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Brit Butt Rally 2012

The 2012 Brit Butt Rally – from a novice’s point of view

The reason I wanted to take part in the rally was twofold: firstly, having completed the Royal British Legion 1000 mile (RBLR100) event last year, I wanted to take on something that was a tad more challenging, yet still represented - in my opinion - motorcycling with a purpose. There are many times that I’ve wanted to go for a ride out only to get on the bike and think “where shall I go?” and then go out for an hour or so and head back home. Again, so doing something like this, for me, meant I would set out from home and end up arriving home, but not be aware of where that journey would take me in between.
Secondly, and really following on from the RBLR1000, I wanted to raise money to help the servicemen and women of our Armed Forces; the RBLR1000 raises money towards the poppy appeal, so this time I wanted to support Help for Heroes.
At the latter part of 2011 I submitted my entry and tried to get some more information about what would be involved. There’s not too much information forthcoming and all that I could glean was that I would be expected to cover between 1200 to 1500 miles in the 36 hour event. The whole purpose of the event would be to gather as many “bonus” points as possible. The bonus point booklet wouldn’t be issued until the Friday night and it would contain photographs and location details of the bonus points around the UK; and beyond.
36 hours is a long time, however, the Iron Butt Association (IBA), has its origins in America, and is all about long distance endurance motorcycling with the Iron Butt Rally in America being 12 days long! So that said, the IBA is well aware of the dangers of driving/riding for long periods of time with little or no rest and, therefore, has built in the bonus point package with a hefty bonus points award for a continuous 3 hour break in the quiet hours ie between 23:00 hrs and 06:00 hrs. Another thing was that we were told to bring a piece of string exactly 1.2 metres in length... what an earth for, sprang to mind?
From the start, my decision had been to take my Ducati Monster S4R, even though I have a Ducati Multi Strada 1200: having read accounts of the event, maybe the Multi would have been the wiser choice though for me it’s the Monster and I hope I’ve made the right choice - my only concern being fuel as the Monster needs filling up every 100 miles.
The event started at 06:00 hrs on Saturday 26th May, from the Premier Inn at Xscape Castleford, West Yorkshire. “Signing on” took place from 2 pm on Friday 25th May with everyone having to show their driving licence, MOT cert for the bike, if it needed one, along with your insurance. Then we produced the 1.2 metres of string, which was measured, but still no hint of why it was required?? Following that, everyone had to go on a route ride of around 20 miles to check speedo’s and whilst the Monster was having its technical checks, someone said to me “you’re a brave man” and when I asked why, the reply came “in case you come off”. “Of course, it wasn’t my intention to come off this or any other bike”.
At 19:00 hrs that night we all gathered in the restaurant for a meal and a couple of drinks before heading into the briefing room at 20:00 hrs where we were issued with the bonus books and ride numbers. Chris, the rally marshal, also announced that the minimum mileage and minimum bonus points would both be “zero”, which was a first.
Historically, a high proportion of riders, particularly newbies, were classified as none finishers because of not attaining the minimum mileage and distance. In theory that meant that we could have all have just sat around and would have still finished! However, that’s just not the spirit old boy, but what it did reinforce was that safety was being taken seriously and Chris, along with the IBA, didn’t want folks to overstretch themselves in terms of searching for extra bonus points or eating up more miles when tired. The President of the IBA in the UK, Philip Weston, re-iterated the safety message and reminded everyone that this was for fun and not a test of sleep deprivation.
During the briefing someone actually asked what the string was for, only to be told that it would become apparent during the rally.... so still no further forward there! On looking in the bonus book, it was evident that all points within the UK were being covered including France!; so that’s why they said your passport might come in handy.
Extra points were given for matching certain bonus points; for example, Slains Castle near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire combined with Peter Cushing View in Whitstable, Kent would get you an extra 2500 points. To try and ensure that everyone got a decent rest(ish) there was a bonus of 10,000 points for the rest stop taken between the hours of 23:00 and 06:00.
So, finally, we now had an idea of where to get the points and all that remained was to work out how? On flicking through the book, trying to get an overview of where the next day’s 36 hour journey might take me, I happened to notice a bonus area about 5 miles from where I live. Rightly or wrongly, that then formed in my mind that if I worked out a route that took me past there between the said hours I could then take my rest stop at home. The means of proving the stop was to get a receipt at the start and finish of the stop. The only stipulation was that it had to be from the same source, with an address on it. You were allowed to travel a couple of miles or so and, ideally, with a supermarket with a cash point about 1 ½ miles from where I live... well, more of that later.
This rally is really based on the use of a sat nav and I would say it’s a must. That said, however, James Mann who was a newbie too, didn’t have one; he was also completing the rally on an R6 Yamaha. James and I had completed the RBLR 1000 together last year and we both travelled to this event together so when we both arrived, we were greeted with some curiosity.
Having planned our routes, mine with the lap top and Tom Tom and James with a map and note book, the paper type and not the small computer type, we both hit the sack around 01:00 with the alarm set for 05:30 and ready for the off at 06:00. I said a quick prayer asking not to run out of juice in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, or next to a garage that doesn’t open til 8 am.
With what seemed to be only minutes later, the alarm went off and before long we were with the bikes and ready to go. Tank bag fitted with a fleece and water proofs, luckily, the waterproofs were not going to be needed as the forecast was good and we were setting off in glorious sunshine that was to remain, until it got dark, of course.
At 06:00 the barriers were up and Philip Weston wished each one of the 38 riders a safe and enjoyable trip. One press of the starter and the 998 engine sprung to life and the Termi duet signalled the start of our journey. My first stop was to be Old Trafford and a picture of Sir Matt Busby would get me my first points; 350 to be precise. After just over two hours the fuel light came on, just after visiting my second bonus point location; the Yellow Submarine at the John Lennon Airport. Luckily fuel was not that far away and on my route, but my fears about fuel were becoming a reality. Maybe I should have brought the Multi after all!
Anyway once fuelled I was on my way from Liverpool towards Blackpool and then up to Scotland; Oban, Cairngorm Ski Centre, Forres, Slains Castle and Stonehaven. The route up the M6 whilst boring was a pleasant change to the M62 around Liverpool, which has the smoothness of a ploughed field, or so it seemed, and really made the Monster’s suspension earn its keep.
Having travelled the M6 quite a lot with work, I always thought how boring it would be on a bike. Now I was finding out for the second time in as many days, but what was making it worse and particularly coming past Shap was the wind, as it was getting stronger and blowing me around quite a bit. I was now getting used to filling the bike up every 1 ½ to 2 hours. Filling up at Hamilton and heading up to Loch Lomond, the roads were becoming much more interesting and fun to be on and the Monster was in its element. Coming past Loch Lomond (which was packed), I could smell BBQ after BBQ. I was now entering the part of my trip that I felt would be challenging in terms of fuel availability.
The next one was at The Green Welly in Tyndrum, which was packed with bikes, including a very smart D16 Desmocedici and couldn’t imagine doing this with that; not so much with the fuel issue, but tyres! After a quick text to rally HQ, which earned another 750 bonus points, I was then heading towards Oban. The roads to the Cairngorm Ski Centre were just awesome; uphill and down dale with sweeping corners and not much traffic at all; it was shear heaven. The view from the ski centre was awesome; and the peace and tranquillity was just mmmmm. Getting back on the Monster and putting in the coordinates for Slains Castle was a bit of a shock and a decision had had to be made as I was due to arrive at 22:00. Would it be bright enough to take the photo. Knowing the area (ish), I didn’t want to get there and find out it was too dark. So with that decided, to give it a miss and go to Forres Town Hall and then on to Stonehaven.
Reaching Aberdeen it was becoming dark and the decision to miss Slains was the right one as I wouldn’t have got there in time to take the pic and would have wasted about two hours. Passing through Aberdeen and on to Stonehaven it was now nice and dark and about 3 miles or so from the first bonus location in Stonehaven, thick fog!! The first location there was Dunnottar Castle, which wasn’t too bad to find, but when filling out the photo log, I realised that a torch would have been really handy. The second location was not so easy as it was down a lane and consisted of the two trees that hold the signs for Monboddo House. By now it was just before midnight and my plan to take my rest stop was good. Home was about 45 minutes or so away stop in at the supermarket cash point on the way past to get “evidence” ie a statement slip and could be home, sorted out, bonus text message (1500 Points) sent to Chris, the rally master and resting within the hour. Wrong; on putting in my card details I got the “Service temporarily unavailable” message. A quick look over at the fuel station reminded me that that was still undergoing refurbishment. “No problem” I thought, “go to the other supermarket machine its only 4 miles away”. Got the same message; how lucky is that!!? I was now thinking that home was a distant thought even though it was only 2 miles away. Totally forgot about the 24 hour Shell garage just down the road, which just shows that even though I felt OK; I was tired, but it was now 01:19 hrs.
The 3 and a bit hours just “happened” and before I knew it I was fastening my helmet and heading towards my first bonus area of the day a couple of miles down the road at 04:42 hrs; and it was still foggy.
Anyway after completing my planned bonus areas in Scotland, apart from Surgeons Hall in Edinburgh I was heading down the A1. Why did I miss it? The Edinburgh Marathon was on and I just couldn’t get to it. At one point I thought I was going to get trapped in Edinburgh as I came to a complete standstill in Marathon traffic that didn’t seem in a rush to get anywhere and it was only 08:00 hrs or there abouts.
Heading down the A1 the sun was now fully awake and I was starting to get tired so decided to stop and get a brew. That done back on my way and after about 40 minutes I hit the proverbial wall and felt myself starting to drift. Not the state to be in on a bike (or any vehicle come to that), so stopped just short of Newcastle for a mental re-group. I had with me one of those energy drinks, for such an occasion. So there I was pacing up and down the lay-by sipping the stuff. Having never had this kind of drink this before I wasn’t sure whether it would work or not but by the time the can was in the bin I felt ready to go. Thank goodness for that as the way I was feeling prior, I thought I was going to have to stop and call it a day.
After my stop in the North East my plan was to get bonus points at David Jeffries grave near Shipley and move on from there to Dibbles Bridge near Hebden and then see what else I could fit in before the points started to get deducted. Even though it is a 36 hour event, you are deducted 100 points for every minute after the 35th hour.
The grave yard where DJ is buried, was coated in sunshine, it was a beautiful day. Now; I always feel “different” when I go in to a grave yard and didn’t want to be at all disrespectful to those laying there. DJ’s headstone is very touching and a perfect tribute to the great man; “Those who risk nothing, do nothing, achieve nothing, become nothing” Just stood there, brought a lump to my throat and walking back to the Monster, I thought “Just lets go back”. It was only 14:30 hrs, I wasn’t going to be one of the top scores, but this moment seemed to be the perfect finish for me. So heading back to Castleford and making a real meal of getting out of Shipley (My how the roads in Shipley have changed since I bought my very first brand new bike from “Allen Jeffries” back in 1979, a Yamaha RD250DX), it just confirmed that I was ready for the finish.
Arriving back at rally HQ each rider was met by the President of the IBA UK, Phil Weston. Phil came up and shook me by the hand and said “Well done” and added “We had reservations about you doing this on that bike” and after I had said to him “So had I” and asked why he they thought that. His answer was very simple “protection”. I never thought that myself however, when reflecting on my journey up the M6 towards Oban, I could understand his thinking.
Straight after that I checked all my receipts and bonus book entries as even a spelling mistake or putting the wrong location details, ie they didn’t match the details on the receipt, meant points were lost. I was asked if I had my 1.2 meters of string. Luckily I had put it in my pocket and so brought it out wondering what was going to happen. “That’s good and has just got you a 1000 extra points”, so that’s why we needed it?
I could go on speaking about those who had amassed loads more points than me. But the facts are that the riders came mainly from the UK, but Belgium, Holland and Germany had representation (forgive me if there were more).
Statistics will show that Robert Roalfe won it for the 5th time in a row (what an effort) having travelled 1308.8 miles and gained 48325 points. Me?; well I completed 1149.9 miles gaining 31735 points and made 15 fuel stops. However, I must mention my mate James Mann. I met James when we did the Barry Sheene Memorial Challenge a couple of years ago. People thought I was a nutter doing this on the Monster, but James was on an R6 and had no sat nav and completed 1290.1 miles gaining 30800 points along the way. To be fair a sat nav is a must, it aids planning and gives you a fair idea of your time. James did a great job and didn’t even finish with the least number of points. Top man.
A great event and for me there was only one winner in reality; Help for Heroes. With the help of many people including some from the BBR 2012 team, I raised a total of £2760, not quite the £3000 I was hoping for ( ), but it will go some way to helping those who have given their whole future, in getting their lives back to semblance of order.
I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the following:
• The people who so generously donated their hard-earned cash to enable me to raise the amount I did.;
• Martin Rees, Ducati Glasgow, who very kindly arranged for the Monster to be serviced before this epic challenge. George and the team did a great job on a great bike.
• James Brown, the Joint Managing Director of Barnetts Volkswagen, Dundee who helped me with sponsorship for the cost towards petrol; a great help.
Would I do it again, absolutely; well, in fact, I’m already reflecting on what I did and what I could do better. Would I do this on the Monster again, definitely, after all it is a challenge!