Brit Butt Rally 2013

The Brit Butt Rally 2013 was supposed to be something special – after my tragic DNF in 2012 I had some unfinished business: When I was in France in 2012, the battery charge indicator lamp lit. Instead of doing the most sensible thing, i.e. try to use the energy in the battery to return to my home place that was only 150 mls away, I decided that the lamp must have gone bonkers and I went to Calais to take the Chunnel back to England. An extreme case of escapism, so to say. Well, it all ended under a bridge of the M20 near Lenham where the BMW stopped without any electricity left. I spent 5 hours during the night waiting for the towing service. After an adventurous night (trying to find accommodation) I managed to get back to the rally hotel with a rental car. Despite my bad luck, I was in high spirits for I hadn’t given up, but had returned to the destination. However, there my odyssey only began. The next day I learned that I could not leave Britain with the rental car for it was not insured outside the UK and despite many attempts, I could not get a valid insurance for it. My only chance was to drive to London Pancras Station, return the rental car and take the Eurostar train back to Belgium. I literally bought the last ticket for that day. After a horrible day I reached my home at midnight. One week later, I went back by Eurostar and picked up the BMW from a garage in London. It had a new alternator belt, as the old one had ripped in France. So, in retrospect, my “brave” decision to return to England was a total disaster!

Well, as I had enrolled for the mother of all long distance rallies, the notorious Iron Butt Rally in North America, AND decided to use my old XBR500, it seemed a good idea to do the “dress rehearsal” of my specially optimised and farkled XBR at the Brit Butt Rally. It seemed obvious to me that I was not competitive with this bike, as it had only some 40 hp, an enormous fairing and a total weight equivalent to a big bike. But whatever, I needed to gain more rally experience! And this was more important than to challenge the five time winner Rob “Grim” Roalfe. And I needed to know if my fairing would resist the massive forces that were acting on it. I was lucky that the disaster of the broken steel bolt happened a couple of days before the rally. I needed to test if all the farkles would work properly. So I limited my expectations and considered it a big success if I would end the BBR in the top ten. So I took for the first time the ferry from Rotterdam instead Oostende to Hull Thursday evening. I had quite some experience in this crossing already. I arrived very relaxed morning, however, very bad weather was awaiting me. As I had a lot of time left to get to the rally hotel, I had decided to pick some of the locations of that year’s Grims motorcycle museums trail that were located north of Hull. My first stop was near Scarborough, at the Barry Sheene Memorial. On the way there, I was almost blown off the road. This was really scary! I had to slow down a lot in the pouring rain and the strong gusts. The big fairing and the panniers posed an enormous resistance to the wind. After the memorial I went to Staithes at the coast. The motion of the sea was impressive. In the village with its narrow alleys I had to find a plaque. It took me a while to find it for it was so small. My next point was a museum near Pickering. The last stop was another museum what looked like a farm. There was some time to have a little chat with the owner. Finally I arrived in the well-known Hotel in Castleford in the early afternoon. Before and after my technical and odometer and technical check, I could chat a lot with my fellow riders, many of them very well known to me. Everybody wondered why we had to present a pink balloon at the rally check-in. It was not a big surprise when Rob Roalfe, the five time winner of the BBR, showed up at last and gave me a warm welcome. I knew that the could not resist to move out from his move out of the rally. The weather was sunny, but chilly. I prepared my gear and electric devices in my hotel room. Soon it was time for the buffet dinner and after that finally the rider meeting began. IBA IK president Phil Weston welcomed the participants and rally master Chris Kilner laid out the rally concept. It was called the “Where the Fugarwi” Rally. I had to repeat the motto a couple of times until I got the pun. And Chris gave us a clear warning. There were really challenging bonus points, especially in Scotland, where there would be parts that could even be impassable. Gulp! There could even be parts with remaining snow! The extra bonuses were tricky as well: one compulsory bonus out of five possible locations had to be visited. ONLY at low tide at daylight. The usual 3 hour compulsory rest bonus. Several big combination bonuses. Two times bonuses: a picture of a public clock, one at 10:20 a.m. and another at 23:35 p.m. 65 bonus point locations all over Britain. And then the killer: To get the massive 5000 extra points, we had to carry the stamped, inflated pink balloon during the rally, to take two pictures (one on Saturday, one on Sunday), of which one had to be at the compulsory bonus point location. Phil showed the home-made balloon measurement device to check the size of it. A murmur went through the crowd. This was a tough challenge! Everybody was deeply impressed by this mission and the riders retired to their rooms to start the rally planning.

As usual, the first task was to introduce the data to the GPS software and to have a first look at the bonus point locations.

Bonus point locations of the rally.

Bonus point locations of the rally.

As usual, the high points were distributed at the coastline.

Potential rsouthern route

Potential southern route

At first sight, there were two options: a route to Wales and Cornwall or a northern route to Scotland. Only a thorough calculation can reveal which is the winning route. The southern route contained 30 bonus point locations, 1600 miles in 34 hours, good for 25990 points. Hmm, very challenging. Lots of small roads, many stops and many tourists on the road. What was the alternative?

Northern route alternative

Northern route alternative

The northern route looked much simpler, quiet roads, only 11 bonus point locations in 1330 miles and 28 hours. Worth 26100 points. So the same points value and 6 hours less riding, one fuel and 19 BP stops less. And less risk to get stuck in traffic. The decision was clear then. I checked the weather forecast. Some rain would come in from the west during he afternoon. Hmm. My first bonus point had to be the compulsory BP at low tide near Edinburgh, this was the only chance to bag it. As I expected the rain later, my plan was to get to the west coast as soon as possible, leaving out the Tioram Castle at Loch Moidart, for I expected that the small roads would slow me down too much. If I had some time left at the end, I could try to visit some BPs in the north of England before the finish. The most challenging bonus point was the remote railway station of Altnabreac in the North of Scotland. 10 miles of unpaved road! I needed to reach it before the break of dawn. One tricky point was fuel and the rest bonus in the night in Scotland. A quick check revealed that there was one 24 h petrol station in Inverness; the choice of hotels was also very limited. Again, Inverness seemed to be the best option. I could bag the timed bonus at 23:36 h and stay in Inverness in a hotel. So I booked a hotel room in Inverness which gave me some peace of mind. I also could put some petrol there. I only needed to figure out where my first fuel petrol station would have to be. I identified Ullapool as the best place. OK, so I had a good plan. I just had to ride it.

I finished my usual preparations and went to bed. As usual, the adrenaline was washing in so I needed some time to fall asleep. It also woke me up before my alarm clock at a quarter to five. I quickly went to the parking and put my bike in the waiting line. To my surprise, I was not the first. I went back to my room and had breakfast. After this, I grabbed my gear and went to the parking. I fixed everything to the XBR and there was still a lot of time left until the start. It was a sunny but chilly morning and there was a lot of time for chats and best wishes. I hoped that I my bike would pass the test and that the fairing would survive the rally. Finally it was time for the lift-off: a last shake-hands with the Rally Master and the President and off we went. There was the usual jam at the first red lights, it takes ages to switch! Rob Roalfe zoomed as usual and I tried to follow him. Not easy on a bike that has only half the power. After a while it became evident that Rob had also selected the Northern route. No surprise, he is excellent in route planning. I went behind him and even would have passed him slowly but I told myself not to be overambitious and disrespectful. After all, we went at a good pace. There were two riders behind us that formed also part of our group. This is acceptable if it only lasts a while, otherwise it could be considered an “unannounced” team. I needed to hurry because I needed to get to get to my first location quickly: it was the mandatory bonus point near Edinburgh I had to reach at low tide. The only way to solve the puzzle was to get there as soon as possible.

After we had ridden together for almost one hour, my two sat navs gave me confusing news: the old Zumo 660 wanted to send me via the A68, but the new Zumo 350 insisted that I should do a detour take the M1 and A1 along the coast. I had learned that I could rely more on the 350 so I decided to take the risk. I waved to the others and continued alone towards Newcastle. It was a lovely sunny morning and the XBR enjoyed the ride. I hoped that this road was faster and I remembered the A68 when I went to Jedburgh two years ago during a quick vacation trip. I reached Cramon Island at the Firth o Forth exactly after three hours, 45 minutes earlier than my Basecamp programme had predicted. There was no sight of Rob and the others, had they already been here? Maybe the detour wasn’t that good idea after all…

9:01 a.m. Cramond Island. The mandatory and most important bonus point is already bagged!

9:01 a.m. Cramond Island. The mandatory and most important bonus point is already bagged! The causeway which is only visible at low tide had to be in the picture.

I grabbed my flag, the camera and the pink balloon and asked a lady to take a picture of me. In other countries this sight would puzzle the bystanders and such a request would be responded with a certain confusion. But not in Britain…I mounted by steed and went back to the junction at the A90. On the other side of the red lights, I saw Rob Roalfe waiting. I waved at him and I could sense the startled look on his face. So the decision to take the A1 wasn’t that bad at all. What I learned later was that he had visited another, smaller point. But for me it was top priority to get to Cramond Island at low tide. Well done. The next point would be at the north-western coast of Scotland, still a long way to go. But there was this timed bonus at 10:20 a.m. when I had to take a picture of a public clock. While riding northbound over the Firth of Forth and with the help of my sat navs, I tried to locate the best spot for this. Perth? No, too early. Pitlochry? Hm, also a bit too early, but chances were slim to find a clock north of Pitlochry. So Pitlochry it had to be. I could use the time and put in some petrol, although it was still a bit early after 370 miles. I first went to the centre of Pitlochry and found a clock right away. I turned around and went back to a petrol station I had passed. Back at the clock, I had still a couple of minutes to wait. Finally, it was 10:20 a.m. and I could take the picture.

10:20 a.m. Pitlochry. First timed bonus.

10:20 a.m. Pitlochry. First timed bonus.

I noted that my bladder also need a pit stop but it had to wait until I left the town. There was a nice spot to fertilize the green Scottish grass. I suddenly noticed that this was exactly the trail where I had hiked exactly two years earlier. Scenic place. Now that’s what you can call coincidence. Soon I was back on the A9 and entered the Highlands. I tried to keep a quick pace, for I expected rain in the afternoon at the west coast. Hello Dalwhinnie Distillery, see you next time. Make way, superbikers, here comes an old thumper that “porta peix” (carries fresh fish) aka “is in a hurry”(valencian expression).

The good ole XBR rode fine, but the tough part was still ahead: the narrow, bumpy Scottish single-track roads that would test my fairing construction to the max. Banging through the Scottish highlands with gorgeous weather, this was fun! It reached Inverness already at half past eleven, this looked good. But now the fast road ended and slowly the road turned into smaller secondary roads. At the same my pace got slower, the scenery improved. Great Scottish Highland views. And no traffic any more. It was definitely the right decision to go to Scotland! I rode along Loch Maree that looked just like a Norwegian Fjord. In Gairloch I reached the west coast and I had to turn onto a small road that turned smaller and smaller until I reached the next location: the Rua Reidh Lighthouse. It was cloudy now and I thought I could see the rain clouds out over the sea coming in from the west.

1:03 p.m. Rua Reidh Lighthouse. Scottish Westcoast.

1:03 p.m. Rua Reidh Lighthouse. Scottish Westcoast.

Ok, now get back carefully to the main road. I was glad to have filled harder fork oil. The fairing adds quite a lot of weight to the front wheel. But while riding the coast road, I started to like the trip more and more. Despite the handicap of the heavy fairing and the auxiliary fuel tank, the XBR behaved quite neutral. A little, black Honda blasting along the coastline. Although it was only 250 miles since the last fuel stop, I needed to get petrol in Ullapool, as further down the road it would be difficult to find a petrol station. While refuelling, a group of Spanish riders noticed my XBR and were very interested in the bike. To their surprise, I chatted in Spanish with them and they told me they came a long way from the Canary Islands for a biker meeting. When I told them about my rally, they were very impressed. At the petrol pump, I caused some petrol overflow for I didn’t realise immediately that the reason for my leaking tank was the open valve of the aux tank that still stood open. Pretty much petrol spilt, ehem. I decided to have a quick ‘lunch break’ (sandwich) and after some more chatting I continued to two more locations in the Northwest. The first was a small bridge in the middle of nowhere that took me a while to find. The respective road/path/track was not in the map so I had to approach it by using common sense until I spotted the side road.

3:39 p.m. Lochan Saile. A bridge in the middle of nowhere in Northwest Scotland.

3:39 p.m. Lochan Saile. A bridge in the middle of nowhere in Northwest Scotland.

Back on the way to the main road I passed Ardvreck Castle that was also one of my few bonus point locations.

3:56 p.m. Ardvreck Castle. Can you spot it?

3:56 p.m. Ardvreck Castle. Can you spot it?

The next location, the remote railway station of Altnebreac, was far away and on the east coast. I just had to cross the Peninsula on small roads. Again to my surprise, this turned out to be fun. The weather was still OK and almost no traffic ahead. This meant that I would reach the station long before sunset. This was one of my worries. I have mastered many gravel tracks, also with a heavily overloaded XBR, but this time the heavy load was on the front wheel. No need to hobble on remote tracks without daylight, if it could be avoided. After one hour I reached the east coast and headed north. The bonus point location could have been John O’Groats, but no, the Rally Master had decided for something more challenging: the remote railway station of Altnabreac. This was definitely the key location of the whole rally. On the north along the coast, the motor started to stutter a bit. Hm, what was that? I still should have enough fuel? I turned the fuel tap and everything was OK again. When the paved road ended, the sat nav indicated another 10 miles to go. Suddenly, a big motorbike appeared and stopped. It was Dave Winter who told me he already returned from the station. He went up directly and wanted to do the west coast later. He told me that there was a barrier that closed the road. However, it was closed with a lock that could be opened with a number code. As a sign suggested, he had called a telephone number to get that code. I tried to memorize it. He also told me that there was a series of serious puddles in the last part where I should take great care. He almost fell into one. Thanks, Dave! Shortly after that, I reached the barrier. I am used to jump barriers, but there was really no way around it. Not without a trial bike. I tried the code Dave had told me, but it wouldn’t work. Ah, the lock was just a bit stiff. Now I rode on coarser gravel, slowly, but steadily. After a couple of miles, I was welcomes by angry barking dogs at a farm-house, but luckily they were locked up well. I turned right and soon I reached the “puddles” Dave was speaking of. They seemed more like little ponds to me, more than 5 meters long. There was a little strip where the bike could go, but I did not dare to ride through the water. A little slip and the rally could be over. I walked on another strip of grass between the flooded road and the ditch, grabbed the bike by the handlebar and pushed/rode it at idle speed across the water. Phew!. That was it! But I had to go back the same way. It was a nice sunny evening now, but if it would have rained, this section

On the way to Altnabreac railway station, probably the most remote station in GB. Note: This was the easy part! I didn't take any pictures of the big puddles.

On the way to Altnabreac railway station, probably the most remote station in GB. Note: This was the easy part! I didn’t take any pictures of the big puddles.

would have been impassible…It was fun for me, the fairing still did not show any signs of breaking into pieces but I thought that this track could be borderline for most riders. To my surprise, I passed a kind of hotel at a lake. Soon after, I reached the railway station.

6:29 p.m. Altnabreac railway station. 10 miles of off-track passed, 10 more miles to go.

6:29 p.m. Altnabreac railway station. 10 miles of gravel track passed, 10 more miles to go.

This place was good for a massive 3500 points. Everything went according to my plan. Actually, a little bit too good. I was 1.5 hours ahead of my schedule. This meant that I would be too early in Inverness where I had booked the hotel room. I rode back slowly, safety first! A little slip and the rally could be over. I finally came back to the barrier. I was grateful to Dave for sharing the information and I planned to do the same thing for the next rider I would see. Back on the tarmac, I reflected on the situation. So I would be too early, way too early in Inverness. This will be too early for the timed bonus and the mandatory rest bonus. So I had to think of an alternative. The hotel room….well, I would offer it to the next rider I would see. And then I spotted a fast motorbike…was this?…yes, it was Rob Roalfe! It tried to flag him down – the info about the barrier, the hotel room – but I was in the middle of a bend and I couldn’t  lift my right hand off the handlebar, so I waved my left hand, indicating that he should stop. But he vroomed past me and quickly was out of sight. For a brief moment I considered following him. But he had seen me and decided not to stop, so….I started to think…hmmm…so he obviously had visited Tioram Castle in the Southwest Highlands, a point I had deliberately chosen to omit. Apparently, this was a bad idea. Rob had picked one big point more and his timing was much better, damndamndamn….so I thought. Rally riding is an emotional rollercoaster. But why worry? I was doing fine, and I had the luxury problem to arrive more than two hours too early in Inverness. I checked my sat navs….where could I find a clock at 11:36 p.m.? I knew there was a railway line passing Aviemore and I checked all the villages along that line…it did not fit, too early. And then I’d have to visit the other remote train station in the middle of the night. And then there would be problems to find open petrol stations to document the rest bonus….this started to get complicated….I took a decision: let’s play it safe, I would visit the Lecht Ski Centre in the Cairngorm mountains and then return to Inverness. I would lose 45 minutes, but at least I knew an open petrol station, I had a comfy hotel room and I knew where to find the clock (Inverness train station). So I stopped in Inverness to refuel. It was 8:55 p.m. I went uphill direction Aviemore and  turned left for the Lecht Ski resort. Basically nobody was on the road and riding the mountain roads in the last rays of daylight was a pleasure. I reached the ski centre and was shivering, quite chilly up there.

9:58 p.m. Lechd Ski Centre. Cold. Let's start the night shift.

9:58 p.m. Lechd Ski Centre. Cold. Let’s start the night shift.

It was now time to check my new LED flooders. They worked great. An enormous cone of light was thrown in front of me. The other gadget I had installed, however, told me worrying news: it was the dispatch 1 device that acted as a distributor for all electric devices I had fitted to the bike. It also showed me the current voltage at the battery. Every time I breaked when going downhill, the voltage would collapse and go from 14.4 V under 12 V. Although it was only an indication, it showed me that in that case my flood lights sucked too much energy when the braking lights were on. I had to reduce the output with the dimmer until the voltage was stable again. Suddenly I realised that I was a bit lost. The damn Zumo 660 had sent me the wrong way again! Instead taking the fast route back to Inverness, I was stuck in the forests and slowly moving away from my planned route. Zumo, you’re nuts! I saw the predicted arrival time at Inverness railway station. I started to run out of time. Oh no, not another ‘Isle of Wight’ situation like 2011!

I thought I’d play it clever and tried to visit a small railway station in the north of Inverness instead. However, my Zumo was wrong again, there was no station. I rushed towards Inverness and hoped to arrive on time. Luckily, I found the railway station right away. There was a huge illuminated clock at the outside of the station and I could still take some test pictures before I took the relevant one.

11:36 p.m. Inverness railway station. Second timed bonus bagged.

11:36 p.m. Inverness railway station. Second timed bonus bagged.

Ooof! That was close! Now I needed to refuel and to get the receipt for the rest break. I rushed to the hotel where a tired clerk was already awaiting me. I checked in and found  a nice and comfy room waiting for me. I had a quick dinner, a shower and checked the weather forecast. Ah, how about the CL final? Ah, the lads from the FCB finally won it. Well done. I jumped into the bed and one hour later the alarm clock rang. You might think if this is worthwhile, but an hour of quality sleep in a nice bed is definitely better than an hour of bad or no sleep. I rode back to the station and bought some candy bar to get the necessary ticket to document the end of my rest break. When I went again uphill towards Aviemore, the bike stuttered again when I opened the throttle completely. And then I experienced one of the most impressive moments of night riding in my life: to the east, the horizon started to glow and in the west, the moon shone over a lake between the mountains and the lake seemed to be filled with mercury and not water. It was a moment of pure magic. Stunning. But there was little time to get carried away because the cones of my Krista lights cut the night in half in front of me. A good idea, because a female deer tried to jump on the road. I spotted it on time and could slow down on time. Good lights can be a real life saver. I cruised through the night and when I reached the turn to Lake Rannoch, the night started to fade. A dangerous period, for all kinds of creatures tried to cross the road in front of me. All kinds of birds, a badger and many many rabbits. The road turned very small but I enjoyed riding without anyone else around. Finally I reached the remote railway station of Rannoch Moor. I took my pictures in light rain and escaped as soon as possible.

4:42 a.m. Rannoch railway station.

4:42 a.m. Rannoch railway station.

Another big 2300 points plus the 3400 points combo bonus for visiting both railway stations. Good! Now let’s get to the south. Back on the A9, the weather improved and when passing Edinburgh, I was riding in sunshine at chilly temperatures. Things were going well and I was reflecting which locations I could add to my plan. I went through the Borders and on my way to the next bonus point, and suddenly I was faced with an oncoming Rob Roalfe. What? Where did he come from?? Again I started to question my routing. I simply could not comprehend what his strategy was. Soon I got to the lake in the Kielder Forest Park where the next bonus point was. As there was nobody around, I decided against a walk to the Kielder column and simply rode there.

8:07 a.m. Kielder column. Time for another pink balloon picture.

8:07 a.m. Kielder column. Time for another pink balloon picture.

As there was only one point left on my list and 9 hours to go, I needed to look for more bonus point locations and I decided to add two points in the Lake District and one south-east of Manchester. But first I needed to get to Kilhope Cross, a little pass in the Pennines. It was the first time I rode through this area and I liked it immediately. A beautiful landscape, nice country roads and sunny weather.

9:30 a.m. Kilhope Cross. Pure riding pleasure.

9:30 a.m. Kilhope Cross. Pure riding pleasure.

The way down from Kilhope Pass was very scenic and in Alston I had to refuel for the last time. It was just after 10 a.m. and I still had 7 hours for my additional bonus points. I afforded myself the luxury to have a quick breakfast at the petrol station. It was still a very sunny morning and now, so I headed for the Lake District. I passed Penrith and soon I was close to the Irish Sea. To my surprise, I passed a sign to Sellafield. I was not aware that this site was located so close to this tourist area. The road got very narrow now but the views were fantastic, typical postcard scenes.

11:37 a.m. A quick stop for a scenic picture. Lake District National Park.

11:37 a.m. A quick stop for a scenic picture at the Wastwater Lake with England’s highest summit (Scafell Pike). Lake District National Park.

A couple of minutes later, I was approching the next bonus point. But who was this? Rob Roalfe was leaving the little village and waved at me like crazy. (He told me later that we saw me waving like crazy in Scotland. He thought this would be an odd German way to greet other riders and tried to be nice by doing the same thing). I felt like in the tale of the hare and the tortoise, I just was not sure if I was the hare or the tortoise in this story. Shortly after, I arrived at the Wasdale Head Inn, worth a 1460 points. The village claims to be home of the highest mountain (Scafell Pike), deepest lake (Wastwater), smallest church and biggest liar in England.

11:43 a.m. Wasdale Head Inn. It claims to be the home of British climbing.

11:43 a.m. Wasdale Head Inn. It claims to be the home of British climbing.

On the way back along the Wastwater Lake, I experienced for the first time something like a traffic jam. A couple of miles later I saw Rob standing at the side of the road, the helmet taken off. He looked exhausted and very frustrated. He told me that his R1150GS had lost the second and fifth gear. He was so tired to jiggle around with the gearbox that he considered to stop the rally and ride back home. I tried to cheer him up and wished him good luck. The route lead me through the mountains of the Lake District and I was puzzled by the extremely steep roads that lead me to the Wrynose Pass. Up there, I had to take a picture of the Three Shire Stone.

12:25 a.m. The Three Shire Stone in the Lake District.

12:25 a.m. The Three Shire Stone in the Lake District.

When I grabbed my flag, Rob passed by. I followed him. He was not going slowly, but I was in a good mood and the small roads with the bends were the perfect terrain for the XBR, even with the heavy fairing and the aux tank. Just like on my favorite roads in the Trentino. However, the road was so small and Rob’s BMW so wide that I could not pass, I had to stay behind him. Then suddenly there was an oncoming car that slowed us down, but left some space on the right side. Not big enough for a BMW, but big enough for a small XBR. And vroom – I had passed BMW and car and quickly wedeled through the small bends. A minute later and Rob was out of sight. I enjoyed the road and had to giggle. The tortoise had just overtaken the hare. A rare occasion. Soon I would reach the motorway and turn south to go for another big point. I was thinking what Rob had said. What did this mean, he would give up? This was not fair, he had to end the rally!

But suddenly the motor started to stutter. What was this? I had problems to go faster than 50 mph. I could influence the reaction with the position of the throttle. The stuttering turned worse the more I opened the throttle. I had to stop and think. This was not good. I checked all my tubing, but I couldn’t find anything unusual. It was obvious that it had to do with the fuel and/or the carburetor. I was simply lacking power and going uphill was a nightmare. I had to make a decision. I didn’t want to disassemble anything at the side of the road, and what could I do now anyhow? I had four hours left. My modified plan was to turn onto the M6 and to get one big bonus south of Manchester.

1 p.m. Fuel problems. What to do? Take the blue route as planned (200 mls, 3.5 hrs, 1000 points) or the red route (140 mls, 2.5 hrs, 750 points)? I decided to play it safe (80 mls, 0 points)...

1 p.m. Fuel problems. What to do? Take the blue route as planned (200 mls, 3.5 hrs, 1000 points) or the red route (140 mls, 2.5 hrs, 750 points)? I decided to play it safe (80 mls, 0 points)…

Maybe I could pick the three smaller points to the north? But then subconsciously the bad experience from the past year kicked in. Why risk anything if I was already better than my initial plan? So I decided to play it safe by taking the direct route.

I had sometimes problems to go more than 40 mph, then I could ride up to 60 mph again. I was worried that this good rally would end disastrous like in 2012. The road to Leeds seemed to take forever. After 30 minutes I stopped and checked if I could do at least the last two points. But I did not dare. I was thinking the whole time what was going wrong. In three weeks from then, I had to deliver the bike to be shipped to North America to participate in the Iron Butt Rally! Then suddenly a couple of miles before the finish I had an idea. I switched the fuel tap from the aux to the normal tank and…the stuttering stopped and the XBR fired as normal. What was that??? Everything back to normal….

I was thinking what I should do…well, I was so close to the finish, why not going there? I arrived at the Premier Inn in Castleford and told President Phil my story. He suggested to go at least for the closest bonus point again. Hm. It was 3 p.m. and the time to get there would be 50 min. Hm, this could just work. But all this for just 250 points….

I decided to call it a day and stayed. I chatted with the rally team and the riders who had returned already. I had enough time now to return to my room and to prepare my paperwork. I was also very early at the scoring table and I did not lose any points there. I ended with some 45560 points, 3000 more what I had planned. Not bad. I hoped that this would be good enough for the podium. Now it was time for a nice warm shower. After that, I went downstairs to share the usual anecdotes with the other riders. I was glad to hear that Rob had returned to the finish with his sick BMW. What I heard then was disturbing: At the barrier to the Rannoch station, Rob considered that the access to the bonus point was not possible and applied the IBA rule that you can take a picture at the point where the road is blocked. That was correct, but the access was possible, Dave and I had proven it! In this case, this rule was not applicable. In cases of doubt, a call to the rallymaster would be appropriate. Or to the telephone number that provided the code for the lock.

I was confused. Something was going wrong here. What should I do? Protest? For a moment, I was considering this option. But on the other hand, Rob had done nothing wrong. I started to understand that there was an underlying problem here. This situation should not have occurred in the first place. But let’s see what the results will be… We all had dinner together and then it was time for the ceremony. 43 riders had finished the rally so it took a while until the top ten were reached, starting with German IBA President Gerhard Memmen-Krüger. There was still a 8000 points gap to my result so this started to look good! 9….8….7…6…5…who would be fourth? Would it be enough for the podium? My name wasn’t mentioned, this meant podium! David Baker, Rob Roalfe and I were called to stand on the virtual podium. Tension…..third place went to…….David Baker with 43650 points. An excellent result for a rookie! This meant, it was Rob and me again….oh no, the same situation like in 2011…..the same joke…”the winner’s name is Robert”…..yeah, but which one? Another detail was that the difference between first and second place was only some 275 points…..What? WHAT? This was much closer than 2011! This a difference of about 0.6 %!….an uneasy feeling creeped up on me…maybe it was a mistake not to risk the two alternative routes at the end?

And then the results came: Me 45560 points, Rob Roalfe 45835 points! Second place again!

Oh no! Not again THAT close!

Oh no! Not again THAT close!

I congratulated David and Rob, we all had a great ride! All of the 43 riders had returned well and safe and all of them finished. This rally was really great fun! And who would have thought that I would finish second. But the more and more I started to think….the more I got mixed feelings. Was it an enormous success or a tragic result? 275 points…this difference is so small…and it was clear: without the fuel problem, I would have won the rally. But let’s stay objective: what did happen? As it turned out later, Rob could not bag the second timed bonus, because when he arrived at a clock at 11:36 p.m., the clock showed….10:20! Ironic, isn’t it? He also had trouble with his gearbox which is really annoying. On the other hand, I also had my technical problems. I arrived one hour earlier at the finish than Rob, I had lost 45 minutes by returning to Inverness and I had “lost” one and a half hours by going to the Altnabreac station. Well, this was not fair, was it? How can it be that some riders had to struggle to get to this challenging, remote places, others didn’t and all received the same points? All of these thoughts went through my head.

I uttered some careful critics to Chris, the Rallymaster. He admitted that something went wrong when checking all the bonus point locations: the rally team tried three times to go to Altnabreac, but every time the adverse weather conditions impeded this. I sensed that also the Rallymaster felt very sorry and had learned a lesson…”don’t include bonus points that haven’t been checked before”. I did not blame him, I considered it simply bad luck.

I want to see things in a positive way and I tried to focus on the good things. Apart from the unexpected fuel problems (that I still had to resolve), the bike rode fine, all my modifications had worked well, the fairing did not fall apart, it was great fun to compete with Rob, and the whole rally concept was gorgeous! I felt that I had finally reached Rob’s level. And this with a 28 year old, 498cc, 40 hp motorbike with 230.000 miles on the clock! No, my silent conclusion was clear: today I had deserved to win the rally and I considered myself a “moral victor”. But of course Rob was a worthy winner. It was no coincidence that Rob had won the rally six times in a row. Against all odds, he had conserved a small lead. He is definitely the best British LD rally rider.

I joined the other riders at the bar and enjoyed some drinks sharing our anecdotes. This is always great fun to hear the most incredible stories that have passed to other riders. The next day, a sunny ride to the South awaited me. On the way to Folkestone, I visited a motorbike museum in Norfolk and two motorbike monuments in the south-east, another locations of the motorcycle museum and legends trail.

Harley Davidson monument in Littleport. Two motorcycle legends in one picture.

Harley Davidson monument in Littleport. Two motorcycle legends in one picture.

For a change, I had a relaxed return to Belgium. A great rally, a great experience. Thanks to all the rally team for this great event! Looking forward to the Brit Butt Rally 2014, but this time with a star cast, i.e. with 98 Boxer hp and all that 😉 .


So what had happened at the end of the rally? At home, I inspected all fuel tubings and found this:

Was this the problem for my stuttering motor? I thought so.

Was this the problem for my stuttering motor? I thought so.

In the fuel filter, I found some plastic chips that were formed when I had to use a provisional plastic fuel tap after having lost the tap of the auxiliary fuel tank during my SS3000. After the BBR, I concluded that the problem was solved. However, during the ride to the starting location of the Ironbutt Rally in Pennsylvania and also during the first leg of the IBR, I experienced massive problems that I could not relate to a common root cause. Only since the second leg the stuttering had vanished. Maybe it were some plastic flakes that had blocked the jets in the carburetor? Nobody will ever know.

A couple of months ago, Rob announced to stay out of future LD events. He has stopped to organize his intriguing motorcycle trails and it appears that he will not ride the BBR anymore. I hope to see him back at the start of a rally some day, he has inspired me a lot and I really would like to compete with him and play the hare and tortoise game again.


Acknowledgement: Thanks to Alan for proofreading this report!

10 Comments on “Brit Butt Rally 2013

  1. Really nice story to read for me who hasn’t done a single rally yet. Valuable information indeed that the Zumo 660 sucks..Lucky for me my first start will be in Sweden and on hopefully known roads and locations. Hoping to see you there in the Scandinavian Rally starting grid

  2. I enjoyed that thank you. You were definitely Robbed!

    • Thanks Kevin. I don’t see it like this. Picking that BP without checking it first was a mistake, but we are all human and all of us make mistakes. Any decision after the rally would have been unfair to somebody. And honestly, I prefer to be second in this case than to win with a bitter taste in my mouth. Robbing is something that is done on purpose, and that’s not the case here. Quite on the contrary, Chris, Phil and the rally team did a great job and organised a spectacular rally and I always feel very welcome. I put this experience in the imaginary file that is called like the last song of the “Let it bleed” album……. 😉

  3. Great read, always enjoy your Reports. I’ll see you at the BBR & yes I’ll have a a folder & pen in hand .

    Slow Poke

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