National Rally 2013

I have been meaning to do the National Rally for years after reading about it in magazines and have always thought about doing it. I was always under the impression that it was massively oversubscribed and that if you didn’t book in 7 years before the event you might as well not bother.

Fast forward several years and early 2013 I decided that I would try and do the National Rally. I looked on the slightly confusing website (It all makes sense now I have done it but for a Novice it is a little bit of a challenge)and saw that they now do a slightly less arduous Daytime Rally. Traditionally the Rally has run right through the night and has been a little daunting to people but now with these shorter ones it is much more accessible.

The various options were:

  1. The National Sunrise Rally (6 hours)

This involves riding between 120 and 180 miles between 02:00 and 08:00 hours on Sunday. With this one you can’t start and finish at the same location

  1. The National Daytime Rally (10 hours) 

This one involves riding between 200 and 290 miles between 12:00 and 22:00 hours on the Saturday

  1. The National Rally (20 hours) 

This one involves riding between 300 and 540 miles between 12:00 hours Saturday and 08:00 hours Sunday.

  1. The National Rally (Platinum Category) 

Same as the National Rally but there are some special stages at MIRA

I talked it through with Bladebert and we decided to go for the Daytime Rally. So we filled in all the forms and sent off the money. After a loooooonnnnnnggggg wait we received a pack detailing what we had to do on the day, the location of all the Controls in the Country and most importantly our Control Cards (You need to guard this with your life, without it (no copies) you cannot enter)

We looked at the various locations of the controls and very early on decided to start and finish at the same point (Something that we might well change in the future) I looked at a route and so did Bladebert, we also looked at the route together. In the end I gave him a sample route and he tweaked it and we decided to go with that. The route was:

  • Lincoln
  • Gainsborough
  • Thorne
  • Leeds
  • Barnsley
  • Tideswell
  • Ashbourne
  • Kegworth
  • Grantham
  • Langrick
  • Horncastle
  • Lincon

Home to Lincoln

We set off in plenty of time to get to the first Control point which was called Lincoln but was actually near RAF Waddington. It is a good job we set off in plenty of time as it was RAF Waddington Airshow and there was loads and loads of traffic, though being on a bike really helped!!!!

When we got to the control it wasn’t open so we stood around talking to the chaps there and generally chilling out, it really helped that it was a beautiful day. Several chaps were already at the control and we chatted with them. I quickly stuffed my sandwiches before the 12:00 off. We all started preparing at 5 to 12. Spot on 12 we set off which nicely coincided with a flyby from a Lancaster.

Lincoln to Gainsborough

We set off spot on 12 but due to traffic we went a little round the houses to try and get to clear roads. As we headed West (Gainsborough is North of Lincoln) we were riding alongside the Lancaster and Spitfire, what a send-off. We had decided to take the direct route which used some very minor roads, which in hindsight was a bad move.

The faster main road route would have meant back tracking and in my head (dodgy place to be) that would have felt wrong so we picked this back road route. After one minor wrong turning we got to the control, however it did take longer than just using the main route, which isn’t a bad biking route anyway with some nice curves on it.

The Gainsborough control is actually in Corringham about 3miles out of Gainsborough and is run by a lady who has done it for years (40+ was suggested) We shot in got our cards signed and shot off again with a minimal stop.

Gainsborough to Thorne

We set off on this leg following the logical and most direct route, we did have a little moment on a roundabout taking the wrong leg but after sorting this out we headed North. About 5 miles from the control a KTM SM-T came past and proceeded to leave us behind. When we got to the control, which was in a petrol station to the North of the town the KTM was there.

I was looking at the rider of the KTM thinking I know them and then it struck me it was a bike journalist called Steve Rose. He saw us looking at him and he apologised if the overtake earlier had been a bit keen (It wasn’t it was fine) I said I recognised him and we had a bit of a chat.

He said that he was writing an article about the event for Motorcycle Sport and Leisure. He also said that he had made a bit of a mistake and missed out a control, he came directly from Horncastle to Thorne missing out Lincoln. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that this would get him disqualified!!!

Thorne to Leeds

The Leeds control is actually quite far out of Leeds, which is a good thing. It would be a pain going into the centre of the city for a control, it would eat up the time! The control was actually at the famous Squires Café in Sherburn in Elmet, or should I say just outside Sherburn!

The place was packed, mostly with nothing to do with the National Rally just the usual Saturday crowd. I got talking to one of the chaps on the control, generally all the control volunteers where brilliant, but I suppose you wouldn’t give up your time and energy for something like this unless you really wanted to!

The chap explained that Squires used to be in the village and was really popular but was basically forced out by the Parish Council because it was disrupting life etc. He then told me that it is now going strong in its new location but the town centre is slowly dying with some of the pubs having to close down etc. Shows how narrow mindedness can bite you in the bum! We had a ice cream at Squires as it was a nice day and we felt we deserved it!

Leeds to Barnsley

Now this is where we lost some major time!! Bascially, no beating round the bush, we got lost. We missed a turn and eneded up heading back towards Thorne!! After a quick stop to consult the map we set off again but had added about 50 miles to the day for nothing.

I can’t actually remember much else about this section. Once again the Barnsley control was not in Barnsley but in Silkstone to the West of Barnsley. The control was set up in the car wash of a petrol station. We took the opportunity to fill up with petrol while we were there and get a drink.
Barnsley Control

Barnsley to Tideswell

This was an eventful leg. We set off and due to my incompetence we took a wrong turning in Penistone. I had a nagging feeling that I had gone wrong but was a couple of miles out the other side of Penistone I knew I was wrong. Looking around for someone to ask I saw a chap trudging along the road in combat trousers and a tee shirt.

When I got a bit closer the tee shirt looked stained and I thought this isn’t going to be much use. However I then proceeded to get the best directions I have had in my life (though being in a tank would probably have helped!) Any way it quickly became apartment that this chap was in the Army and was cooling down after a run, hence the stained tee shirt.

Anyway I explained where I needed to be and he thinks a couple of seconds and says “Go back the way you came, you need to be heading over to that copse of trees (pointing off to the West) so turn first left and then follow the road keeping the larger copse of trees to your left and head to the gap between the larger copse and the smaller one, past the electricity pylon”.

This is the gist of what he said, I can’t remember the actual words but I really did get the impression that this is how he directed tanks too!!! We followed the directions and we got back onto the road that we wanted! This leg took us through a lovely section of the country and there were some beautiful views. At one point we stopped for five minutes to admire the view and take some pictures.

The Tideswell control was in a pub carpark and was staffed by some ladies who were sunbathing when we turned up. They had a caravan and had cold drinks out for us weary travellers. I was speaking to the lady and she said that she was going to be there until Monday morning as her husband was doing the through the night National Rally and would not be in a fit state to pick up the caravan until Monday morning!

Tideswell to Asbourne

This was another beautiful section with great views of lovely countryside. Once again the Ashbourne control was not in Ashbourne, but a few miles down the road at Darley Moor circuit. This was a pretty section but we did get horribly lost in Ashbourne due to the signing being some of the worst I have ever seen. I think we did 4 laps of Ashbourne and its one way sytems, a sat-nav would really have helped at this point.

Once we escaped the clutched of Ashbourne town centre we realised we were on the wrong road!!!!!!! But we corrected that and left Ashbourne and its infernal signs in out wake. Once we got to the circuit they seemed to be holding some sort of pedal powered vehicle race but we didn’t actually get to see the circuit as the control was in the car park.

Ashbourne to Kegworth

This leg was on a main roads and I must admit as time was moving on we did start to speed up a little. Once we got on the A50 we started to allow the speed to creep up. The Kegworth control was in the car park of the Donington Park services just off junction 23A of the M1. There was quite a few bikes and trikes there and the chaps running it were great.

There was drinks and nibbles available, though we missed out on doughnuts as they had run out and the chap fetching some more hadn’t returned yet. This control would have got my vote for the best control, but one of the Controls filled this bit in for me without asking so they got my “vote” Not complaining too much as the one that filled it in wasn’t that bad, maybe the second best.

Kegworth to Grantham

Fairly uneventful leg, didn’t get lost and roads were open and clear so we didn’t get held up at all. The control was in a scout hut and had hot food and tea and coffee. They also told me that they had set up some camp beds too just in case someone needed to get some kip. The food was OK but very welcome and we stayed around a while chatting. We did get a little lost trying to leave Grantham, but we did take the opportunity to fill up with fuel.

Grantham to Langrick

I must admit I no Lincolnshire quite well (mostly to the North of Lincoln) but I didn’t really know where the hell Langrick was. It was a fairly main road all the way there so I followed the directions and we got there even though I did not know where the hell I was. I was starting to get a little shell shocked from the whole day so not much of the journey seems to have settled in! I seem to remember lots of straight bumpy roads!!! This was the last leg in daylight.

Langrick to Horncastle

Bladebert led this section and we realised that time was marching on (I think it was around 8 o’clock) so we were knocking on a little bit. After Bladeberts little problem I think he did this entire section with clenched cheeks. Looking back at that sentence it sounds like Bladebert had a bladder/bowel problem!!! Actually earlier in 2013 Bladebert hit a Badger on his Hayabusa, doing about 60 (ish)…… thats Bladebert not the badger, and went down. Luckily he was uninjured and the bike was still ride-able.
Horncastle Control

Horncastle to Lincoln

It was full dark when we got to Horncastle. By the time we have nicked some biscuits and been to the loo it was well after 9 o’clock. We realised that we had to be back at Lincoln by 10 o’clock or we would be disqualified. I was leading this section and it was on roads that I knew well.

I must admit I was knocking on a little thinking that we really must get there whatever otherwise the day was pointless (but fun). We rolled into the Lincoln Control at 9:50!!! close but in time!!!! We signed in and got our cards signed and the Control crew got a little overzealous and filled in our vote for the best Control. We hung around a little to wind down before heading home, happy with a full day of riding.

LIncoln Control End

We have both agreed that we will be doing this again next year!!! I am tempted to go for the full Rally but Bladebert is not so keen due to his nervousness about riding at night, them Badgers are out to get him!!!

About The Author


Ambitious Amateur Mechanic, with a slight (OK not slight) Suzuki bias