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Last Updated:
04.06.2012

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since 04.04.2000

Moto Challenge of GB 2004 - N.A.B.D Fundraiser

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Day 1 Saturday 10th July

Home - Santa Pod Raceway

It started the way most things in this country start. It was pouring down with rain; so hard it was difficult to see where the road was. I remember thinking "If this is a taste of the next 3000 miles I am in for a lot of grief". Having packed the Harley with all my essentials I waited for a break in the weather and waited and waited. In the end I had no choice but to set off for Santa Pod to join up with the rest of the Moto Challenge riders.

Chapel Ash Harley Davidson dealership of Wolverhampton had kindly supplied my steed, a brand new Heritage Softail Classic, in a very pleasing blue colour, which I was looking forward to seeing how would cope with the variety of roads and challenges that lay ahead. The idea of the challenge was to avoid as many main roads as possible and stick to B roads and roads that no-one else uses, so the thought of taking the Harley over mountain passes and one lane rural by-ways made the challenge even more exciting.

The first task though was to get down to Santa Pod, near Northampton, to sign in and meet up with Nick Sanders and everyone else. As the weather was still chucking everything it could at me I decided that the motorway would be the least trouble and so set off around the M42 from my home near Birmingham. Having not gone 30 miles the rain cleared up and the sun appeared, as if to throw scorn on my waterproof clothing and make the motorway seem dull and boring. I decided to come of at the next junction and follow the A and B roads the rest of the way.

The Harley burbled on without missing a beat, and I was glad of the windscreen and comfort of the riding position on my bad legs. The one thing I was concerned about on this challenge was whether my disability could stand up to the stresses and strains of riding such distances everyday. The feet forward position of the Harley proved to be one of the saving graces for me, and the additional space afforded meant that the riding was to be the least of my problems.

The rest of the trip to Santa Pod proved uneventful and once there I quickly found the rest of the participants, the few who arrived before me were watching Nick's team set up the campsite; the rest began slowly trickling in as the afternoon progressed. The heavens opened again at this point and quickly turned the field into a quagmire.

There were 39 riders altogether attempting the full UK challenge of England, Wales and Scotland, plus 7 riders just doing the southern section and 19 riders joining us later for the northern section. Some had come from as far a field as Holland, but the majority were from all points of the UK. The machines were as diverse as the riders, from an R1 and a Hayabusa through the Hornets and TDM's right up to and including Pan Europeans, Goldwings and even a scooter, but no other Harley's, or any other disabled riders.

Having set up camp we all registered and obtained our Challenge numbers (mine was 69 - picked out specially?) and picked up our handbooks for the coming challenge. This gave us all the information needed to complete the event, including full step-by-step route details, telephone numbers and general advice. There were a number of ways you could do the challenge, you could join in as a team, or individually, go for the 'points' where you had questions that you found the answers to along the way or just ride the route and enjoy. I figured that I was going to have enough trouble with the mileage without complicating my life further with questions and answers, so I just did the riding, sticking more or less to the advised route, with a few minor detours along the way.

Our first challenge was to go down the quarter mile at Santa Pod, and points could be gained for the quickest. Every bike was put into a group, the idea being that bikes would compete against like bikes, but the diversity of the machines made this impossible. Luckily the sun came out again and the track was quickly dried so we could make fools of ourselves in front of the marshals.

I decided that a couple of runs was in order, but being on a brand new bike I knew that it would be foolish to push it with 3000 miles left to go, so I only managed a meagre 16 odd seconds (77 mph) which considering that I myself weigh in at more than most of the other bikes, and the Harley was still loaded up with all my gear, wasn't too bad. After the drag strip was a special skills test where yet more points were up for grabs. Even though I wasn't going for the points I still participated in these tests, and managed to make a fool of myself yet again. The turning circle of the Harley proved too much to get between the cones (that's my excuse) although the slalom and braking sections were done with little or no trouble.

Day one came to an end in the rain yet again. The BBQ provided went down well, even though it was 22:30 before food was ready and once the following days route had been checked, and the briefing was concluded we all retired to out tents. Unfortunately there was no camp beds provided, just mats for our sleeping bags. Although this would not be a problem on the first night, it soon proved to be a major hiccup as far as my legs were concerned. My legs had coped rather well with this first day, with only minimum pain and leakage from my dressings. I hoped this would be a sign of things to come.

Mileage:378


Day 2 Sunday 11th July

Santa Pod - Pontrhydfendigaid

After what must have been the longest, most uncomfortable night of my life I finally got up and had a bacon sandwich at 0544. Having hardly slept I was not looking forward to the 300 mile run today and because I was unable to sufficiently rest my legs they were not in a very good state to do it either.

Unfortunately one of the other riders suffered from a pulled back this morning, and so was unable to continue but was hopeful of rejoining later in the challenge, one down already!

Once packed and after countless coffees I finally felt like starting and after the briefing everyone started to trickle out, either in groups or on their own. I'm not too keen on riding in a pack so had decided to ride on my own for most of the challenge. Besides being on the new, unfamiliar, Harley I didn't want to have to try and keep up with everyone else.

The first challenge was finding some petrol; I had to go back into Wellingborough to top up before continuing on. This was my first lesson, always fill up at the end of the day, it's not so easy finding a petrol station at 06:00.

The British Formula 1 GP was on this weekend as well, so the traffic was very heavy, but once out of the way of Silverstone the running was good. Following the route down through Swindon and on into Bristol I managed to catch a few other challenge riders and found that we would continually catch and be passed by various riders and groups as we each stopped for a break or got off track slightly. Once I reached Clifton Suspension Bridge the heavens opened again, and I found my glasses filling up with water as well as my visor. I stopped in a lay-by just the other side of the bridge and was alarmed to see a police car approach me. It seemed the lady on the motorbike following them had lost her husband and they had asked him to meet her at this lay-by. I decided it wasn't the best place for a lady on her own so waited with her.

As time went on more challenge riders passed, some stopping to check we were OK and I wondered if I would have time for the rest of the trip. One rider (Bob I believe his name was) on blackbird decided to wait with me and when the lady's husband didn't arrive we decided to find out where he was. He arranged to meet her at a shop near Monmouth, just up from where we were going, so we followed her there.

All this meant we were well behind on our schedule, and we decided to stop for lunch and check out the route. A lovely local family showed us a nice place to get the largest teacake & coffee I've ever seen and whilst devouring that we planned out the rest of the day. We were 2 hours behind and over 100 miles of B roads away. A short cut was voted on and we said our goodbyes to the family who showed us the way we needed to go to catch up.

At Tregaron we turned up onto the mountain pass, a single-track road that twisted and turned it's way through and over the mountains. This fantastic road proved to be a major undertaking on the Harley, but it coped well and never missed a beat, the massive torque of the 1450cc engine providing easy going around the hairpins and up the steep slopes. Even with the suicidal sheep making a B-line for my front wheel we managed it with no heroics. We took the opportunity to rest at the top and take in the breathtaking views before heading down to the Strata Florida Hill Climb at Pontrhydfendigaid. After a short problem of actually finding everyone we managed to locate the campsite and fall into a spare tent.

The evenings BBQ, followed by a briefing went well, and the much-needed beer went down even better. It seemed that everyone had made it with no incidents to speak of and everyone had enjoyed the first days riding.

My legs had not stood up well to the day and were hurting a lot. I took some extra morphine and tried to adjust my dressings but my boots had actually stuck onto my bandages. I decided to leave them for the time being and soak them off the next day.

Once again I fell into my tent and tried to sleep on the mat, this time I drifted off with little trouble, not surprising, as I was shattered.

Mileage: 679 (301 today)


Day 3 Monday 12th July

Pontrhydfendigaid - Three Sisters Circuit

After breakfast at 07:30 we all gathered for the Hill Climb event up Strata Florida. It's a sort of track that twists its way over a mountain and back around, with the tarmac laid over the earth to a single-track width.

We all lined up and followed the pace car for 3 laps to get to know the track before lining up to take the hill one at a time. Although I didn't want to push too hard I still did want to do the hill, so one run was enough for me. The Harley had problems with the tight twisty hairpins, with the footboards grounding out a few times, so I knew better than to try and be competitive. Some of the riders got a bit over enthusiastic and crashed out, needing some emergency repairs to their machines to enable them to continue the challenge, but no serious injuries to the riders.

As the Harley was brand new I needed to get the 1000-mile service done on the bike before heading up to Scotland. I took the opportunity today to head back over to Wolverhampton and let Chapel Ash fettle the bike whilst I went home to fettle myself and try to change my dressings. I must say it was lovely to have a proper meal and get those dressings done.

All too soon it was over and I was heading back up the motorway to the Three Sisters track at Ashton-in-Makerfield.

Once there I discovered that all the erected tents had been taken so I had to put up one by myself. This was not a welcome chore as I had already doubled my Morphine, as my legs were leaking a lot, and the extra work of erecting the tent just made them worse. Once up a couple of beers made the tent look more inviting so I collapsed onto the mat and fell asleep at about 23:00

Mileage: 950 (271 today)


Day 4 Tuesday 13th July

Three Sisters Circuit - Boot, Eskdale

The day started at 0600 with the obligatory bacon butty before the briefing and the short ride around to the circuit. Unfortunately my disability and lack of full leathers excluded me from actually going around the track with everyone, so I watched enviously as the other challenge riders took to the circuit.

I was looking forward to today's ride up into the Lake District and couldn't wait to get started. After watching for an hour or so I decided to make an early start so I could visit a few interesting places along the way. This was a short day mileage wise as we had the track day in the first half so I knew I would have plenty of time to see the sights.

Once out of the City the riding was good with nice scenic country lanes and stunning views over the valleys. The Harley was in its element, long straight lanes with the sun shining and not a care in the world, apart from the 2000 odd miles still to go. Riding via a gorgeous viewpoint by Ribblesdale I stopped for lunch of pie and pies at the Sun inn at Chipping, then on to more excellent roads before following the coast around the Lake District up to Boot. The final accent up to Ulpha was incredible. If I'd had more time I would have stayed there all day. A beautiful stream meandered its way alongside the road, broken every now and then by a rushing waterfall. On the opposite side of the track was a high cliff face, broken by steep crags of rock sticking up as if pointing to the sky. I had to stop to catch my breath for a while, sitting by the edge of the river watching the sun reflecting off the Harley.

Onward again up to the campsite, as I was the first there (apart from the catering crew) I decided the sunny day was too good to waste and had a ride over the challenging Hardknott pass and back. Some of the riders thought I was insane taking the Harley over the pass, but it proved not to be as difficult as people imagined. The torque and low centre of gravity give it an edge over some bikes and the only problem encountered was the amount of traffic. The turning circle can catch you out if you don't plan in advance but apart from that, and the shear weight of the bike, there were no incidents to speak of. I did have a problem when I came across a queue of cars and a van stuck on one of the hairpins, when I was on my way back down. The incline was extremely steep and it was a job to keep the bike stationary at all, luckily the cars let me through first so an immanent disaster was averted.

Once back at the camp everyone had started to arrive, some with tails of misfortune and some with tails of close calls. The rider most were talking about was one of the more experienced racers who was judging the points at Three Sisters Circuit, he binned the bike whilst going around the track, much to everyone's delight. Not too much damage but a leaking radiator made his journey all the more difficult, but more damage was done to his pride.

I had decided that another night camping would do my legs in once and for all, so I asked the lady owner where the nearest B&B was and luckily she had a spare old caravan with a bed in it I could have for the night. A few beers and a BBQ closed the day and I was looking forwards to a night on a comfy bed, once I had gone through the next days route. A shave and wash before changing my dressings made me feel like I was in the lap of luxury, and my head hit that pillow just in time.

Mileage: 1118 (168 today)


Day 5 Wednesday 14th July

Boot - Oban

The morning started off with rain, then more rain. Then to make the riding easier for us it started raining harder. I forfeited the wet BBQ and tried to find myself a dry spot under one of the tents along with all the other riders. A new batch had joined us to do the northern section, and the southern section riders were leaving. It was not a very welcome sight for the new riders and we hoped the weather would clear up a bit for the first part of the journey over Hardknott pass.

Unfortunately the rain got decidedly worse rather than better so I decided to start off. I thought I might as well get wet riding as standing around. The rain was lashing down so hard it was difficult to see where you were going. Luckily for me the pass was empty of other traffic (it was 0700 after all) so I didn't have that problem to contend with. I'm not sure if the traffic or the weather made it harder, but I managed to get over it, and the following Wrytnose Pass.

Following the route up to Carlisle was boring at best through the rush hour in the wet. The rain did ease off slightly and once I reached Gretna Green it had stopped completely and so had I. Not having had any breakfast meant I was hungry by this time so stopped off for a meal and to check on my progress. The bike was holding up well and I couldn't fault it, whether going through traffic or over the mountains it took them all in its stride.

From Gretna I followed the coast up to Irvine and the B729 provided the best riding of the day, the scenery and wildlife were spectacular and I even had the company of a crow flying alongside me, within reach, for half a mile or so. The next stopping off point was at the Maritime Museum in Irvine for a coffee. The other riders began to trickle in behind me and the car park was soon full up of bikes, all with tails to tell. Apparently a few bikes had trouble over the passes, with a couple of damaged ones and some very close calls. One of the Goldwings had a very close shave with the edge of a precipice, and one or two of the other bikes came to grief. The riders themselves were undamaged and a few repairs soon got them all back on the road again.

Leaving the Museum I followed the main roads up to McInroys Point at Inverkip and then caught the ferry over to Hunters Quay. This proved to be a nice break in the riding and a chance to catch my breath before the final leg up to Oban. The sun had come out by this time and I noticed for the first time how beautiful and exhilarating the area was. Once off the ferry we followed the waters edge up to Argyll Park where we hugged the edge of Loch Fyne and back down the other side, wonderful.

The last 60 miles or so I started to feel the strain. I was tired, hungry and I was finding it hard to concentrate. My legs were hurting like never before on this trip and I was so glad to see the sign for Oban's outskirts. Stopping for petrol one of my fellow riders stopped to check up on me and I was glad of the company into the town. We managed to locate the Guest House that Nick had booked us into and once unpacked I headed straight for the bar.

After a few relaxing bevies I went up to the room to freshen up and plan out the following days route before teaming up with some other riders for a nice Indian meal and then a nice comfortable bed for the night. Never before has a bed felt so good.

Mileage: 1449 (331 today)


Day 6 Thursday 15th July

Oban - John O' Groats

Awoke at 0500 for an early breakfast and start, this was to be the longest day of the challenge, up around the coast of Scotland. I knew that today was going to be a problem as my legs were hurting and leaking before we even set off. Luckily there were a number of alternative routes available if I needed to skip some of the coast.

Although the mileage per day isn't incredible, it's the fact that they are all on minor B roads, or track ways, that makes it so difficult. If you were on Motorways or A roads you could probably cover twice the distance, but it wouldn't be half as fun, or as tiring.

Setting off for Fort William the weather was not too bad, a bit overcast but dry. Stopping at Fort William I noticed how bad my legs were getting - it was actually starting to come through my boot, so I decided against joining the coast route from there and followed the general direction of the A82 and A9. The sun was shinning and riding around Loch Ness was great, stopping at Urquhart Castle before all the visitors started arriving I had a chat with the locals who pointed out some great roads to ride down. The A9 is a very boring road to ride on, a very wide single carriageway punctuated by dual carriageways every now and then, so I stayed off them as much as possible whilst going in the same general direction.

Stopping at Golspie on the east coast for lunch I met some charming locals who gave me some helpful tips and pointed out that camping at John O'Groats was not the best idea due to its open countryside and exposure to the weather. I decide that a B&B was the best option and headed up to John O'Groats following the coast road. The roads hug the coast and twist and turn all the way to Wick, there the countryside flattens out and you have long straight sections of road cutting a swathe through the fields.

I knew that Nick had booked a meal at the local Hotel for everyone that night, and although they did not have any rooms, there was a B&B opposite with vacancies, perfect. Once booked in and unloaded I followed the road down to the coast for the obligatory photographs then joined up with a few fellow riders for a beer in the local.

Once back at the B&B I bumped into the challenge rider who had to bow out due to a back injury on the first day. He had decided that his back was good enough to ride again and so chased us up to John O'Groats to re-join. Leaving the bikes at the B&B we headed over to the hotel for a few drinks before our meal, but still there was no sign of any of the other riders. At about 2100 a few others turned up and we started our meal, over the next 2 hours the rest filed in one by one, it had been a very long day for some of them. I was glad I never took the full route as my legs would never have stood up to it and I would have caused permanent damage, let alone be stuck in the middle on nowhere.

Mileage 1703 (254 today)


Day 7 Friday 16th July

John O'Groats - Knockhill Racetrack

Today we were up at 0500 ready for the trek down to Knockhill racetrack. We were booked into a campsite near Kinross so we had to go to the track for a few laps before heading to the site. Knowing that I wouldn't be allowed onto the track I decided to do some extra riding instead and then get a B&B down near the camp site as my legs were far beyond camping now.

The routes basically consisted of following the A9 all the way down, with a few detours off to go over some mountains. The A9 is very boring to ride, and it started raining again near Aviemore, so I made a few changes to the route and followed the minor roads instead, meeting up with the others at Dalwhinnie services for lunch.

The route then wound down around the countryside over some very secluded and beautiful passes, Kinloch Rannoch, the Brig O Turk and through Killin to the Wallace Monument where we stopped for a while. The final leg down to Kinross was easy enough and the local B&B was very obliging in telephoning around for somewhere to stay. Everyone in Scotland had been most helpful and friendly, the other riders who were astonished at the way the local people had received us all echoed this at the campsite. I stayed with a lovely family who couldn't do enough for me and I was soon ensconced in a very comfortable room having changed my dressings and prepared for the following final days ride to Kelso.

Mileage: 1998 (295 today)


Day 8 Saturday 17th July

Knockhill Racetrack - Kelso

The charming people at the B&B got up specially to cook me a breakfast at 0600 before seeing me off. It was spitting with rain so I headed straight down to Edinburgh and over the bridge. I wanted to have a tour of the north side of the docks so I followed the water around visiting a few places enroute to Duns and the Jim Clark Rooms. I was always a fan of this racing driver and took the opportunity to visit the museum and library before continuing on to Berwick Upon Tweed and then the Holy Island. Its very strange following the causeway out to the Island, and I would recommend it to anybody, but make sure you check the tide times first - you do not want to be stranded out there.

I decided, as the challenge was nearly complete, to treat myself to a decent meal in Alnwick before heading in to Kelso. At Kelso the rally was already underway and a special section had been laid out for the Moto Challenge riders to complete a series of skills tests and questions. This was very hard as everyone was exhausted after the previous days of gruelling riding.

The campsite had been erected in a sectioned off part of the site, but as some of my friends from the Fallen club had come up I went over to see them and had a relaxing few drinks. The rest of the day was for crashing out and celebrating our achievement, with trophies for the winning teams and individual achievements and medals for those who had completed it all. Then it was just a case of getting drunk and finding a tent.

Mileage: 2219 (221 today)


Day 9 Sunday 18th July

Kelso Bikefest

The Moto Challenge team packed up and left today, it was all over. I had completed the event (although I was still in Scotland and had to get home) and was still in one piece. My legs were very swollen and in a bad way but I never felt better. I am extremely proud of what I have done, I very nearly gave up at a number of stages, but I stayed the course and now I can reflect on it all with nostalgia.

The money raised will be going to a good cause (might even be me if my legs don't get better!) and I feel as if I have achieved something very special.

The Harley did very well and never missed a beat. It started first time every time and although the riding style and position takes some getting used to (especially from my usual bike, a Bandit), once you are 'in the groove' the bike is great to ride and I can now understand the charm these bikes have for some people. Most of the other riders thought I was nuts to ride a bike like this on this type of challenge, but I have proved that it's not the type of bike you ride that matters. I will be very sad to see it go back to Harley, I have grown attached to that bike and will cherish the time we spent together.

Mileage 0 today.


Day 10/11 Monday 18th & Tuesday 19th July

Kelso - Home

The journey home was the worst section of the whole challenge. After a welcome stop over at a friends in Dumphries (Thanks Dick) it was straight down the M6 to home. Luckily the first part of the journey I had company so it wasn't so bad, but once they had gone the motorway seemed very long and very boring. Stopping off at every service station on the way back for strong hot coffee and Red Bull to try and keep me going I was very relieved to get home, sometimes the bike can be too comfortable.

Now its all over, a few days in bed is needed to recover sufficiently to walk again, and then it's a case of resting my legs and hoping I haven't done any permanent damage.

Total Mileage 2614 (395 today)

I'm glad I did it, and if anyone out there is thinking of doing the same then all I have to say is go for it. You will regret not doing it for the rest of your life and if someone asks me to do it again would I do it?

Why not? Where to next time? Europe, America? Why not around the World? Any offers?

See you about sometime.

Vern


Vic's Sponsors

A big thank you to the following companies and individuals who have all donated prizes to help raise funds for NABD: