|Posted: 24 May 2010 at 10:05am | IP Logged
For some mad reason, I decided I wanted to ride in the Brit Butt Rally. For those who dont know what it is, its a long distance endurance riding rally held each year in the UK. The rally results are judge on reaching a minimum specified mileage and a total number of bonus points collected. Its not as simple as 'deciding' to ride in the rally - you have to put your name forward and the Chairman of the IronButt UK makes the draw on Xmas Eve - so if you've been a good boy (as I must have been) Santa sends you an email saying your in the BBR!
I prep'd long and hard for this rally. I read Ron Ayres book again, I made sure everything worked on the bike, and I had the postcode of the hotel in the satnav! Seriously, I did install a taller screen - but not just for the rally.
Friday 21st you had to be at the Chesunt Marriot hotel just off the A10/M25, where upon you need to register for the event (which includes having a start mugshot - see below) and a technical inspection of your bikes roadworthiness.
Once that was over our time was our own until the dinner, when a quick discussion about the rally between ourselves and then the big finale - the handing out of the rally bonus books. The bonus book is basically the locations around the country where you go to and take photos to earn points for your overall total. Once the books had been handed out there was a quick run through of what was expected of us and then we were off to plan our rides.
As you can see it was quite a task and I made full use of the 2 room suite the Marriott had upgraded me to!
My planning took roughly until about 11:30pm on the Friday night. I had coded up the bonuses, entered them in to the Garmin Mapsource mapping software and a large scale map of the country. I had a rough idea of a route over the 36 hours and - if I was lucky - I could have my rest break at home in bed rather than in a layby on a road somewhere. The rest break is a way the rally organisers attempt to get us to sleep for sometime during the rally. The minimum requirement is 3 continuous hours at the same location.
The alarm went off around 5am and - since I had packed up everything the night before - I got dressed, had a couple of drinks and a breakfast bar, and was out by the bike for 5.30am - the rally was to commence at 6am. With the routes loaded in the satnav, I waited for my turn to start. A quick pat on the back from Pete and a handshake from Roger and I was off!
I, like a LOT of other rally participants, had determined to do the London bonus' first - so the first port of call was the Cenotaph smack bang in the centre of Whitehall. I followed Paddy on his Yellow Goldwing, and as you do from time to time, you blindly follow the vehicle in front rather than checking the road - so when I say I followed him, I followed him up the wrong side of the road through Holborn!!
Moving on to the next location, and with very little other traffic, the posse headed to Greenwich for a photo of the 24hr clock. Upon arrival at the place I remembered to check the bonus book and confirmed that I and my rally flag had to be in the photo - so there was a lot of riders taking other riders photos. John (riding a vintage Trident) took mine so I owed him!
(you might think from looking at me in the photo that I had already rode for 36hrs)
From there I headed towards Heathrow, but instead of going around the M25 like some people did I headed through South London and over the Vauxhall Bridge up and through Chelsea on to the A4/M4. Arrving at Heathrow I was fortunate enough not to be questioned by the police as some riders were.
I was aiming to go down to SOuthampton for a bonus location, but on the way I detoured off to take a photo of the DeHavaline monument (80meters off the dual carriage way I might add - and I noticed that someone on a bike had been there before and rode up to the monument).
At Southampton I was due to take a photo of the martime Titanic building. The ride down, and the ride so far, was great. Great weather (although very hot and getting hotter) and next to no traffic - ace!
Next stop was Salisbury to photograph a structure there. The ride was through some scenic southern countryside and although I experienced a bit of traffic near the centre of the town, it was still flowing quickly. A few other riders were also at the location.
Next was a photo (including myself) at Keevil. The object in question are the village stocks.
SO far I had been riding with my flipface helmet down, but as the temperatures were around 27-28 I decide to raise the flipfront in order to get more air - this would turn out not to be a wise move later on.
A photo of an old pub at Norton-St-Philips was next on the list.
The next bonus location on my route was in Wales - so quite a trip. I headed through Bath and its traffic congestion and then on the M4 heading toward the old Severn Bridge. I had expected to pay to cross it (like crossing the Humber Bridge - £1.50 for bikes), but no - bikes are free to cross the Severn. The bonus photo needed to be of the Monmouth bridge.
Whilst I was there I opted for a snack break and a couple of drinks. I made a phonecall home and then I just got all my gear back on and was just set to get back on the bike when a Honda Goldwing owner came over and started to clean my windscreen of all the bugs I had collected (and I had collected a lot). Quite literally stunned at this act I didnt do the normal "hi but I am off" but chatted to the chap and told him about the rally and the RocketIII. Eventually he finished and I could push off to the next location - this was a tower in the cotswolds - a photo and an entry ticket was required.
The next stop was at Shrewsbury, where I had to take a photo of Charles Darwin with myself in the photo. To get to Shrewsbury I had to ride along the M54. Cresting a hill on the M54 I came across a mass of smoke crossing the motorway with 4 guys standing behind the car waving to everyone to stop. I could just make out there was enough clearance on the central reservation from the smoke to get through so I filtered through the traffic and rode through. Not 50yds afterward the cars petrol tank exploded and flames wooshed across the road where I had been!
On to Oswestry to take a photo of a Farmer and a sheep (!) and Cirk to take a photo of myself infront of the Castle Gates!
The next stop I had planned was on the North West coast of Wales and I had to photo a Chapel and its plaque. Riding through the Welsh roads had and was amazing today and once again almost no traffic! Where was everyone? Arriving at the village (just north of Portmadog) I turned on to what can only be described as a dirt track and headed through a small forest. The signs were not good - they report that the road was leading to a quarry of sorts. When I got through the mass of trees I was pleased to find the road started to slope downwards - really downwards - the angle must have been the steepest slope I had ever been down. I was in first gear and both front and rear brakes on to keep a slow speed. I stopped in a turning point halfway down as the satnav had no knowledge of this road (aka track). After consulting the bonus book the description was vague but similar to this area so I decided to head on downwards and turn around to come back up and write this off as a bad lot. Arriving at the bottom I was Soggi (another rally rider) next to his BMW GS so I knew I was in the right location.
After a brief chat discussing next locations, we both headed towards Caenarfon and the port harbour office at the foot of the castle - where we had to take a photo of the bike and the clock.
At this point I had a quick phone home to check in and took on food and water. The next stop was over the water to Angelsey to take a photo of quite a long town name above its railway station.
By this time I had lost a a fair bit of time against my plan, so it was turning dark as I left Angelsey and headed toward the centre of Manchester. When I arrived in Manchester it was dark. Manchester - apparently - has a gay centre. Unfortunately when at a set of traffic lights, a group of young 'gay' men decided to dance at me. Wishing the lights would turn green, eventually I could move on and found the Old Trafford Centre with the Hook and Chain statue outside of it. Since it was night time, I had a b*stard of a time getting a photo of the sign, the statue, and the flag - clearly visiable. Eventually I succeeded and moved on to Blackpool and a photo of the Blackpool tower and its illuminations. Upon arriving at the Blackpool front, it dawned on us who were there that the recession is harder than everyone thinks as Blackpool cant afford to have the lights on anymore!
The final bonus location of my plan was the Anthony Gormley 'Another Place' statues on Crosby beach. Unfortunately when I arrived the time was shortly after midnight so it was a bit dark. There is nothing quite as weird as a load of bikers hunting around in the pitch black to find a 7ft statue of a naked man!
The next stop for me was to head home across the M62 and down the A1. I arrived home for my rest break around 02:30am. Unlike everyone else, I opted to have more than the 3 hours - I had 6 hours of sleep and after having breakfast and revisiting my day 2 plan, I set off again at 08:30am heading to Hull and a photo op with a large Shark statue. Unfortunately the police had shut down the area I needed to get to for a fun run day - but ignoring the police I rode around and found a way in.
My mornings revisiting of the plan showed that I had the points I needed, but what I was lacking was mileage. I set off heading south down the A1 racking up the miles and then diverted off to the East coast to grab 2 extra locations. There was noticably more traffic today which slowed progress but I eventually arrived at the village of Hillington and took this photo.
I pushed on towards Cromer on the North East tip of Norfolk in order to photograph a radar installation (was that a wise choice of a landmark to be photographed?). The roads were once again fabulous.
With that photo in the bag, I now had to get back to the Chesunt hotel before 5pm in order to not get points deducted every minute and definately back before 6pm when I would be disqualified! Heading down the A11 at a serious rate of knotts my luck disappeared when a serious accident had closed the A11 and forced all the traffic on to small b roads. I eventually made my way through them all and rejoined the A11 where I had to increase speed to make up time as I now only had a 30min window of contingency time left and who knows what the traffic would be like. Ploughing down the A11, A14 and then on to the M11 I managed to get back to Chesunt location at 4:30pm.
Having a congratulatory handshake from Roger (IBA UK President), he had to take a final photo of me in order to stop the clock.
Noticed the sunburn? Its staggeringly like a shoei multitec helmet opening!
With the pressure apparently off I managed to down about a litre of extra water and got back in to my room for a well deserved bath AND then a shower. After starting to feel like normal again, I had to tackle the paperwork side of the rally. The rules are that points (lots of points) are deducted for incorrectly compiled paperwork and for photos which arent as requested (ie if you take a photo of a landmark and your not in it when your asked to be then points come off the totals). Thankfully mine passed 100% and all that was left to do was to talk b*llocks with everyone whilst Roger and Pete worked out the totals and final scoreboard.
After dinner the results were annouced and I managed a respectable 11th place overall. A lot of people didnt finish through technical difficulties, and Rob (nicknamed the GrimRider) won for the 3rd time in a row. What was annoying for me was that if I had successfully road my day 2 plan rather than sleeping I would have had more points than Rob but there is a big difference between saying and doing. He did the doing and well done to him.
I thought my bike was badly covered in insects until I saw Shauns BMW GS!
And thats after being cleaned 3 times through the Scottish Midges!
A big thanks needs to go to the BBR rally team for all the work they did in setting this event up and running it. The hotel was excellent - I really recommend room 23 as its a huge suite for the same price as a single room :)
Congratulations for all those who took parts and roll on 2011!