The 2010 Brit Butt (BBR) was our first rally and we were amazed to be placed 7th; this year we were hoping for another top ten finish. No pressure there then! There is always an element of excitement to this rally that starts well before the Christmas Eve draw and this year it was even higher than usual as we had one competitor who we thought would explode with happiness if she should finish.
We had completed the Isle of Man TT1000 a fortnight before and, other than cleaning the bike and replacing Kevin’s headset which had developed a fault, there was nothing we needed to do to prepare for the BBR. I had been learning how to use the GPS mapping software so that I could help (or hinder!) with the planning. Only time would tell if that had been time well spent.
Rally HQ was the Xscape Premier Inn at Castleford just outside Leeds. This had been a last-minute replacement as the planned original venue had been deemed unsuitable (well done Roger for finding the new venue at such short notice; both it and the staff were excellent). We had a short ride up having spent the night before at a lovely inn just off the A1 about a hundred miles away. It was a different experience for us this time. When we arrived at the Premier Inn just before lunchtime there were already quite a few bikes in the car park, many owned by people we now consider friends. Last time we hardly knew anyone.
We chatted with the other competitors for a while then, following the technical and odometer checks, we filled up with fuel and retired to our room for a couple of hours rest knowing that it would be a late night.
After a good spread which was to set the scene for the Xscape food over the weekend we had a briefing meeting where the Rally Books and Flags were distributed. The meeting was thankfully short and we all scurried off to work out our routes. We had to complete 1100 miles and score 27500 points to qualify as a finisher.
We got back to our room to type the waypoints (all 61 of them) into Mapsource. Once they were all in we both independently tried to work out a route. I had a brilliant route that would achieve over 29000 points but it was all the way up to John o’Groats and across the top of Scotland. We knew what the roads were like up there and doubted that we’d be able to complete the route in the time the software was suggesting. The weather forecast of rain and wind in that area meant it would be even slower and a non-starter really so not brilliant after all.
Kevin’s route was a southerly one which looked much more achievable. There were enough points in the route to ensure we could finish but we spent time trying to find a better one as it wasn’t particularly high scoring. After a few tweaks – removing the hike into East Anglia and replacing it with a sojourn into Wales then optimising it via Auto-route – we had a route that satisficed but wasn’t great. Kevin spent most of the ride frustrated that we hadn’t found a better one and wondering where we could have improved it. I felt better when I went downstairs to get a drink to find people milling about who were also struggling to find a good route so it wasn’t just us. Our route looks a bit like a Witch on a broom if you squint and we do like to see shapes in our routes so that was OK then! Into bed around half-midnight.
We had to be ready to leave by 05:30 the following morning. The hotel had arranged for staff to be on-hand to provide breakfast for anyone requiring sustenance before their ride so we had a very early start to allow us to have a quick bite (cereals and orange juice) to keep the wolves at bay during the day. The hotel car park was abuzz with all the competitors itching to be on their way. At 6 o’clock, after a final odometer reading, Pete (the Rally Master) waved his hand and one by one, at short intervals, we were off.
As we headed North on the M62 we saw Rob Roalfe (3 times winner) take off and go in a different direction to us. “That’s it then, we’ve already gone wrong!” came over my headset.
Our first stop was a milestone in South Kilvington (399 points), about 40 miles north, where we were joined by two other riders. One of them followed us to our next stop which was a Colliery memorial in Wheatley Hill (765 points).
We then turned south and headed for the Lighthouse at Kilnsea, which was worth 1150 points. It took us ages to get there through the industrial estates of Hull and lots of villages and roundabouts, all with low speed limits, before turning off into the extremity of Spurn Head via lots of speed bumps. If we’d looked on the map more closely before we got there we would have seen that it’s on a tiny spit of land with sand surrounding it. We stopped just before the road became covered in sand to take a picture ‘with your bike in front of the lighthouse’.
Technically speaking the bike was in front but on reflection, and knowing what a stickler the Rally Master is, we knew we should ride up to the lighthouse to be sure of those points so off we set. It wasn’t good. The ‘road’ was made of higgledy-piggledy concrete jig-saw bits and was intermittently covered in very fine, very slippery, sand of varying depths. At one point we came to a complete halt when the bike dug itself into the sand and didn’t want to move. Somehow Kevin man-handled it out – “That noise you can hear is the traction control cutting in and out” – and we continued on our wobbly way to get to the Lighthouse and those points. After the rally we learned another rider had dropped his bike a couple of times along this bit before we got there and some riders after us were advised by the National Trust keeper not to attempt the route which was very sensible advice. I actually walked/ran through most of the sandy bits on the way back and left Kevin to negotiate the ‘road’ on the bike solo. We lost a lot of time on this bonus. Kevin was laughing and I won’t repeat what he called the Rally Master but you can guess it wasn’t complimentary!
Continuing South we stopped at Tattershall castle (300 points), the Metheringham Memorial (345 points) and then Castle Belvoir (350 points). We obviously weren’t the first to arrive at the castle. As we pulled into the entrance a security guard asked us “Taking pictures?” then directed us to the next entrance where the required photo-op was located. He told us 30 or 40 other bikes had been there before us but I don’t think his counting was very accurate. (354 miles: 7 hours)
The next three bonuses – a statue of an eagle in Yaxley, a milestone in Alconbury and the village pump in Hatfield Broad Oak – yielded us another 948 points. Our next scheduled stop was the Ace Café in London which we had anticipated being at around 19:00. As we did a time check it was obvious we’d be there a lot earlier and we realised we’d forgotten to re-check our timings after the final route change during planning. That opened up the London Motorcycle Museum, a timed bonus we thought we’d be too late for. We executed a quick re-plan intending to visit the museum first to ensure we got there while it was still open.
The North Circular had major road works on it and, unsurprisingly, was a complete nightmare on Saturday afternoon. The bike was too wide to filter through the narrow lanes so we mostly had to sit in the traffic; not fun and lots more time lost. We were somewhat surprised when the SatNav announced we were arriving at the Ace Café. We thought we’d blown it. A quick trip inside the café ensued and we interrupted some poor bloke having his lunch to take our picture (thank you) before we were off again, through more road works, to find our way to the Museum.
We got there with 10 minutes to spare. I tried to get in but it was all locked up. Now what? We photographed the GPS to prove the position and time then gave the Rally Master a quick call. As they’d closed early it was OK. Phew! Another couple turned up with a few minutes to spare and we explained what we’d done. We took each other’s photos and then left them to go to our last London stop, the Victoria memorial. Luckily the traffic wasn’t too bad and we were able to park on the double yellows to get the picture. 1850 points in London.
Now all we had to do was get out of the city and into our home territory. A blast down the motorway had us reaching Sheerness by half-six to take a photo of the clock tower. Sheerness isn’t far from where we live but we’d never been there before and probably won’t bother again. The new bridge is impressive though. Onwards and eastwards towards Margate, even closer to home, for a picture of the RNLI memorial. Another 1600 points ticked off and 600 miles covered in 13 hours.
We now had a ride into deepest Sussex to places we’ve been to loads of times but still managed to find ourselves on roads and in villages we’d never seen before. Using the last of the evening sunshine we took a photo of the Sandhurst clock for another 450 points then set off for the 50 miles or so to Hove (Actually) to photograph a windmill. By the time we got there it was dark and we joined another couple of riders struggling to get the photo. Intelligent-auto mode did a reasonable job, good enough, and off we went with another 450 points bagged.
We now had 60 odd miles to get to our next stop in Waltham for another clock. I wonder what the townspeople thought of all these bikes turning up to take pictures in the dark?
When we originally saw the next stop in the Rally book I said to Kevin it would be one we definitely wouldn’t want to do in the dark. So what were we doing at just after midnight? Approaching a church graveyard, miles from anywhere, to find and photograph an unusual gravestone. As we neared the waypoint there were several cars stopped in the road which completely blocked it as it was single track. When they moved away I spotted something at the side of the road and said I thought it looked like a bike down. Unfortunately I was right and it was Rob Roalfe who had encountered a fox as he hit the gravel. He’d just refuelled his bike which made it so heavy he wondered how he was going to pick it back up. Luckily a couple of cars appeared and it was soon upright again. He was just about to put all the bits that had come off back on. We checked he was OK and I helped with extra light while Kevin searched the graveyard. He didn’t find the right gravestone so we had a ‘team visit’ and eventually spotted it (350 points).
Rob overtook us en-route to our next stop, the Red Lion in Avebury, (350 points), where we had to photograph ourselves by the stones with the pub in the background. Rob appeared a few minutes after we got there. I thought he said he’d been looking for his arse which seemed very strange but it turned out he was looking for a town or village beginning with R! This was for the ‘Names’ bonus, where you photographed town name boards that start with initials from your name in the order the name is spelled.
We had decided not to attempt the names bonus as there were very few places beginning with ‘V’ or ‘Y’ in our emergency map book. Having looked at the atlas at home afterwards there are plenty around but most of them are really tiny so needed a more detailed map. A lesson learned there.
Anyway, Rob and Kevin and I took each other’s pictures at the Red Lion and we rode off into the night not seeing Rob again until the finish line.
We had a look at our progress at our next stop, the Old Town Hall in Farringdon (550 points), and decided to cut out a couple of our bonuses as we were running out of time. By now we were both getting rather tired and it had started to rain heavily. We’d covered 840 miles and been on the road for 20 hours. Our ‘detailed knowledge’ of the area meant we had no idea which direction any of the hotels the iPhone offered us were so we eventually settled on a Travelodge in Swindon which we’d passed through a short while ago. We had a very welcome few hours of sleep and when we woke up the rain had passed through. Result!
Our first stop of the day was at the British Camp memorial in Little Malvern (350 points). The road book said ‘by the gate’. We had to try all three of the gates before finding the correct one. This area looked really interesting as it is an old Iron Age fort and we will definitely go back to have a look round when we have more time.
During last year’s BBR we had the Monnow Bridge as one of our bonuses and it had a repeat appearance in this year’s BBR book. It looked different this year as the renovations are finished and it now looks like a bridge again (501 points).
We were now in Wales and our final leg of our journey. The rain was intermittent but not heavy so we continued on without waterproofs, always a gamble. This time it was OK.
After the Cenotaph in Aberdare (250 points) we went to Kidwelly Castle (899 points) where Kevin had to be in the photo as well. We had a bit of a laugh trying to get the camera timer working but finally figured it out and Kevin just made it into the picture.
Our next stop, at Barmouth (1119 miles at 30.5 hours) for a whopping 1250 points, took us all the way up the Welsh coast where we were able to admire the scenery as the traffic and traffic lights kept us slow. We had planned on a couple of stops on the way back to the hotel but a quick review proved beneficial as we would have overrun our time. It also provided me with a quick food opportunity – a couple of sausages that had come loose from their rolls – the first of the day. We decided to miss out the Clee Hill bonus which in retrospect was a good call as riders who went there said it was very windy.
Our last stop was the Flight of Fancy Sculpture in Hucknell, (400 points) where we had to park on double yellows again. This was a long ride with no bonus stops and included a diversion on the M6 toll. The Zumo usually tries to take us off this motorway prematurely so we ignored its command to turn off thinking it was doing its usual thing. Unfortunately this time it was correct as it was trying to take us north, not south to home!
Then we were on our way back and got back to Rally HQ with half an hour spare . Luxury.
Our final mileage was 1364 miles and we’d completed the rally in 34 hours 29 minutes.
Then the hard work for me started. If you’ve been totting up the points you’ll realise that we were well short of the 27500 points required. That’s because there are bonus points for getting the paperwork correct. The sleep bonus carries 5000 points but you have to have the right evidence to prove you stopped for at least three hours and complete the bonus book accordingly. In addition you need to fill out a fuel log detailing when, where and how much fuel you purchased. Any errors on the log, or lost receipts, lose points. If you get all these things right you gain 10000 points. Finally there’s a photo log where you need to detail all the photos you took – where and when plus the odometer reading. This has to be accurate as any errors in the photo log result in the points for that waypoint being lost. When you’re tired that can be quite a challenge in its own right.
As we chatted with the other riders we realised that we’d been very fortunate in our route and riding. Out of 42 starters 23 had made it back and we learned later that only 15 riders had accumulated sufficient points and miles to ‘finish’. Those who chose a Scottish route reported constant heavy rain and wind which vindicated our ‘go south’ decision. We were chuffed to have gained 3rd place and Rob Roalfe won yet again.
“What about the exploding competitor?” I hear you ask. Well Debi finished in 11th place and became the first female rider to complete a Brit Butt Rally but she was apparently too tired to explode.
As usual, our thanks to the Rally Team – Pete, Rick and all the other helpers too numerous to mention. Without them these rallies just couldn’t happen.
Our route is below: Black – what we did, Blue – what we originally planned.