The Longest Day Up is a motorbike challenge to travel from Lands End to John O'Groats on the longest day of the year between sunrise and sunset on bikes must have been bought for no more than £300...
13 years ago, I had a little run-in with a thing known as Cancer, in my case both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the same time. (My mother always said I was a bit greedy as a child!)
Just before the 2019 LDU ride, I had another run in with it again and so missed the ride as I was lying on a table getting zapped in a way that was quite reminiscent of that iconic scene from Goldfinger!
Cancer is unfortunately something that most of us are all too familiar with, be it ourselves, our families or our friends.
In my case, thanks to the full arsenal of treatments available from our wonderful NHS, I was lucky enough to get through it in one piece. I cannot claim that is was fun or pleasant, but the treatment was successful and I am still here today to write this.
This June, I thought I'd do something a bit silly to raise funds for Cancer Research.
On the longest day of the year (21st June), I and a few others from around the country, who also need their heads read, will be setting off from Land's End at sunrise and be attempting to get to John O'Groats by the time the sun comes up the next day.
In this day of modern cars and motorways, this may seem easy, but here's the kicker. We are not allowed to use motorways and must follow a particularly long and tortuous route that comes in at 1045 miles. This means holding an average speed of over 42mph all the way. On back roads. On a bike that is very much past the first flush of youth and in my case, with an overweight 43 year old on the back of it...
The real sting in the tail is that the bikes we are doing it on can cost no more than £300... So I have bought a particularly awful example of a motorcycle (a 2008 Yamaha FZ-6 to be precise) and have taken over the garage to prepare the thing. I'll be honest, it's knackered!
Trying to breathe life back into a stolen and then crashed motorcycle is a challenge itself! Especially as it is also originally an Italian bike, so getting the paperwork sorted has been epicly frustrating!
Many long hours have been spent in the garage and many words that my Grandmother would not have approved of have been uttered, especially since the bike appears to have spent much of its life submerged in a swamp. Making it safe and legal is proving harder than originally anticipated and since the bike cost £300, this has left £0 for parts… Much begging and bargaining has ensued to keep within budget! I owe a lot of favours to a lot of people to make this happen.
The Longest Day Down challenge itself was born in late 2012 on a well-known motorcycle magazine web forum, when the suggestion was made about the idea of a charity motorbike run on ridiculously cheap machines from John O’Groats to Land’s End. The response was instant and the first ride happened in 2013.
This year will be the 9th running of what was known as the Long Day Down, but is now the Long Day Up. This change occurred as it was decided that it was too easy riding downhill from Scotland and going uphill was much harder... This mainly proved that both geography and Earth Sciences are not well understood on motorcycle forums, but it did breathe new life into the challenge, so the change was made and now the ride is from South to North.
The ride has been attempted by a variety of machines over the years, from a 50cc Monkey bike (that unsurprisingly did not make it!) to a large, many generations old sportsbike that had some modifications to allow it to cover the entire distance on one tank of fuel. In other words, turning a motorcycle into a moving bomb. After this, it was decided that keeping fuel systems as standard would probably be a good idea for the well-being of other road users!
I'm one of the lucky survivors of cancer, had I been born 30 years earlier, I would not be here. I owe a debt to the scientists, Drs, Nurses and everyone else involved in cancer research and cancer care, who are constantly working to provide new treatments and new ways of caring for those afflicted.
None of us can ever repay this debt fully ourselves, but we can help raise funds so that more people can be as lucky as I have been. I wish everyone could hear those words “There is no evidence of cancer.”