The first thing I did was put a countdown timer on my PC, 99 days to go till the Iron Butt challenge, it seemed such a long way off. But as we started to research the task by looking on various websites of people who had done this type of thing before, the reality started to hit home. This was not Sunday afternoon ride out, it was a very tough endurance event that would have to be prepared for correctly. You can’t just jump on your bike and ride 1000 miles in 24 hours without some danger, the distance was 1018 miles, 42.41 average miles every hour for 24 hours, all within the law. That means no tanking it up the motorway to gain time, its all about pace, remember the Hare and the Tortoise story. So taking into consideration speed limits, traffic conditions, weather, animals, fatigue and not forgetting the condition of the bikes.
All this had a part to play in how well we would complete the challenge if at all. So we knew how big the task was going to be, we just need to make it more worth while. The first thing we both did was set up a just giving website so that we could raise a few quid for the Poppy Appeal. Then we contacted the Sheffield Star and Managed to get our story published with a very cheesy photo of Manny and myself in Hillsborough park sat on the bikes. The funniest thing was that came out of this, they printed Manny’s age as 39 not 37, which till this day he says I did it deliberately… As if. The donations came in slowly at first but using the power of Facebook and constant emails to work colleagues we had just over £1000 between us for the charity.
There were 4 routes that could be taken, 2 northern Clockwise and Anti clockwise and the same on the southern routes all which started at Squires Cafe in North Yorkshire. We decided to take the Clockwise northern route, Squires, Birch Services on the M62, Fort William, Wick, Inverness, Edinburgh, Berwick upon Tweed and back to Squires. The route was designed so no corners could be cut. We had to buy something at each location to prove we had been there; this would be part of the clarification by the Iron Butt Association to prove the challenge had been done in the required time. The research we did all pointed to fatigue so the fitter you are the better, this was not at the top of Manny’s or my list of priorities, more like having a few beers and a good time not sweating in the gym. So we did start to go to the gym leading up to the attempt, but not what I would say going for it.
Also the advice said to cut out Beer and coffee 2 weeks before and start drinking mostly water to clean the system out. One of the reasons for this is that your system gets used to caffeine, so by not having any leading up to the event when you finally have some your system should react better and keep you more alert. One of the options was to camp up at the start point so that no travel was need to the start point, like most of you I like my own bed so we decided to leave at 05:30 and ride up to Sherburn for the 07:00 start time. 50 mile complete before we even started the challenge, only 1018 mile to go.
So what do you take on a 24hr endurance ride? Three full panniers, tent, sleeping bag, cooker, food, first aid kit, spare tyres, duck tape, spare fuel ... The list goes on! The above is ok if you are Ewan and Charlie, but we decided to travel light. Lots of chocolate, raisins, a few energy drinks but only if needed, sleeping bag, puncture kit, cash, credit card and a high vis vest. We had the route plotted on the satnav, we decided not to ride for more than 2 hours at a time with a ten minute break. I printed out a spread sheet which told me how many mile we needed to have travelled at any hour during the 24, hour one 42 miles, hour two 84 miles and all the way to the 24hr point. So we always could have an extra break if needed, also we could have power naps if needed. Seven o’clock and the time started heading from Sherburn to Birch services, this went without a hitch, only issue was the 10 bikes waiting for fuel when we arrived. A Ewen lookalike there with 3 panniers sleeping bag two satnavs.. ”does this sound familiar?” We fuelled up and got the required receipt and set of back onto the M62, Ewan overtook us doing well over 80 waving goodbye. As we took the slip road to the M61 Ewan carried straight on and went the wrong way, how we laughed later at our next stop at Gretna Services.
The weather so far was clear and started to rise to around 10 degrees, we pulled in at Gretna and Manny had a very worried luck on his face. Was this the end of the challenge, was Manny’s bike buggered, no it was worse than that his heated grips would not turn on. 180 miles in and already a catastrophic breakdown. We check all the fuses and all seemed ok, by checking the fuses Manny managed to reset his computer so that it would only read Kilometres, one hour later a call to the Dealer and 50 minutes more than we planned. The next time we planned to stop was Glasgow, but the ride up the M74 was hard and seemed long, you start singing to yourself to keep yourself seine, its amazing how many 80s songs you can remember, I nearly left the 80s but thank god we arrived before Aqua entered my head.
We hit the centre of Glasgow around 12:00 and the sun was still shining, we started to look for somewhere to stop. We ended up stopping in Loch Lomond, this is where the duel carriageways stopped and the tourist caravans appeared. This would now be hard riding all the way up to Wick, only a few miles of duel carriageway. Also thinking back to the briefing when we were told to watch out for deer, so not only bloody caravans but deer as well. The A82 North to Fort William is one of the best roads I have ridden, with stunning scenery.
The road snakes through Glencoe passing, Loch Leven, Loch Linnhe, to Fort William its self. Fort William was one of the required stops. To say over 300 riders did the challenge we met only a few up to this point, one had decided to try and take a caravan out with his Triumph Sprint. Fortunately it was a low speed bump so only his pride and a little paint was lost. It was around 14:30 when we left for our next stop all the way up north in Wick, 165 miles. Both with full tanks and the promise of a Tesco fuel station at the end, we took the A82 once again heading towards Inverness. This took us past Loch Ness, with more stunning views and hairpins, the overtaking opportunities are now hard to come bay and with Coaches, caravans and the Goldwing Gang our averaged speed dropped quite dramatically. The Goldwing Gang were taking part in the challenge, this consisted of around 10 bikes some with pillion all riding together. It was like trying to overtake five caravans being towed by a Lada! These guys where now our challenge, not the getting to the end in the required 24 hrs, getting past these buggers whilst trying to spot the Loch Ness Monster and avoiding the Deer which we were told would jump out on us after every corner. (Still no Deer) The road started to open up once we came towards the end of the Loch, so by the time we entered Inverness they are well and truly behind us. We joined the A9 which would be the only road we would have to use twice in our journey, snaking up the coast from Inverness all the way to our furthest point Wick.
The A9 is duel carriage way for the first 10 miles or so and the single carriageway are wide with good overtaking. So we forged ahead so that we could have a break for Ten minutes, this we did. Filled our faces with raisins, chocolate and some coffee left in the flask. We also used to stop to wax chains. All ready to set off and what should pass but the Goldwing Gang, so we are at the back of them again and the coast road had started to get very twisty with little place to make a move on them. This I think did help as we had been on the road for nearly 10 hours and having something to take you mind off it was welcoming. We arrived in Wick on time, fuelled the bikes at Tesco, Manny did a little clothes shopping, by this time he was feeling the cold so when and bought a Value pair of tracksuit bottom to put under his bike trousers. We then decided we would treat ourselves to a proper meal as a reward for completing over half of the challenge.
The key to getting through this type of ride was to eat little and often, and not to fill yourself full of crap, chocolate was ok in moderation, so up to now we had had raisins’, fruit, health bars and a little chocolate washed down with spring water and a little coffee. So we had a battered sausage and a cup of tea, and can I add that was the best battered sausage I had ever eaten! Nest stop Aviemore 133 miles south and finally heading in the direction of home, the weather was overcast and cold in the North and a little mist was hanging around. The task was starting to have a toll on both of us so we decide the stop north of Inverness for another break.
This we did and the pushed onto Aviemore where we would take fuel again. We wanted to get as far south before the darkness fell, once down towards Perth we would hit the duel carriageways again. We pulled in at Aviemore and filled up we planned to take 30 mins rest , we filled up the bikes and hit the coffee again. The Gold Wing riders pulled in again, but by this time the heaters where on and the seat massagers’ all in full tilt. They at this point were not the problem the midges had started to bite, we had been warned of this and we had got some repellent, which was in the back box somewhere im sure. Buy the time we had found it the Wing Riders had left, this was starting to be a pain but it gave us focus. The next stop would be Edinburgh for another official stop, we set off into the night riding again through mountains passes and some fantastic roads. In the distance we kept getting a glimpse of the light from the Goldwings. This was then it hit me..
Remember the Coke advert at Christmas when the Lorry comes into town with all the lights, and the music playing, with the lyrics “The Holidays are coming” I shared this with Manny and I think that kept us going again laughing into our helmets. The journey to Perth was uneventful and now we are back on duel carriageways heading for fuel, we arrived in Edinburgh at midnight, we only had one more official stop left 57 miles away in Berwick. This part of the journey passed without a hitch, filled up in Berwick at around 01:00 and then on the final run south 160 mile to the Finish point. This part would be the most dangerous, we had no sleep up until this point and just wanted to crack on and get in done. 5 miles outside of Newcastle a bloody Deer jumped out in front of the bike and scared the life out of me. I have spent the last 850 miles looking for these critters and as soon as we are on the home straight it happens. If I had hit it I think it will have still been slung across my bike as a trophy.
Next year the organisers will be saying forget the deer in the Highlands, it the Geordie Deer that are the dangerous ones. We managed 80 mile before pulling in at washing to services with only 80 mile to go and still 4 hours to spare. We spent well over an hour topping up on coffee but frightened to sleep just in case we slept for to long. When we approached the counter for the coffee we must have looked like Zombies and I’m sure we had started to smell a little. Watching the trip metre counting up toward the 1000 mile was done around wetherby, the feeling when it finally showed 1000 mile was amazing, I remember Manny and myself punching the air as if we had just won the MotoGP title, I felt so proud of what we had achieved not just for ourselves but for the people who had sponsored us both, the money would be well spent by the poppy appeal. The final 18 mile was an anti climax we rode into Sherburn after 22hrs and 10 minutes, the organisers and the and other riders clapped as we crossed the line.
If you are thinking would we do it again? If you had asked me 10 minutes after finishing I would have said no. Today I would say who wants to come with us?