2013 – “Crocodiles and Hurricanes”

29 riders on 28 bikes set off in the gloomy drizzle from John o’Groats at 04:03hrs on the 21st of June 2013.

Two riders, Colin and Ian, were sharing riding duties on one bike as Colin was a recent cancer survivor and as it turned out later was, unknowingly, riding the challenge with lung cancer, and wasn’t, he thought, capable of riding the whole challenge on his own. Colin was capable of riding on his own as his riding partner Ian exacerbated an old back injury near the Scottish border and had to spend the rest of the challenge in one of the support vehicles whilst Colin rode on solo and managed to complete the challenge.

Steve had to ride the whole challenge carrying a large inflatable crocodile as a penalty for using his normal bike instead of a £300 challenge bike – his challenge bike having died in a cloud of steam hours before he was due to set of for John o’Groats. Steve chose to sit on the crocodile the whole way down, which Steve reported as causing some “interesting” handling issues and much hilarity from other road uses but didn’t prevent him from completing the challenge.

The one and only crash of the challenge occurred less than 20 miles from John o’Groats when Colin went down on a patch of diesel in the drizzle. Slightly embarrassing for Colin as he rides that road every day, living 10 miles from the scene of the accident.

The first break down occurred a few miles later when all of the electricity in Terry’s bike escaped. In a fit of ingenuity parts from Terry’s bike were donated to Colin’s bike to repair his crash damage and this allowed Colin to get back on the road again, although it wasn’t to be for Colin and he eventually admitted defeat and retired. Undeterred, Colin came back in 2014 and completed the Challenge.

Chris on the monkey bike did better than anyone really expected, given that it had to be held flat out to make any kind of progress and wasn’t designed for such prolonged abuse. After 8 hours the poor bike cried enough and expired, near Edinburgh.

The weather improved as the riders headed south, most crossing the Scottish border around lunchtime, having enjoyed the wonderful roads between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

More mechanical maladies occurred; Jaras lost the exhaust on his scooter, but this was repaired and he kept going although he lost too much time and got to Lands End after sun rise. Alasdair broke down several times but through the clever use of bits of office furniture found in one of the support vans he was able to make repairs and carry on, arriving at lands End just before sun rise. Paul broke down with terminal overheating, of the bike not rider, and couldn’t be fixed so retired to the support vehicles to sulk.

Map reading and traffic caused a few riders problems in Newcastle and again in Sheffield and Derby, with riders getting lost and frustrated.

As the sun started to set most riders were making their way through the Cotswolds and the first reports were coming in from the West Country that the weather was taking a turn for the worse, with a howling gale and storm blowing in from the Atlantic.

Tim and John were the first to arrive at Lands End just as the weather let rip, but the others had to battle through wind, rain, pitch black and generally terrible conditions all the way from Exeter across the moors.

The weather and fatigue took it’s toll: riders started hallucinating – badgers and polar bears being a common theme, hypothermia set in and riders had to be shepherded from service station to service station for hot food and drink to keep them going, riders were scattered all over the west country as they sought shelter to wait out the weather.

In the end……

13 riders arrived at Lands End before sunrise on the 22nd of June and completed The Longest Day Down Challenge 2013

12 riders arrived at Lands End after sunrise and 4 riders didn’t make it due to bike or body failure.

The Longest Day Down Challenge 2013 raised over £22,000 for Cancer Research UK

"The kind of motorbike that is held together by rust, mould and optimism."