This article was originally writen for the PEMC magazine for publicity for the ride. Kevin then posted it much later on the Iron Butt site with comments post-ride.
As some of you know, we lost my younger Brother Steve to prostate cancer at the beginning of September, he was 48. Over the last few months he received some excellent care from the local St. Michael’s Hospice; the staff at these hospices really are incredible and dedicated people.
Like most (all?) hospices St. Michael’s is a charitable organisation and I felt I wanted to try to give them something back. What I’ve come up with is a sponsored ‘Iron Butt Saddlesore 1000’ ride, see www.ironbuttuk.org, which involves riding 1000 miles in under 24 hours. Just to give it that something ‘extra’, I’m going to do in Winter – December 15th 2007. You can read more about it at www.justgiving.com/kevinweller.
Obviously the more publicity one can get for such a ride the more chance there is of people donating so I contacted Jeff [editor of the PEMC Lineswapper magazine] to see if he’d help. “Of course” he replied “Why don’t you write something for Lineswapper about the bike preparation required for such a ride in Winter?” Well I obviously agreed straight away as I want the publicity but there was a nagging question at the back of my mind “Bike preparation?”.
To be honest, in terms of bike preparation I was going to make sure I have my credit card in my pocket, kiss Lyn, jump on the bike, go to the petrol station to fill it up with petrol then disappear over the horizon! I may check the oil and tyre pressures the day before (which is more than I did before our recent 3500 mile escape to France, Spain and the Lake District) but in terms of the bike that was about it.
There’s a bit more to be done at a personal level as I need to know where I’m going – I don’t fancy just wandering for a thousand miles – and I suspect it’s going to be cold and wet so I need to be ready for that.
I am a confirmed SatNav user but I always bear in mind that these are dumb devices designed to do a specific task within narrow criteria using map data that is almost certainly out of date. As part of the package that came with our Gamin Zumo 550 there is route planning software which can be used on a PC. It’s not the world’s greatest software but it’s functional and I use it a lot to ensure I go where I want to go rather than where the SatNav wants me to go.
I needed a route that is slightly more than 1000 miles to take account of any variances in real life vs. SatNav data so the planned route has been calculated as 1080 miles. Unfortunately, the time of year and mileage requirement means it will have to be primarily motorways and I loathe motorways with a passion. So, from just outside Dover, down the M20, M25 and M4, turn right at the M5 and again at Glasgow and Edinburgh then back home again; sounds easy! The time of year means the weather is going to be somewhat unpredictable so I have a route ‘B’ planned, in case there is snow in the far north, which takes me round Cornwall then Liverpool, Huddersfield and Cambridge.
OK so that’s the route, which bike? The Hayabusa is fast and comfortable but it has a lot of miles on it already for its age and I hope to trade it in next year for a new one so, after some consideration as I really enjoy riding it, the Bus was dismissed. The Harley? With the possibility of salt on the road and THAT seat? Not a chance! The one and only time I’ve done 1000 miles in a day before was on a Yamaha FJ1200 in 1986 and we’ve just restored one but it would be a shame to risk its finish and put that sort of mileage on a lovely looking 17 year old bike which has a genuine 6500 miles on it. That leaves the Yamaha FJR – solid, reliable (so far!), reasonably comfortable and shaft drive. Sorted.
The FJR is fully faired and provides good weather protection but leg shields are available as an optional extra which, according to several FJR owners I’ve spoken to, do a sterling job of keeping water off the rider’s feet – £69 from the FJ Owner’s Club (FJOC) and the one addition to the bike for this trip; I’ll let you know whether they work [They do]. I replaced the standard screen with an MRA Vario version which has a much larger adjustment range and, I believe, gives better wind and rain protection. I’ve tried handlebar muffs but I hate them so I fitted some hand guards obtained from the FJOC which do a really good job of keeping the wind and weather off my hands. The bike has Daytona heated grips which are OK and I’ve been grateful for them in the past but they’re not a patch on BMW heated grips. Not a problem as I’m going to tackle cold hands another way.
My tyres are quite squared off already following a recent night time 400 mile motorway transit from France to Spain (boy did it rain!) and a motorway run from Plymouth to the Last Hotel Weekend venue [at the top of the Lake District]. I’m really hoping they’ll last for this run as even if I put new tyres on I’m anticipating having to change them afterwards. I don’t expect I’ll need a stand after 1000 miles of motorways, I should be able to pull up and just leave it balanced on the tyres! [They were knackered after the ride. After arriving back home I thought I might add an extra 500 miles the following morning for a BB1500 but the tyres weren’t up to it]
Mechanically, the bike has been serviced regularly and I’ll check the oil and tyre pressures before I go. The Zumo and Autocom intercom are already hard wired in. The Zumo provides navigation, mileage check and musical entertainment and the Autocom feeds it straight into my lid. I may interface the ‘phone to the Zumo so I can keep Lyn updated without having to extend my stops.
I get between 160-180 miles out of a tank before reserve which should be good for another 20-30 miles and petrol shouldn’t be a problem as I’m on a motorway.
That leaves personal gear. In winter I use a 2-piece Rukka ‘Steel’ suit that I can highly recommend. It’s water and wind proof and quite warm. My Alpine Stars Effex Goretex boots also appear to be waterproof which is more than can be said for the Hein Gericke boots that preceded them. As this is a long way and it could be extremely cold I’ve invested in some Gerbing Classic heated gloves, jacket liner and trousers liner. I also bought a temperature controller as on the only occasion I’ve used a heated jacket before I was too hot. I’ll carry spare gloves, T-shirts and neck warmer in the top box so I can change if I need to and I’ll put my waterproofs in just in case.
Do I have any concerns? Yes, I have a few.
I’ve no idea what the weather is going to do but the only thing likely to stop me venturing out is thick snow everywhere which is unlikely (cue the heaviest December snow storms since records began!).
I have a 2002 FJR and the electrical output is not brilliant (it’s apparently much improved from the ’06 model onward). I’m going to have to watch the current I’m drawing.
Those of you who know me will know I carry a lot of injuries from times when the nirvana of man and motorcycle in perfect synchronicity didn’t quite go as planned. In particular I have a troublesome coccyx that has been giving me a lot of grief this year and I have an elbow full of plastic. I’d like to do ‘something’ to the seat to make my coccyx more comfortable but I can’t quite work out what ‘something’ is! Leaning further forward does make my coccyx more comfortable which is why I have flat bars on the FJR but that’s a balancing act as too much weight on my arms causes me problems with my elbow [both were quite painful at the end of the ride…just as they usually are at the end of a long ride]. We’ve had a couple of 700 mile days over the last two years but in good weather. It’s a long time since I did a 1000 and I’m older and carrying more injuries so I’ll just have to see how it goes.
Finally, I’m anticipating this is going to be a long, boring, cold and wet slog which I’m not looking forward to at all. I’m not planning sleep stops, I’ll stop when I need to and doze on the bike. If I start to feel really tired I’ll check in somewhere for an hour or so as I want to complete this; stacking the bike because I was too tired would be a pretty stupid thing to do. I haven’t finally decided what time I’m going to leave but I think it’s going to be around 05:00 as that will give me maximum daylight.
I had planned to do this with another motorcyclist I met on the FJOC forum but further discussion revealed that we ride at different paces and want different stopping schedules so I’ve pulled away from that. I’m quite happy riding on my own and I’d sooner do that than be forced to a schedule that doesn’t suit me.
Oh, there is one other piece of bike preparation – I’ll need a nice clean bike to start my journey with, “Lyn…”.
The ride went pretty much as planned and we managed to raise £5k for the Hospice – some via the JustGiving site which is an excellent resource and some by direct donations – which made it all very worthwhile.
I nearly had a ride verification disaster though in that I hadn’t read the rules properly so didn’t have receipts to prove the route corners. I lost a few unverified miles but, fortunately, was just able to scrape a 1000. My certificate says that I did 1002 miles – that’s close!
Why was I looking so pleased? Well I had just finished the ride but that wasn’t it. I asked Lyn why the car wasn’t in the car port properly. “Go and look” she said. Just in front of the car was a new K8 Hayabusa!
Lyn knew I wanted one and, without me knowing, had arranged for a friend of ours to buy our old one and for our local dealer to deliver a new one while I was out on the ride
Garmin Route map showing the route taken.