I’ve wanted to participate in The Longest Day Challenge for years and this year it was goingto happen. My friend Simon Hindley arranged for me to get in touch with the organisers, a bike was chosen and the deadline was there.
Cancer is a horrible disease that has brought too much misery to me and too many people around me. I’m not a doctor, I can’t make someone better or help in a practical sense. What I can do is give 5€ to the collector of KWF Kankerbestrijding / Dutch Cancer Society, but that doesn’t cut it for me. Money is and remains necessary and the fact that there are fundraisers in all sorts of places and by just as many different people is illustrative of this.
So this is The Longest Day Challenge; on the longest day of the year (21 June) from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, on a bike bought for under £600, without using the motorway. 1000 miles/1600km in about 24 hours. A nice day out on a motorcycle.. All this as a challenge to ask for sponsorship for charity. As a Dutchman it might be a bit strange that I would be doing this for a foreign charity, but half my social circle is in the UK and research certainly crosses borders.
I’d been working on a GSXR750 since October 2022 and it was pretty much finished when the suggestion came that this thing might be “a little too mad”. Sometime in March ’23 the Powerscreen was taken out of storage and I started working on that.
Bought for 100€ (so about 550£ post-Brexit) and A LOT of work later it was neatly on its tires. The most legal motorcycle I’ve built, with the most amazing paint job (thanks to the Boeijinga family)
The last things were done, it’s just packing the van and I would be on the boat the next Saturday. At this point I had already raised £920 (plus £127 giftaid); REALLY a lot of money. I knew there were still significant amounts on the way from friends/acquaintances/family/customers/suppliers so it would be even more!
If you donated; Thank you! Really, this is a big deal. If you feel inclined to help with my cause;
Bike all finished and ready to go, I loaded up the van and got myself on a boat across the sea.
I would make my way to @Kid Kearsley in Chester, leave the van there and drop down into Cornwall stopping over at @Billythekidd place. From there it was just a short run to Land’s End, plus this way I’d only have to come down half the distance from John ‘o Groats.
En route I found out via @Paulm there was a VJMC Trackday going on at Mallory. Since I would litteraly drive past it, I thought it be a coool idea to stop over and say hi.
Having never been, I felt a bit stupid not having entered this event because it would’ve fit my schedule perfectly.
Made quick work of breakfast and got myself back on the road to Kev’s
Arrived in Chester I hung out a couple of days and got on the road mondaymorning. The plan was to have a GoPro, which I blagged from @Quist have running on a timelapse.
This did/did not work; the footage that I did get was amazing but the battery died every half hour or so. I didn’t want to stop every time it shut itself off, so I just got my head down and make my way to Truro, down through Wales over some amazing roads. No pics or video though..
While on the way down south, it started running a bit lumpy, misfiring under load and all sorts.
At home, I had 1 of the floatbowls off to clean it out, but the seal ballooned so bad, I left the rest and just hoped for the best.
In vain apparently, because I was starting to doubt the bike would make it to Billy, not even thinking of JoG at that point. I managed to limp it to the Bennetts Grounds and let it be for a bit.
I was going to leave it and see how far I could make it on the LDC, but Billy persuaded me to get it done properly, so that’s what we did.
If there’s anything I learned from these bikes, it is that they are just awesome to work on, be it a bit heavy.
We mananged to keep the seals in place and got rid of the accumulated gunk. The tank certainly wasn’t good for a longer lifespan than where it was (like the rest of the bike tbh), so I expected it to return at some point. Fingers crossed for how far I could make it.
Without the misfire, the bike was an absolute joy to ride, like we’ve come to expect from these engines. Under 30 it was painfully unstable, probably due to the different geometry that came with the wheels and forks but anything at normal speeds was perfectly fine. I took all the backroads, as I had about 100 miles to go and all day to do it in.
I’d never been to Cornwall, but I knew I’d be in for a treat. How much, I found out on the way; the place is very pretty and very different from what I’ve gotten used to as “UK”
I could’ve stopped every 5 miles and gotten a completely different scenery. I chose to just get on with the riding and enjoy it now that I wasn’t on a clock. Rolled in to Land’s End at about 2pm and the first people for the LDC were already there.
Meeting up with everyone, I definitely felt like the odd man out; most bikes were bone stock, bought as-is and serviced; that was pretty much it. No built for purpose machines and apart from a Teapot, not another Oldskooler in sight.
The vibe was good, the sun shone and everyone was ready(ish) for the day ahead. Fellow OSSer @graveltrapexplorer (Andy) was oddly absent and I was getting a bit worried the Bandit woudn’t make it to the startline.
My Powerscreen was met with a fair few raised eyebrows 1; for the fact that people just didn’t know what it was, 2; far (in their eyes) from stock, 3; had been in bits that morning (I sent the carb-pic in the Whatsapp group), 4; It was on a foreign plate.
It being the 20th, we had some official stuff to get through at Land’s End but the actual start of the LDC was up the road from the hotel. Posh dinner and more officialities, I actually got presented with an award! Andrew turned up in the end and all was good.
After what felt like sleeping for mere minutes, everyone was gathering in the carpark to be ready to set off at dawn. Quitely bikes were packed for the journey, don’t think anybody really felt ready but the spirit was high.
A bit cold, spitting rain; certainly didn’t feel like the height of summer, but what you gonna do?
According to my Google Maps, we set off at 3.57AM along the A30, looking out for the cameras on the top of the hill which have suprised more than a few LDC-ers before us. It got light very slowly due to thick fog and I was leading, so I had to figure out where we were supposed to go and where we were actually going, this with visor open, and glasses fogging up..
Sticking to an easy 80Mph, we were left for dead by 2 LDC veterans but for the first bit, everyone stayed fairly close, until it was time for the first fuelstops.
80Mph was a good speed, but the Powerscreen was very thirsty. We figured it was probably better to slow down a tad and just relax a bit, after all; “It’s not a race”
First pitstop in Cirencester (I think) I got my first experience of how big this thing actually was; the carpark was full of bikes being looked over by volunteers including our very own @dupersunc, while others made sure you were fed and fit, ready for what was next.
Pockets lined with sweets and cakes, chain lubed and adjusted we turned northwards; next stop would be The Raven; Hometurf
We got there around 11:30am, it was now proper sunny and warm. The fog of the morning was forgotten and we made good time one the others. Same story; you park up and helpers flock around your bike like you are competing at the Bol d’Or (“IT’S NOT A RACE!”) and you just stand there stuffing your face with whatever just came out of someones oven or The Raven’s kitchen.
From the Raven, the route would take us through central Liverpool and we were warned about the traffic, the roads in general and well, basically Liverpool..
But, what these lovely people didn’t know, is that I probably know my way around LPV better than I know it in my own village. The route would take us right by the docks, where you would take the ferry to the IOM.
We made it through the city well before rush hour and it being the shortest leg of the Challenge, we got to the next stop in Preston at about 2:30pm.
During the trip, I didn’t take too many pics. Andy and I were on a mission to make good time, and we did till about the Scottish Borders where we got sent WAY off course due to a deviation that was wrongly sighposted.
I think we lost about an hour in the process, and that’s without mentioning we nearly both went through the side of a car that (as usual) “just pulled out” in front of us. I went across the front, Andy swerved the other way and we must’ve missed it by inches. I wonder if the driver is still sat there; it hadn’t moved when I looked back.
We got to the Gourock Ferry just as the last boat was about to leave. We had to scramble a bit to get on and I think we never got a ticket for the crossing, or Andy paid mine, I’m not sure.
The time was now 10ish and the sun was setting. Crossing to Dunoon with was going to be the most epic part of the trip. I remember the roads from when I went in 2018, hanging on for dear life while trying to keep up with @KATANAMANGLER and I couldn’t wait to have a go again.
How wrong was I..
We got off the boat, first things first; fuel. There were about 20 LDC-ers on the Ferry and everyone went left, we went right. We made it to the fuelstop right as they were shutting up shop, some others were too late and had to make their way to the next one or syphon it from a parked H#nda, whichever worked best.
It was now getting late and dark, and I was feeling it. Midgies were out in force too, and I made the stupid mistake to whipe my visor with my glove; that didn’t work.
I had to stop to get my visor cleaned up a but, but as most here will know; the midgies will then eat you alive, so that’s exactly what they did.
The route was still something else though; A815 around Loch Eck, turn left on the A89 and then the A819 up to the A85. Turn right to Clifton and then left through Glencoe.
These roads have no competition, non. It would have been the best ride of my life, if it wasn’t for my body and brain shutting down completely. It got more scary and more dangerous every mile we kept going but Andy kept my pointing in the right direction. Stopping off every now and again, my speed went down to 30, maybe 40 miles an hour. I was done…
Coming out of Glencoe, we turned right on the A82 and made our way to Inverness where the final pitstop would be.
I was seeing things, mind wandering and honestly, I probably just should’ve just stopped and gotten off. With Andy behind making sure I kept it between the lines, we eventually made it to NC Moto in Inverness, tha last pitstop.
I was ready to pack it in. A lady gave me some soup and a scone and I just sat there for a while, all the while other LDC-ers were arriving and leaving as if it was nothing. I couldn’t get my head around how these people were all so very much alive; I felt like death warmed up.
About 20 minutes into my Soup/Scone dinner-breakfast hybrid, I was slowly coming back to the land of the living and felt my energy coming back; I just suck at eating right and timely, and I paid for it big-time.
My bike was diagnosed in having a split oilcooler, which probably happned right before we got to this pitstop; I went through the most violent pothole I’ve ever experienced and that it only cracked the cooler is a bit of a miracle.
From Inverness, we got on the A9 and it would only be a short blast to the finishline. We rolled into JOG at 5.24am, just a bit over the 24h mark and I was slightly disappointed for a minute. I knew I could only blame myself for that, because if I handn’t had my energylevels fall through the floor in the Highlands, we would have easily been 2 hours earlier.
No matter; we made it, the bike made it (to my very big suprise) and I was happy to check this experience off my list.
Today is half a year on from when we did the LDC and I have had more than a bit of time to reflect on it.
It’s been an experience I wouldn’t want to have missed. I’ve done something that I had never done before and honestly, won’t be doing again in a hurry. However, it’s all for a very good charity that is very close to my heart and I’m proud of what little old me has contributed to this charity.
My total is 3.365£ with giftaid and the total for the 2023 LDC is 102.280£ with giftaid at time of writing ; a HUNDRED GRAND. That was a record and then some. Happy with that.
A short sleep and it was time to turn around and head back down. I had planned to take the long way and just enjoy Scotland for a bit more but after 2 hours NC500 I just wanted to go home.
I managed to get to a hotel in Aviemore and after that I limped the bike to Kev’s; the carbs were playing up again and it was hating life and so was I; still proud though…