1,000 miles in 24 hours
Martin Saunders achieves them in 23:40
Summer 2005 was beginning to slip away. The idea of a long distance ride was formed earlier on in the year, and the prospect of long summer evenings swinging round A-roads made me curious as to how far I could safely ride in a day.
American riders have various long distance challenges, most significant being The Iron Butt Association. Checking the requirements for the Saddlesore 1000 award, this looked the best to try in this country, where nowhere is much more than 900 miles apart.
The longest distance I had previously ridden in a day was exactly 40 years ago in France. The bike was an A7 BSA twin and had been swung off the ferry in Dieppe at 6:00 a.m., before the days of roll-on/roll-off ferries. The aim then was to head for the Pyrenees, we ended up in a Youth Hostel 40 miles north of Toulouse, a distance of 605 miles in 13hrs.
Having driven in a company car from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 1987 the 1,000 mile day seemed attractive.
May, June, July disappeared in the usual summer activities. August was fast going the same way, the Bank Holiday traffic around 29th meant a good start date was 23rd. The weather forecast was checked and an unusually deep depression was going to hit Sutherland just as I was intending to arrive Tuesday evening.
Monday 9:30 was the earliest I could get organised, the intention was to ride to Dingwall via Exeter/Oxford/Carlisle within daylight, put up the tent, get 5 hours’ sleep, do the remaining 260 miles round the northern tip of Scotland, ending back at Dingwall before the 9:30 deadline. Not easy, but achievable with the option of ending at 740 miles.
All went well, stopping at 200 mile intervals to refuel bike and body, until Stafford M6 roadworks, where the 65mph average dropped to 40. The morning rain had stopped, a relatively clear M74 leading on to further roadworks between Glasgow and Stirling. Once clear, the good roads started, and Perth, Aviemore, and Inverness came and went.
Got the tent up at the Caravan and Camp Club sight in Dingwall, roughly on schedule at 9:45, remembering to keep out the midges.
Food and sleep were sorted and alarm set for 3:45. A small complication being the Site was locked to prevent vehicles moving around from 11:00pm to 7:00 am. Leaving the bike outside was the only option.
The morning was the low point of the trip, the elation of arriving as planned the previous evening was offset by the 12 degree moisture laden dark morning.
The final section chosen was up to Wick, John O’Groats, breakfast stop. Tongue, Ullapool then back to Dingwall.
John O’Groats was 10.5 degrees, dull and windy, nowhere open at 5:45 and only just daylight. A flask of tea, two marmalade sandwiches and a peach did for breakfast. The most significant event was watching a lone van deposit a cyclist in the car park, then drive off leaving the lad to head South, presumably heading for Land’s End.
The road across the top end of Sutherland would have been really enjoyable if only I hadn’t travelled so far earlier. I reached Ullapool with time to spare, refuelled at the only garage open and made it back to Dingwall at 9:00 bringing the bike speedo reading to 1,097, actual distance 1,040 in 23 hours 40 minutes.
Time to relax, but the threatened depression was on its way, so South seemed a good idea.
After a couple of hours riding with threatening skies and 60mph crosswinds I set the tent up in the relatively sheltered camp site at Scone Racecourse, Perth.
An early night was rudely ended by the sounds of flapping tent fabric together with heavy rain. So at 4:00am, time to add extra guy ropes and re-secure the flapping bits.
Morning was dry, so back South, my planned route across the Forth Road Bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles so wouldn’t be much fun on two wheels. The Kincardine bridge was chosen as the more sheltered option, back to M8, M74, M6 stopping off at friends in Warrington for rest and recuperation Wednesday night.
The best night’s sleep for days, then off in heavy rain to join the M6 car park near Stafford.
I knew of the A500 that went parallel to the M6 and should come out near the M6 Toll road start, what I didn’t know was there were also major road-works in Stoke on Trent. The Toll Road was well worth the £2.50 bike charge if only for the relaxed speedy lorry free excursion round Birmingham.
A stop for lunch at the Motorcycle Museum, and home for tea. 1,764 miles in total, ½ mil off the back tyre and a large petrol bill (9 tankfuls). An interesting trip, which could have done with better planning and avoiding the M6. Perhaps June 2006?