National Rally 2014

Bladebert (now R-Bert) and I agreed that we would do the National Rally again this year as we had such a great time last year, to be honest I was thinking we must do this again on the way back from the last checkpoint in 2013.

We both sent off our entry forms, mine was in a little before Bladberts so I was number 36 while Bladbert was 136, there were around 515 entrants in total in the end. We didn’t get much chance to set a route, and after flirting with starting at the Ace Cafe in London we both agreed that a start point near Lincoln was the way to go.

We then fleshed out a route that first headed West then curled back round to Lincoln. We tweaked it a little to avoid some areas and then that was it, this was the route that we were going to go for. It was all systems go for The National Rally 2014!!!!!

Bladeburt was the proud owner of a new 2001 Fireblade 929 (it is a long story but he bought it off me (I will write about this Fireblade at some point, honest)) and was determined to take it rather than taking his older 1998 Fireblade but the tyres on the bike were old, no really old, no really really old.

The bike passed the MOT but it had advisory for the front tyre as it was perishing. I started looking around for tyres and found a bit of a bargain, for Avon 3D Storm sports touring tyres. Sports Touring tyres have improved so much over the years that they are now able to do occasionally trackdays as well as lasting much longer on the Highway.

It is likely with pure track tyres it would be difficult to keep the tyres upto temperature on the road, so you get a tyre that wears out quickly but doesn’t actually grip that well. I ordered the front tyre from one company and the rear from another company, unfortunately two front tyres turned up.

Bascially the company that was meant to supply the rear is run by complete muppets, in the end Bladebert ordered a rear tyre from a different company and he was good to go. I am still struggling to get a re-fund back from the Muppet tyre company, so I suggest no one ever uses Tyreleader, but Moto-tyres gets a huge thumbs up, the web site maybe a little clunky but the price is always keen and and delivery is fast.

Checkpoint 1. Gainsborough

The first point was Gainsborough, but we set off a little late. The reason we were late was because Bladebert’s chain was making a funny noise, we looked into it but couldn’t track down what was causing it but it didn’t seem to be a real problem so we decided to go for it. After the Rally the noise had pretty much gone, so it was probably the chain being a little stiff due to the bike being stood for several years.

We headed off to where the Gainsborough check point was last year……. yes the basic rule is do not assume anything as we found out the checkpoint wasn’t there. Looking at the info again we realised that the check point wasn’t in Corringham, 3 miles out of Gainsborough, but in Glentham, 12 miles out of Gainsborough.

When we got to Glentham it was 12:30, 30 wasted minutes. When we went to the table to sign in the chap there said he hoped he was doing it right as this was his first time. He seemed to do OK. I quickly scoffed my sandwiches and we prepared to head to Rotherham.

 Gainsborough to Rotherham – Checkpoint 2

We were using Sat Navs for the first time this year and they really helped us find each location, we didn’t think of it as cheating, more like using all available tools!!! The locations that are given do not have postcodes but it wasn’t that difficult to find them an evening with google and the list and Bobs your Auntie!!!

This section from Gainsborough to Rotherham was fairly uneventful though it was much longer than the official mileage of 25miles, more like 39miles. And then there was the annoying 50mph speed limit throughout Nottinghamshire backed up by average speed cameras!!! The check point was at a cafe next to a Ducati specialist, it would have been interesting to have a look round but we didn’t have time.

 Rotherham to Tideswell – Checkpoint 3

This section was soooooooooooo slow as it took us throught he centre of Sheffield, though to be honest it was one of the outlying areas that really took the time with stop start thrfaffic that we couldn’t zap through, this really slowed down the average speed. I t was getting really annoying and I was starting to lose the will to live when we left the built up area on the A625 and this is a nice road so that made up for the earlier frustration. In hindsight we should have taken the longer route and dropped out of the built up area, we would then have saved some time……. time that we really needed.

The Tideswell checkpoint was in the same place as last year with a caravan. One stand out moment of the Tidewell checkpoint was a chap on a side car with his mate in the chair leaving the check point on two wheels with his mate casually waving!!!!!

Tideswell to Congleton – Checkpoint 4

This section was a nice ride over the Derbyshire Dales, the roads were great and the views were amazing, this is why the National Rally is so good it gets you out to see roads and views that you probably wouldn’t see on a usual ride out.

On this section we caught up with the side car pair, while they were in a low powered Ural outfit they were making progress with the passenger moving from right to left to get the maximum traction through the bends. The checkpoint was int a pub car park and while we were sorting our lives out the side car duo turned up. We ended up chattin g to them for a bit, they were a right pair of characters!! After availing myself of the loo we were off again, heading towards Whitchurch.

 Congleton to Whitchurch – Checkpoint 5

Sadly I can remember very little about this section of the run, but I can remember the checkpoint!!! This checkpoint was in a large transport cafe run by a nice lady called Lynn who makes excellent egg custards, yes I did buy one. We stopped for a tea and a coffee here too. There were lots of bikers hanging around so I think that it is a regular haunt for bikers. As there was a petrol station virtually next door we decided to fill up here for the first time of the day.

Whitchurch to Sutton Maddock – Checkpoint 6

Once again, I can’t remember much about this leg, we were just trying to munch the miles as we realised we were getting behind the time. This checkpoint was up a long narrow lane that lead to the back of a Church. They had gone to a lot of trouble and were offering tea & coffee and I think I heard scones mentioned, but we really were trying to make up the time so pretty much stopped got our card signed and left.

As we left, a couple on a BMW single also left so I asked them where they were heading. They said Halesowen so I jokingly said that I would follow them. However when we got the the main road after negociating the narrow lane past the Church, they turned left while we turned right!!!.

Sutton Maddock to Halesowen – Checkpoint 7

This section started as a nice run in the country but ended in a very urban setting. We did get stuck behind an American camper van for several miles, we just couldn’t get past it!! This checkpoint was at an industrial unit and they had tried to make an effort with seats and a table.

We decided to stop here for tea as we really needed the food and the break. While we were there a lady turned up on an old BMW R100, the chap running the checkpoint told me that she had gone in the wrong direction on the Motorway and had wasted 3 hours because of it, she did look tired. She was knelt in front of her side case on the bike eating her sandwiches, from where I was stood it looked like she was praying to the bike!!!

I mentioned the chaps at the checkpoint that we were heading to Meriden next b ut was unsure of the best route, they said it was easy head for Birmingham Town Centre, then the A45 and then the Airport. So with this info fresh in our minds we set off.

Halesowen to Meriden- Checkpoint 8

So we set off into the depths of Birmingham with only our wits and some vague directions to guide us, boy were we screwed. Things went well at first with clear signing for the Town Centre and occasional mention of the A45, then we got to an urban Motorway and all mention of anything that we were told to head towards disappeared, I mean really no mention of the bloody airport!!!

We were trying to follow the Sat Nav but when there are two exits in the same place it seems you can guarantee that I will take the bloody wrong one…….every bloody time!!!! When we set off on this stage the chance of finishing at Lincoln was remote, after my Motorway cock-ups it was just not going to happen.

Meriden to Burton on Trent – Checkpoint 9

We decided to head off to Burton on Trent and think about what we were going to do once we got there. We set off and headed North to Burton on Trent. We stayed on A roads and even though we were both quite tired by this point I enjoyed this ride, thought there was a feeling of disappointment that we would not finish properly.

The Burton on Trent checkpoint was in some sort of club house. We checked with the chaps at the Checkpoint about what we needed for the minimum award and if we could get to Kegworth, the next Checkpoint by 10:00hrs we would be up for a bronze award. The chaps at the Checkpoint didn’t think we would make it, but I was fairly confident.

Burton on Trent to Kegworth – Checkpoint 10

This section was mostly along the A50, a mostly quite dual carriageway and we made up some serious time, but we didn’t even break the speed limit…….. honest. We got to Kegworth in time, around 09:45hrs and got the time card signed off for the last checkpoint, so we could claim that Bronze (loser) award. Ironically we both forgot to send our cards in so we won’t be getting any awards!!!

We talked about going onto Grantham anyway just so we finished the route but to be honest my heart wasn’t in it and I just wanted to get home. After setting off at 12:30hrs we got home at around 23:20hrs so we were out on the bikes for about 11 hours with a good chunk of that time in the saddle. Thinking about me and Bladebert came to the same conclusion that the full Rally may be easier with regards to running out of time though the the riding through the night and staying awake may be more difficult.

About The Author


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