16/17 June 2009 SS2000 and End to End Gold
“How do you fancy doing a SaddleSore 2000 with me?” asked Kevin…Hmm, that was a difficult one! Many of you may remember that in December 2007 he did a SaddleSore (SS) 1000 which I’d had the sense not to join him on but this was the summer, so why not!
For those of you who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, check out the Iron Butt UK website. In a nutshell it’s all about long-distance, timed, riding where you need to have witnesses and receipts to prove you did the ride. The rides mentioned here are: SS1000 – 1000 miles in less than 24 hours, SS2000 – 2000 miles in less than 48 hours, End2End Gold – Lands End to John o’Groats in less than 24 hours (the long way so 1000 miles are covered). The IBA is very hot on safety, and there is a lot of encouragement to stop at any point if you don’t feel OK.
Planning our route we decided that we should be able to incorporate an End2End Gold in our SS2000. Back in the 80s we’d done a Lands End to John o’Groats, starting out from our home in Medway on the Friday evening and returning on Sunday, so I figured we’d already done a similar ride but of course we were 20 odd years younger then.
Our plan was to take in major motorways and A roads wherever possible and have minimal stops until we got to John o’Groats. There we would have a few hours sleep until we had to turn round for the return leg. Depending on how we felt at Lands End we would either have a couple of hours rest or continue on to complete our 2000 miles.
The ride up was pretty uneventful with heavy traffic being our biggest headache. At one point we had to stop filtering as a plonker in a blue van simply ‘had’ to be in the other lane…even though there wasn’t enough room to complete the manoeuvre. Eventually he was able to move and as we reached the front of the queue we came across an overturned trailer with its cargo spilled on the carriageway.
My system for collecting the receipts and keeping the log was going fine until we got to the Spott services just outside Dunbar. I pressed the ‘receipt required’ button on the automated pump and after a short buzz and click a sliver of paper emerged only to be whisked away by the wind. I managed to trap it under my foot but to my horror it was literally only 2mm long and only showed the VAT number, no date/time etc. How to prove this vital stop? I took some pictures then noticed a vicar filling up his rather nice Jaguar. Would he help? He was quizzical as to why I would need his receipt but was quite happy to oblige. Sorted!
Navigation with the Sat Nav was usually OK, but we did have a few odd turns – one round Dunbar looking for petrol as one of our planned petrol stops had disappeared and one where it wanted to take us into central Edinburgh, in the rush hour! We knew which direction we were heading and just ignored it for a short while.
2000 miles in 48 hours sounds like it should be hard work on the old bum (mine, not Kevin) and we had invested in a couple of sheepskin pads as recommended by other long-distance riders. I was also using my treasured Airhawk which had been very comfortable on our GS1150 during a round-Europe trek last year. Unfortunately we hadn’t tried these aids on the GTR before and the sheepskin pad was making me slip on the seat every time Kevin braked. Even the Airhawk was uncomfortable as the GTR seat has a slope at the back and it was pitching me forwards. Eventually both these items were stored and I was much happier on the naked seat. Well done Kawasaki for making the most comfortable seat I have ever been on.
While we had a nice, dry, ride up the heavens opened and the wind howled for our journey down; full waterproofs and heated jackets were the order of the day. Kevin persevered with his sheepskin until torrential rain made it so sodden that the water started seeping through his trousers. He’d tried to find out from other users what happened when the sheepskins get wet, now he knows!
The GTR has one of those pesky key-less ignition systems and on a couple of occasions we thought we were done for as it didn’t want to start. Of course, all this was going on in monsoon-style rain! After some jiggling of the key and dancing round in case there was a phone mast interfering it did start but will need to be investigated.
The traffic was unbelievable on the way down. In addition to the countless, crawling, overtaking lorries which cost us a lot of time and caused huge traffic jams (why do they always decide that their ½ mile per hour advantage over the lorry in front needs to be used at the bottom of a hill?) we managed to hit rush hour in Edinburgh (again!) and on the M25. I suppose rush hour is difficult to avoid when you are on a time-critical, long, ride.
Anyway, it soon became dark (unlike the Scottish leg where it didn’t get dark at all) and we were heading for Penzance and our last petrol stop in our E2E endeavour. Tesco at Penzance was OK for petrol but useless for anything else. By now our bike looked like it had been pebble-dashed with flies. Kevin couldn’t see anything through the screen and the lights were like dim candles. I was told that they didn’t have any buckets as they kept being stolen (you’d think Tesco would be able to source some cheap buckets and some chain). Never mind, we’ll just use the water. Oh no we couldn’t – it wasn’t working. The guys there just didn’t give a s*** and were very unhelpful. Good job we had some wet-wipes!
Eventually we hit Lands End and had a quick drink and chat before heading back. We had planned on stopping at Newbury but, hey, it was only another 130 miles to home so we carried on. We finally got home 45 hours after we left having ridden just over 2200 miles and achieving our goals of End2End Gold and SaddleSore 2000, 2-up.
PS. I found a great use for my sheepskin. It now sits on my chair in the kitchen where it made a welcome softener for my sore bum.
PPS. Kevin’s now poring over the maps for the 4Corners ride!
Garmin Route map showing the route taken.