Mile Muncher
A brief history of my biking
How it all began
Long distance biking
The RNLI challenge
The GTR 1000
Tips and advice from the expert
What makes a good road to ride on?
Future riding trips
The Institute of Advanced Motorists
Off road motorcycling
Items for sale



The RNLI challenge took place in June 1999



Where would you like to ride today?

This site is best viewed in a resolution of 800 x 600 or higher.

MAIL ME FUTURE RIDES BIKES FOR SALE Cravenplan Computers Limited



All Lined up at Aberystwyth ready for the off









Silly poses kept us amused during the night


Costas Constantine (Greek) by the sign in Cornwall pointing to Constantine and Gweek - we couldn't resist a photo





The finish - Lymington


Lymington again - with Bill's Land Rover



RNLI Challenge 48 in 48 - June 1999

My great friend Bill Bonfield suggested it would be fun to compete in the RNLI Challenge in June 1999.  The Challenge was: Visit as many RNLI Lifeboat stations as possible between 6pm Friday 4th June '99 and 6pm Sunday 6th June '99 (48 hours).

I never could resist a challenge so we set about planning the trip.

Read the full story below:


The RNLI Challenge 1999 (The full story)

It's March 1999, only a few months left before the new millennium in which to do something spectacular. A very good friend of mine, Bill Bonfield, mentioned that there was an interesting challenge coming up later in the year. 1999 was the 175th anniversary of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution), a charity funded wholly by donations. To celebrate they decided to run the first RNLI Challenge. The jolly wheeze was to visit as many lifeboat stations as possible in 48 hours using any form of transport the team chose. It seemed like a long way off and sounded like a good idea at the time!

Having been a keen motorcyclist for many years there really was no other choice for the means of getting between stations, although the down side to this decision was to strike us later - whilst teams using cars would be able to stay on the move for the full 48 hours by sleeping in rotation we would have to stay awake, alert, warm and cheerful whilst riding safely and navigating as well as avoiding the diesel spills, myopic Volvo drivers and slippery sheep droppings for over 40 of the 48 hours.

The next thing was to find three other adventurous souls who would be prepared to join me. Enter Diederik, Stephen and Costas. Bill would have loved to ride along with us but decided he was not really up to it these days, besides he was expecting to be in France during June, so he became unofficial chief organiser. The team assembled for the first time in April for a planning meeting - unfortunately my description of the task ahead was sufficient to persuade Diederik that he would be unwise to attempt to ride all that way in one weekend, probably the best decision he made that year - having decided we could not let him off the hook completely we elected him support vehicle driver. There then followed much discussion about what we needed to achieve the maximum number of stations in the allotted 48 hours. The highest concentrations of lifeboat stations in the UK are around the Cornish coast and along the North East coast. It had already been decided that there were only two possible routes which would include a large number of stations whilst providing a reasonably convenient start and end point, these both involved starting at Aberystwyth, partly because my mother-in-law lives only 20 miles away and we knew we would get a good night's sleep there the night before the off. We thought a sheet detailing the exact location of each station along with a street map and directions would be useful so we set about designing the layout for that. Bill had been busy at work during the previous weeks and had entered the location for every one of the 220 lifeboat stations in the UK into Autoroute. We ran the two routes through the computer and decided that the best one would be the Cornish route as it would end nearest to home for all of us. Bill set to work again and contacted his local library, they were most helpful and provided all the Ordnance Survey maps covering the coastline from Aberystwyth to Brighton. Bill then created the most amazing loose leaf folder with details of every station and a drawing of the location - this was to prove invaluable on a number of occasions later.

Each red dot is an RNLI station on our routeTechnology was to be used to good effect wherever possible so we all thought a GPS (Global Positioning System) would be useful. In view of the fact that we now had a support driver we figured we had better find something for him to drive - a large van would be great so that we could store all the bits we didn't want to take on the bikes and still have room to have a lie down should the weather be less than perfect (more later). The next few weeks saw various companies contacted for help. Sixt vehicle rental offered to loan us a large van and even donated vouchers for two free tanks of fuel, Garmin kindly agreed to loan 5 GPS units so that we could fit one to each bike and have one for the support van, Travelodge said they could provide two rooms at their Swansea hotel so that we could sleep well on the first night.

In order to ascertain the minimum amount of sleep we could safely manage with, I surfed the Internet looking for expertise on sleep deprivation, I found a number of useful pages provided by Loughborough University along with details of the team there. I contacted a very helpful lecturer, Dr Reyner, who advised me that we should take most of our sleep on the first night, 5 hours was suggested, this would mean that we were alert and ready for some serious motoring on the Saturday, the second night we could manage with only 2 hours sleep which would give us enough of a top up to get us through Sunday. This advice proved invaluable and meant that none of us ever felt dangerously tired despite the distance we travelled.

A couple more planning meetings in May ensured that we would be as ready as we were ever going to be. The only major problem facing us was that we had not persuaded any other biker to join us so we used our imagination and co-opted Arthur the stuffed monkey onto our team allowing us to meet the rule stating that all teams must have four members. Then potential disaster number one occurred, I have spent 25 years not falling off motorbikes but whilst out riding the green lanes on my trials bike I got stuck in a rut and came a cropper at around 35 miles an hour, quite sufficient to hurt, I badly bruised both legs and broke my right thumb as I flew over the handlebars - only two weeks to go! Determined not to be thwarted I got back on the bike next day to see if I could manage the controls - all seemed OK provided I didn't have to brake too hard. The day before setting off for Wales I was on my monthly visit to Reading for the Jazz club when potential disaster number two struck - the clutch on the bike stopped working, I managed to limp home, stalling the bike on several occasions. No time to get the bike booked into the dealer so I set about learning about Kawasaki clutches from the manual, I very quickly realised I was getting out of my depth so I rang Mike Crumbie, a friend in the village for some moral support. Mike offered to come and help so we set about stripping the clutch from an old bike I had kept for spares. To cut a long story short we finally finished rebuilding the clutch late on the Thursday afternoon, around the time I was supposed to be arriving in Wales. I finally left for Wales around six thirty and arrived at the pub where I had arranged to meet Costas and Stephen at around 10:30. From there we set off for Ruth's mum's house and a welcome rest before the big day.

Friday morning we had a lie in - the last one we would have for a few days! We eventually got our act together and went to New Quay for a trial run on a lifeboat station which I had not visited before. The GPS led us towards the station and the sheet of directions showed us the street we needed - in all it took about 3 minutes to find our goal - mission accomplished we set about buying some fish and chips for lunch. Then it was back to the house to greet Diederik in the van.

Around 4pm we set off for Aberystwyth at a leisurely pace, a gale force wind was brewing and the sea was very rough, a sign of the weather to come. The lifeboat station was decorated with flags and bunting to welcome us - we were one of four teams starting from Aberystwyth. In all there were 123 teams lining up around the country to take part in the Challenge. We found out that two of the teams we were up against were using helicopters.

The press took lots of photos of the teams and then six o'clock approached - all the team members were lined up along one side of the road with their vehicles along the other, Le Mans style, the Coxswain sent up a flare and we all ran to our bikes - engines fired up instantly and we were first away, closely followed by a team in a bright red Mondeo with RNLI Challenge emblazoned across the bonnet and several sponsors names painted on the side. We were somewhat bemused when we took what we thought would be the quickest route to the next station, Borth, only to see the Mondeo behind us take a different turning, a couple of miles down the main road we turned off towards Borth 100 yards behind the Mondeo. We arrived at Borth together only to see the benefits of having a team of four in a car. They leapt out of the car, took the obligatory photo to prove they had been there and 20 seconds later were gone again. We on the other hand had to climb off the bikes, take off gloves and extract the camera from my pannier, at least two members of the team were required to be in the photo so Arthur and I were snapped by Stephen whilst Costas was busy recording arrival time and mileage (his allotted task at every station), we then inserted the next sheet into our tank bag map cases, reset the GPS for the next location, donned gloves and helmets again and headed south towards New Quay.

New Quay came and went, as did Cardigan. Due to my local knowledge and our early energy we were almost an hour ahead of schedule when we reached Fishguard. Our enthusiasm was given even more of a boost when we were greeted by Bill and his wife Pat who had driven down from London to cheer us on our way. The local press were also present and we did our duty by posing again, the hardship of stardom! Only time for a few more words with Bill then off to St David's the most Westerly station in Wales. This is the smallest city in the UK, which is just as well really as the lifeboat station was hard enough to find as it was, our trusty GPS got us there in the end. Next up we visited Little Haven where the station is at the end of a twisty, steep and muddy hill, perhaps we should have fitted knobbly tyres. Another track awaited us at Angle, the next stop on route. After about a mile we came upon what appeared to be a house but in fact turned out to be the local pub, how they get any trade at the end of such a treacherous road I don't know, but the pub was full. One of the drinkers was the Coxswain who pointed us another third of a mile along the track to the station. By now the rain had started in earnest and we wondered what was in store for the rest of the weekend. Stephen decided to try out his sideways riding technique on a wet manhole cover which sprang out of nowhere, all his training and a certain amount of luck meant he managed to pull off this daredevil feat with only an increased heart rate to show for it.

Tenby looked as if it was going to be tricky to find so we asked Diederik to scout ahead in the van, he eventually found the station at the end of a very narrow road and duly left a message on Costas's mobile phone, despite this we still went round the one-way system twice before finding the right road. Diederik, meanwhile, was driving on fumes, he started work finding the next days first stops and found some petrol before heading to the Swansea Travelodge where a very welcome bed awaited. We set off via Burry Port and got to the deserted Travelodge around 01:30 on Saturday morning, 263 miles under our belts, only another 850 or so to go. I had spoken to Sylvia Davis, the manager of the Travelodge on the Wednesday and she had mentioned that her family had been heavily involved in the RNLI, sadly she was not on duty that morning but we were quickly shown to our rooms. A surprise awaited us when we got to the rooms as Bill and Pat had passed by earlier and left a newspaper with a somewhat doctored headline which read "Middlesex Madmen Invade Wales" as well as a quantity of Mars bars and other goodies ready to speed us on our way next day.

The pre-arranged alarm call came at 06:25 and it was time for a very quick shower before venturing out into the fresh morning air, joy of joys the rain had stopped. A quick refuel was in order as we were already in the service area, then it was off to the Mumbles for the first station of the day and a short breakfast stop. Next came the delights of Port Talbot and Porthcawl. The familiar phrase "ride so that you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear" certainly came home to us near the next stop, Atlantic College, when we rounded a corner to find three large highland cattle standing across the road, they must have taken the wrong turning at Glasgow. Fortunately we were riding safely and stopped a few feet away from the largest of the three, they seemed to have very large horns, perhaps it was the early hour that made them look more frightening. The Atlantic College lifeboat station is behind the college, fortunately we had been tipped off about this so we ignored the "closed" signs and rode into the college grounds to be faced with a fork in the road, needless to say we took the wrong fork and ended up in a very muddy, slippery farmyard where we had to attempt a three point turn.

Barry Dock was next and then Penarth, then the rain started again just to remind us that this was still Wales. So we headed for England and Weston Super Mare, sadly the rain got worse so we looked forward to lunch inside the van. Well, we found the van but it was locked and Diederik was nowhere to be seen, a frantic phone call to his mobile produced our saviour and we all piled into the back of the van for a short lunch break. It was hard to force ourselves back out into the rain but we knew we had to go, so it was back on with the soggy gloves and we trudged our way for the rest of the day round the unseasonably wet coast of Devon and Cornwall visiting Minehead, Ilfracombe, Appledore, Clovelly, Bude, Port Isaac, Rock and Padstow when the rain finally admitted we had more stamina than it did just before New Quay. The road to New Quay was especially beautiful, not only because of the wonderful scenery and the gorgeous sunset but also because it was DRY!, we even saw a very unusual underground house built into the hillside

We found the lifeboat station in New Quay and sure enough there was the van but once again no Diederik, he had gone off looking for sufficient phone signal to call us from his mobile. In the meantime we had ascertained that many of the lifeboat crew were enjoying themselves at a party in the club next to the station. A couple of them broke away from the action to make cups of tea for us to spur us on to the next location. Diederik, meanwhile had managed to find a signal and was calling his partner, Rebecca, to report progress when a passing youth shouted "I'll have her knickers tonight for sure", leaving Diederik to explain to Rebecca that he really wasn't at some wild party, he eventually convinced her and arrived back at the station in time to open up the van so that we could have a sandwich for supper. Our memory of New Quay is of young ladies wearing very short skirts and skimpy tops despite the almost sub Arctic temperatures whilst we stood shivering in our waterproofs, how can they do that, perhaps there is a direct correlation between temperature endurable and the quantity of anti-freeze (alcohol) they have consumed? Sadly this hypothesis could not be studied further as it was now gone ten p.m. and we were three minutes behind schedule. St Agnes and St Ives were next on the list. Thanks to Costas's parking near a bend in St Ives the local police stopped to ask us to move on so we persuaded them to give us an escort out of town, just as well really as the place is a mass of tiny streets. We arrived at Sennen Cove, one mile from Land's End one minute before midnight. Marazion was our next stop and on the approach we saw Bill, Pat and Diederik. Unfortunately the lifeboat station was across a causeway which was only accessible at low tide so we improvised and took a picture in the car park instead. Bill informed us that he had managed to persuade a local campsite to allow us to stay there for the night so we enthusiastically headed off behind his Land Rover in convoy. Diederik, Costas and Stephen slept in the van whilst I decided to make the most of the lack of rain and slept out under the stars. Around four in the morning the alarm clock woke us and we set off towards The Lizard, leaving Bill tucked up in his tent.

The dawn chorus begun and it looked as if we were in for a pleasant day ahead - WRONG as it turned out. The birds and rabbits in this neck of the woods were obviously used to having the whole road to play on at that time of the morning because their road sense was sadly lacking, this somewhat reduced our progress for the first few miles of the day but we did avoid any serious incidents. On the way back from The Lizard we just had to stop for an unscheduled photograph at a signpost, Costas Constantine who is Greek duly posed under the post which was to "Constantine and Gweek". We reached Falmouth and spotted a petrol station, not bad at ten to six in the morning, so we filled up whilst we could. Just down the road we came on some road works and dutifully stopped at the red light. We waited a minute or so and became a little impatient, another minute passed and Stephen got off his bike and started jumping up and down in front of the sensor on the lights, as this seemed not to be working I joined him, imagine if you can two motorcyclists jumping around and waving in front of the lights just after six in the morning - we'd have been locked up if a police car had happened along. After about five minutes the lights changed and having had our early morning aerobics we headed for Fowey and then Looe. We met Diederik at the Harbour for breakfast and watched the fishing boats heading off for the day. It was here that Costas made his big mistake, he took his waterproof jacket off and asked Diederik to carry it in the van as the sun was quite warm. NOT GOOD - the rain started again on the approach to Plymouth and didn't stop for most of the day again. I had worked out that if we kept up our current rate of progress it was possible we could achieve 46 to 48 stations before the six o'clock deadline so I mentioned to the others that "48 in 48" would be a fitting slogan for the event, it was around this time that they decided I should no longer be known as "MileMuncher" but "SlaveDriver" was more appropriate, how unkind. We rode on through increasingly wet conditions to Salcombe. A well meaning member of the crew there suggested it would be best to take the minor roads along the coast to reach Torbay via the ferry at Dartmouth instead of the route we had planned via Totnes. A quick look at the map confirmed that the distance was considerably shorter so against our better judgement we decided to opt for the coastal route. I have never seen so many drivers whose cars could not exceed 30 MPH and then to cap it all the ferry at Dartmouth was sitting on the far bank of the river waiting to fill up with cars before crossing. We waited at least ten minutes before it arrived and as we were now well behind schedule I had a quick word with the ferryman to explain our predicament and how we were on a charity challenge to benefit the RNLI - he definitely wins the prize for the least helpful person we came across on our journey - not only did he insist on us parking our bikes behind the cars, he also opened the far gate first so that all the cars had to leave the ferry before we could get off, maybe he got out of bed the wrong side that morning. Having left Salcombe over 35 minutes ahead of schedule we arrived at Torbay 5 minutes late, It was becoming obvious a major push would be needed so lunch was abandoned and Teignmouth and Exeter beckoned.

Driving along the dual carriageway into Exemouth I just had to laugh out loud as the most enormous hail stones suddenly showered on to us with no warning - they were so big they hurt. We slowed gently from 70 MPH for fear of sliding on the icy ball bearings beneath us. We knew the weather couldn't get any worse so we just hoped it would get better. The weather was also delaying our progress somewhat and we were fearful we might not manage the 48 in 48 which had become our goal. Not to be defeated we discovered that Exemouth has in fact got two working lifeboat stations, an inshore and an offshore one, so we visited both and counted that as two more on our score, well it was for charity after all. Lyme Regis saw Diederik again - he had diverted off course to deliver Costas his jacket back, for what it was worth. As we got near Weymouth the traffic got heavier and progress became more tricky. The road to Swanage was particularly busy, who were all these people and why did they want to go out on a wet, cold Sunday afternoon? The planned tea-break at Swanage was abandoned as we were still 20 minutes behind and anyway the end was now in sight, what is more it had finally stopped raining, or did we just imagine that bit? Poole was the scene of a quick strategy meeting with Bill, Pat and Diederik at which we decided we could make our target with a supreme last ditch effort. It was now five to five so we had only sixty-five minutes to go. We got to Mudeford and I stopped to ask a chap if we were on the right road - he tried to tell me two or three different routes to the lifeboat station despite my thanks and protestations that we only had a very short time left, I eventually managed to extricate myself and left him reeling off other alternative routes. As we drove over the speed humps into the car park at Mudeford at a very sedate 5 MPH I heard a loud crack - on investigation I found that the bracket holding my nearside pannier to the bike had broken. The pannier was held on only by gravity so I quickly improvised and tied it on with my scarf. We finally left Mudeford with only 21 minutes to travel the 10 miles to Lymington and find the lifeboat station. It seemed like every road we needed had a thirty MPH limit and to make matters worse the traffic was heavy. Much to our relief we found the station at Lymington almost straight away thanks to the GPS and pulled in with only six minutes to spare. Bill and Pat in the Land Rover and Diederik in the van all arrived within a few minutes so we arranged ourselves for the obligatory team photo. The sense of achievement was immense - we had done what we set out to do - forty-eight lifeboat stations in forty-eight hours. We could finally relax and stood around chatting, reliving various stations and drinking cans of Red Bull. Before we knew what had happened it was half past seven so Stephen set off for London. Costas, on the other hand, was feeling rather rough having had a severe stomach ache for several hours. He decided to join Bill, Pat and Diederik back at my place for the evening as it was closer than London. Needless to say we all slept rather well that Sunday night.

Was it worth it? Yes, we will collect around three thousand pounds for the RNLI as a result of the ride and it was very satisfying to see the preparation, planning and team spirit work so well.

What of the other teams? Well we beat both the teams using helicopters! They had to retire due to the bad weather and high winds. Our team was placed 27th out of the 123 teams that took part. The winning team was using a VW Sharan people carrier which allowed them to sleep whilst on the move. They kept going for the full 48 hours and managed a staggering 68 stations in that time.

Finally a big thank you to my fellow team members, Stephen Trevelyan, Costas Constantine, Diederik Kohnhorst, Bill & Pat Bonfield and all the sponsors, Sixt for the van which kept us warmer and dryer than we would otherwise have been, Garmin for helping keep us on track, Travelodge for ensuring one good nights sleep, Surrey County Library for their help in finding 25 Ordnance Survey maps, Dr Reyner at Loughborough University for helping us to stay awake, Brian Stevens for fitting the GPS units, Mike Crumbie for helping to fix the clutch on my bike, Reading Jazz Club, The RNA, Middlesex Advanced Motorcyclists, Salisbury Plain Advanced Motorists, the Swallowcliffe Newsletter and The Royal Oak for providing the sponsors.

RNLI website:
RNLI team fundraising events - An online resource detailing all the fundraising events in the UK currently organised by the RNLI