Iron Butt Chair

Endurance events of any nature are not for everyone, and this is certainly true in the case of motorcycling.

Motorcycling has a certain appeal, conjuring up images of an Easy Rider image on warm sunny days, on lightly trafficked roads, with reflections of the ocean in the sunglasses and the gleaming chrome only interrupted by the light covering of dead bugs.

How about winter nights, snow piled at the side of the carriageway, salty spray, cold, and a trip of one thousand miles to be done in less than one day?

So why did I set off from the filling station at South Cave at eleven minutes past midnight on the morning of January 25th 2010?

Firstly to meet a personal challenge. I had heard about the Iron Butt Association which is based in America and is all about long distance motorcycling. To be a member, the minimum you have to do is cover at least one thousand miles in less than twenty four hours and have proof that you did it. You don’t have to do it in winter.

I had planned a route which was more than 1000 miles long, had prepared myself and the motorcycle as much as I could, I flipped down the front of my helmet and set off in light rain in the direction of Ferrybridge Services. To get enough miles in I had to take a slight detour which involved calling in at Ferrybridge Services, getting a receipt and the heading north on the A1M to Scotch Corner.

The A1M between the M62 and the A1 is a dull road at the best of times, but at 1.00 in the morning on a winter’s day (or is it still night?) it is considerably less than interesting, although you do notice some strange phenomena. Like, it was noticeably colder around the Bramham junction, where interestingly, earlier in the year, there had been reports of black ice on this stretch but nowhere else. Ok, maybe it wasn’t interesting, just seemed it at the time! Anyway continuing north, onto the A1 things got warmer, not warm, just less cold.

Turning onto the A66 at Scotch Corner I decided time to switch my heated clothing on. Heading over the Pennines on the A66 towards the M6 there was snow at the side of the road, and it started getting a bit breezy, nothing too serious, just enough to step the bike out of line every now and then, but with it being dark it was hard to anticipate just when it would happen.

Travelling north on the M6 it was clear and dry and the slight breeze had dropped. A stop for fuel at Southwaite Services, and continue heading north counting down the miles to Glasgow. Skirting Glasgow to the east I started looking for fuel near Stirling. It is a good job filling stations are open 24 hours nowadays. Filling up should see me to Inverness without a stop. The headlight picked out dirty snow at the side of the A9, and it was cold and less than interesting. Snow was being blown into the overtaking lane on dual carriageway stretches, which meant to be safe I stayed behind a lorry, it slowed me down a bit but better than risking anything on loose snow. As it turned out, I got to Dingwall near Inverness on the one tank full, although my low fuel warning light had been lit for a few miles by this time. But it was getting light which always lifts your spirits.

The A9 north of Inverness to Wick is a great stretch of road, parts of it hugs the coast and it has a balance of twists, hills and straights which makes it one of those roads which motorcyclist and drivers love. As a bonus, it was dry and sunny, with little traffic. I was enjoying myself and making good time. Not quite the Easy Rider image, but I was next to the sea, no gleaming chrome, just a pretty general all over covering of road dirt and dried road salt spray. Good job I had washed my visor at the filling station as my gloves were damp and dirty and wiping the visor just caused to film of dirt to smear.

My turn around point, the Post Office and filling station at John O Groats was reached at just after half past nine, about nine and half hours after setting off.

The trip back to Inverness was every bit as good as the trip north. Dry roads, winter sunshine, little traffic, and the knowledge that I had got past half way and was on my way back home. Filling up north of Inverness, there were a lot of customers on the forecourt, and moving my bike to allow another motorist to use the pump, (I’m good like that). The snow that was picked out in my headlight a few hours earlier could now be seen in daylight. There was a lot, and even more on the mountains. At the road side it must have been about 1 metre deep, a legacy of snow ploughs at work, but there was still a good covering beyond. Where I was heading there was grey sky, and there was a light snow shower around the Aviemore area. The A9 is patrolled by unmarked police cars so it was not a good idea to ‘enjoy my machine’, so even though this road passes through some beautiful countryside, it was not the most interesting part of the trip, I had already had that further north.