the early hours of the following morning on the way back up. I popped over to Tesco in Penzance just to take a look at it's the very important first verification point to get certified for an End2End ride - It all looked good with 24-hour pay-at-pump fuel that would give me the timed receipt that I would need. I then rode to Lands End to get an idea of the road that I would be tackling in reverse and the pitch black later on, and to get a photo during daylight at the start.
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Next, off a few miles to St Just, where I'd booked the Wellington for a few hours of sleep and a "light" meal. I'd intended to have a beer-free night, of course, but the weather was just so nice, that I couldn't avoid a cheeky half to wash it down.

Off to bed by 20:00 with the alarm set for 01:50. Thanks to getting up at 2:30 am that day, I had little problem getting to sleep and woke up at 01:30 which must have been a good sign of being rested and ready to go. I quickly slipped into my very attractive woolly long johns and shirt, hauled on the bike gear, and slipped out of the hotel to try and undo a very large chain from the bike and load up without waking anyone else. I got moving at 02:10 and headed back to Lands End to start the tracking app, cue up the Spotify playlist, set the navigation and reset my trip computers. It was a good job that I had taken a photo the day before.

I started the tracker at 02:23 and headed into the darkness for Penzance for the aforementioned timed receipt. It's a requirement of the Iron Butt Association to get a photo of a timed receipt next to the bike's odometer to verify your location, time and mileage. I'd prepared by practising this at a few fuel stops in the weeks running up to today, but hadn't thought about how difficult it would be with a receipt printed on thin paper held against a backlit TFT dashboard. With a few attempts, and my reading glasses on the check that the photo was clear, I managed in the end. I then put on my gloves, mounted up, took a deep breath and set off.
Pulling off the forecourt onto the road, I realised that I'd left my glasses on! Stop, neutral, sidestand down, gloves off, glasses off and put in pocket, gloves on, sidestand up, select first and away. I told myself that I needed to be better organised to avoid wasting valuable minutes later on.
Riding back through the roadworks on the A30 was fine, with none of the temporary traffic lights on red. The satnav didn't know about the roadworks so she kept me regularly "entertained" with messages to re-route.
Something I wasn't expecting, although I should have, was the fog over Bodmin Moor. Flicking between combinations of dip, fogs and main beam, I was thankful to be on a dual carriageway rather than a single-track road.
I'd arranged to meet Alex at 04:00 in a layby near Launceston. We were at school together and hadn't seen each other in over 25 years. I'd used Google Street View to get an idea of the approach to the layby in my preparation which really helped given the poor visibility. I was running a couple of minutes late, but Alex had been there since 03:20! a quick stop, handshake, connect our intercoms, and we're on the road again. Two hours of catching up had gone really quickly when we pulled up for coffee and fuel and said goodbye at Gordano Services at 06:00.

It was now time to cross the Severn. I carefully followed the signs on the interchanges to make sure that I wasn't headed for Bristol, London, Birmingham or Chepstow and managed to get on the M4 for South Wales. Traffic is often a problem through the tunnels near Newport, but I was fine.
I had planned to pass Pont Abraham Services at the end of the M4 at 07:50. BBC Radio Derby had rung me just a few days before to ask if I could speak to them for 10 minutes at that time, so I was expecting to be away for 08:00. I got into the services at 07:40, so a bonus comfort break and leg stretch before a chance to promote the ride and blatantly plug Roy Pidcock Motorcycles who supported my ride prep.

I arrived at my scheduled fuel stop in St Davids around 20 minutes behind schedule so quickly filled up and got moving, but I knew I had a little detour and stop to take.
Family friend, Rod had promised me a donation for Macmillan if I got a photo of the bike and me by the cross in the middle of St Davids, so half a mile into town to find a kind lady to take the picture. I had to repeat to her that yes, I had come from Lands End that morning, and yes, I was going to John o'Groats that night before cracking on.
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Route planning software estimates a relatively low average speed for cross-country routes, and I hoped that with good observation, road position and planning I would be able to make some time up, which I did several times, only to find that it was temporary traffic light season in Wales.
In Fishguard, the traffic was massively stacked up. I carefully rode around the queue of cars for a quarter of a mile to find a delivery lorry turning in a narrow junction. Normally I'd be patient, but as soon as I safely could, I nipped past and carried on to Aberystwyth where I stopped for just long enough to guzzle a bottle of water.
A little later I get a call from BBC Radio Derby - Would I go back on air to give the listeners an update? I was now just making some time back and was just 12 mins behind, but didn't want to miss a promotion opportunity for Macmillan, so agreed to speak to them at (I think) 12:50 for 10 minutes.

I made a bit more time back on the next leg and rolled into Lymm Services at 13:49, 14 minutes behind. I had planned for a 20-minute break here and was delighted and grateful to meet Garry from Travis Perkins Safety Team and Sharon from Macmillan. They did a great job of making sure that I had coffee, water and something to eat before seeing me off at 14:15. A little longer than planned, but needed and worth it.

Unexpected bonus - My cousins Catherine and Sally call to say they're on a motorway bridge before Charnock Richard Services. Sure enough, they're there, waving madly!

I was now over halfway. I had over 2 hours on the motorway ahead of me and hadn't allowed any time for stops, although I knew I would probably pull over for a quick leg stretch after an hour, which I did a couple of times. It's a long haul from Warrington to Edinburgh and I arrived there at 18:16 and was now about 30 minutes behind. I knew I had a little time to spare, so 30 minutes behind by this point was OK in my mind.

Another 30 minutes or so, and I'm finished with motorways near Stirling. The scenery is beautiful in the evening light. I'm briefly very envious of the smell of sausages barbequing at the edge of Loch Lubnaig. I make a brief stop for water and to chip the midges off my visor at The Green Welly at Tyndrum before heading into Glencoe.

Glencoe is spectacular - it surprises me every time I go through it, and the traffic is so light that I see no hold-ups at all. The sun is just setting over the hills behind the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge as I pass, putting a little lump in my throat.

Fuel in Fort William at 21:27 I'm getting nearly an hour behind now, but I'm determined to take it steady. Better late than never!

I can't believe the size of some of the pines on the edge of Loch Oich. I guess I'm used to seeing them in forestry areas where they only grow so much before being harvested. Nessy fails to make an appearance; she must be at the North end of the Loch today.

I'd planned to avoid going into Inverness and turning North before I got there. After stopping to put on my fluorescent overcoat I followed the left turn on the sat nav and was told to turn right. The road looked tiny, and having experienced being sent down tiny roads before to find that I'd have been better staying on the main road, I carried on. For the next couple of miles, the satnav continuously urged me to turn around. I can't zoom maps out on my basic navigation while I'm riding, so I called my wife asking her to check the map. When she called back, she confirmed the missed turn, so I U-turned and headed back. The road was indeed a tiny B-road which kept crossing A-roads at staggered crossroads, but eventually, I got back on course having lost a bit more time. It was going to be close now, but no rush - get there in one piece!

Night has fallen. The midges have been replaced by moths. Fortunately, the roads up here are well-marked and there's lots of reflective paint on the road markers and snow poles. It doesn't get completely dark this far North in June, so I can make out trees and telegraph poles against the twilight to help me judge the road.

I give a nod to Invergordon on the way past. The lifeboat here bears the names of many lost loved ones including my cousin Joanne. I popped by for a photo on the way home.
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It's here that I approach yellow flashing lights. The road is closed for overnight repairs. I get to the Wait Here sign to discover the roadworks are under convoy control and predictably, I've arrived at a red light. I'm close now and start to wonder if this could be the last straw. I have no idea how long the roadworks are or how long until the convoy vehicle arrives. It turns out to be a 5-minute wait, but it was starting to seem like a long time!

I just grind out the last bit of the road. The speed is steady and I'm concentrating hard. I just need to fill up and get a verification receipt at Wick Tesco's Petrol station now, then I can plod up to John o'Groats in my own time.

My brother-in-law, Mike is at Tesco to greet me, along with a row of cones across the forecourt - that can't be right! We check the pumps and they're switched off. Without a receipt, I can't apply for my SaddleSore certificate. After all that effort!

Cashpoint! Have they got a cashpoint? Mike says yes, so I bomb over and get a £10 withdrawal with a receipt at 02:10. Hopefully, this will be accepted. After another 5 minutes of faffing about trying to photograph translucent paper against the backlit dashboard, I'm satisfied.

I'm worn out now. I could make John o'Groats just before 24 hours are up if I hurry, but I'm not doing that for my own safety. I've done my best for the certificate, and need my bed now, so I follow Mike in his car over the misty fields with the sun coming up (again!) for an 03:30 beer in Thurso and so to bed.

It was a fantastic ride. A real adventure. The weather was lovely and my decision to not take an easy route and see some scenery paid off. I ran it close to the clock, and although I didn't ride to John o'Groats on the day it was the right decision. I did well over 1000 miles and after a few weeks it was confirmed that I met the End2End certification rules - by 3 minutes!
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Mr. QR code
IBA Member
Well done a fine achievement especially with all the time thieves you encountered on the way. Come and join us on the 2024 RBLR1000 (Poppy Appeal but you could split your sponsorships) that should be a walk in the park after youe E2E.