Last month we saw the fifth running of The Longest day Down, a charity event to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
Riders set-off from Lands End at sunrise on the longest day of the year, to ride to John O’Groats before sunrise the next day on motorcycles that cost no more than £300.
To make things even more difficult, the riders are not allowed to use motorways, or deviate from a defined route that includes a series of “pit stops” where the riders and their bikes can be refreshed and repaired.
Spaces are limited to 20 each year, and the total amount of money raised over the previous four years is £76,000. Fundraising for this year’s event has already reached £12,000 after all but one of the 20 bikes that set off from Lands End arrived safely and more or less in one piece.
The stricken Suzuki GS500 had already ridden the 750 miles from it’s home at Inverness to the start line at Lands End, but didn’t make it out of Cornwall for the main event.
Otherwise, this year's event proved once again that the reliability of bikes that are seeming past it still have plenty of give.
It is a two part challenge. The first part is to source, repair and make good a motorcycle for £300, the second part is to ride the 900+ miles in one sitting. This year, only four people made it to John O’Groats before Sunrise on the 22nd, with the first arriving at midnight, and the 19th and last arriving at 5:40AM.
Event organiser John McAvoy says, “The Longest Day Down really does represent all that is good about motorcycling and motorcyclists, ingenuity, adventure, generosity and family.
"The sheer quantity of time and effort each person puts in to preparing their bike, and then the ride itself can only be admired. It would need a heart of stone to not be impressed and a little bit inspired, which is probably reflected by the huge sum of money each years group raises for charity”.
Nigel & Ben Rea own Rea Racing in Lancashire and acquired a pair of CBR600’s as trade in’s, so painted then pink in memory of Nigel's wife who recently lost her battle with cancer.
The Father and son duo have competed in eight Manx GPs, six Classic TTs and Ben just finished his third TT with a personal best of 116.5mph lap. Unsurprisingly, their approach was “spirited” to say the least.
Nigel said, “This is the third time I’ve done LDD, the second since my wife Kellie lost her fight to cancer. She is why Ben and I painted our bikes pink, it was her favourite colour. We wanted to get to John O’Groats before sun set, but didn’t manage it. This years route was the toughest yet, so we were glad to just get to the end before sunrise”.
The Bikes: Honda CBR600FM & Honda CBR600F3
Nigel's CBR ate its Regulator/Rectifier on the way to Lands End due to overheating, almost causing him to miss the start. A new one was sourced and mounted on the pillion footpeg to keep cool. Ben's CBR wouldn’t stay in first, second or third gear, so creative use of the gearbox and clutch got the job done. The Reas finished first in 20 hours.
Paul Kerr claimed to not be able to get the Kawasaki ZZR600 he originally planned to use ready in time, so dug out his regular ride, a BMW F650GS which with 99,500 miles, actually has more miles than the ZZR. The irony of Paul being a Police Officer is made complete by the forfeit he had to complete, by taking an inflatable crocodile with him all the way to John O’Groats.
Paul said, “When my wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, I was desperate to get into some kind of fundraising, and I stumbled across LDD, and took part in 2015 on a Honda CBX550 which died just moments after I arrived at the (then) finish at Lands End. I’d got breakdown with home recovery, so didn’t have to ride all the way back to where I live just 80 miles from John O’Groats. THAT was the perfect LDD bike”
The BMW F650GS
In complete contradiction to the rules, but on the basis that Paul has previously completed the challenge on grubby £300 bikes, and that he is a copper, and therefore surely wouldn’t lie about his original choice not being ready, and that he accepted a forfeit, he was accepted as bonafide participant.
The Nut Job
Keith Bousfield, owner of Haggis Tours in Scotland was the figurehead for a group of 6 friends from his local motorcycle club in Inverness. The self styled “Highland Division” dressed themselves and their bikes up in furry outfits in a bid to further raise awareness of their efforts. An already long and gruelling day was made even longer for them thanks to it being the hottest day in June for over 40 years.
“June 21 would have been my sister's birthday," said Keith. "She died of cancer, so the fact that LDD takes place on June 21 every year is in many ways ideal. It didn’t take much persuasion to get a group of mates from our local bike club to comer along, and before you know it, everything escalated from there and we’re all wearing furry suits.
"They did the trick though, because everywhere we stopped on the route, people would ask what we were up to, and then donate. We collected nearly £300 on the day alone in collection buckets”.
The Honda CBF500
Subtle and discreet are not words you would use to describe Keiths’ Honda CBF500, but functional, and effective are. It took 25 hours for the little fur clad Honda to transport the large fur clad Keith through heat, rain, traffic jams and monster hills from Lands End to John O’Groats. He’s already planning on doing it on the same bike again next year.
The Hard Core one
James Serjeant was a dispatch rider for 14 years, and estimates that during that time he completed 1.5 million miles. With those days and miles long behind him, the appeal for long distance riding hasn’t faded, and this is the fourth time James has completed The Longest Day Down in as many years.
The 1991 Yamaha FZR1000
It could be said that if James spent £300 on his FZR, then he probably paid too much. It’s not pretty. The brake discs were so badly warped, that he had to take a detour back to his house to swop them for a set that he had for his 996 Ducati. James still managed to get to John O’Groats in 26 hours , including the diversion and brake disc swop. He also called in at Cadwell Park on his way home to do a track day on the FZR. As you do…
“I’ve always loved riding long distances, and like just about everyone else, I have seen enough loved ones suffer and loose battles to cancer, so it’s no surprise that this is my 4th LDD. Meeting likeminded strangers at Lands End and becoming firm friends just 24 hours later due to all of us having been to Hell and back is always a real treat. Even for an old hack like me, it is a seriously tough ride, but that makes it all the more rewarding at the end”.
How to donate
If you’d like to show your appreciation to these or any of the riders, you can donate by texting “LDDU99 £5” to 70070 to donate a fiver, or “LDDU99 £10” to 70070 to donate a tenner, or you can go to the website, pick a “Participant” and donate via the Just Giving button: www.thelongestdaydownchallenge.co.uk
LDD in numbers
18580 combined miles in total
1 inflatable crocodile
1 mascot dog (Oz)
14 litres of oil
£12,000 pounds raised for charity
6 fancy dress outfits
1 set of brake discs
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