Saffron Walden Bikers to ride over 900 miles in 24 hours from dawn in England to dawn in Scotland

Father-in-law and son-in-law Keith Bartlett and Ben Smither are biking over 900 miles for charity

Father-in-law and son-in-law Keith Bartlett and Ben Smither are biking over 900 miles for charity - Credit: Archant

When avid biker and advanced motorcyclist Keith Bartlett suggested to his biker son-in-law Ben Smither, that they should sign up for The Longest Day Up Challenge, they saw it as a way of enjoying some motorbike riding time together. Little did they realise what it would really entail.

The Challenge, in aid of Cancer Research UK is now in its fifth year, the organisation having raised over £75,000 so far. A group of motor-bikers set out from Lands End at sunrise on the longest day, June 21 and ride to John O’Groats, arriving before sunrise on June 22, over 900 miles later.

It is important to say that this isn’t a race so that the challenge can be completed without breaking any laws. This is an endurance challenge and if that isn’t enough, each participant must have bought a machine, have it prepared, legal and ready to ride specifically for the challenge.

No favourite, comfortable fast machines here, in a word “cheap” and that means costing no more than £300.

It was at the end of 2016 that Keith and Ben, at 30 the youngest rider taking part in this years challenge, began their search for a suitable machine and realised that finding a working bike for £300 was more difficult than expected.

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Keith is a RoSPA gold rider and volunteer bloodrunner (he rushes donated blood to hospitals with SERV Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Service by Emergency Response Volunteers).

Eventually he found a Kawasaki ZZR400 for sale in north London.

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Sold as a “runner”, it took many hours of TLC to bring it back to life after having lived under a Leylandi hedge for the past two years.

There were several surprises during the recovery, even finding the underside of the exhaust pipe patched up with gaffer tape.

Ben, whose grandfather Malcolm Smither was well known in the motorbike trade before his retirement, found a larger Yamaha XJ600 but it needed some major tinkering.

Thankfully, between Keith and Ben, each of them being capable engineers, they were able to fix the bikes.

By January, both machines were road legal and the serious testing started. Then it dawned on them. What had they let themselves in for? Would it be a dry ride? What should they eat? What would be the most comfortable clothes for their backsides but most of all, how would they keep awake all those hours riding between checkpoints?

Sleep deprivation will be a huge challenge and so they have sought advice from previous participants as well as record breaking Rhys Lawrey, who rode non-stop around the world. His advice, should they choose to follow it is: water, Snickers bars and power naps.

Keith from Saffron Walden, (a LeJog veteran from 2005) and Ben who lives in Leigh on Sea with his wife Frankie, (who was a pupil at Saffron Walden County High School) will set off for Cornwall on Monday, June 19 before the start of their challenge.

They have purposely set themselves no time schedule for the set route, which actively avoids motorways, as they both just want to complete the ride safely.

At the end, Ben will fly back from Scotland to be home with his young son, Owen 11 months and Frankie who is soon to give birth to their second child. Ben said: “Keith and I will be riding together but my biggest worry is waiting for him to have his power naps, not something he is known for. We will have to set a 15 minute alarm or we might get left behind.”

Keith said: “We would like to raise as much as we can for Cancer Research UK as we have both have friends and family who have been affected by this awful disease.”

Keith, who will celebrate his 55th birthday on June 23 when he reaches Scotland, has raised £1,366 so far and is still fundraising on:

Ben has raised £217 of his £500 target. To help him raise more, go to:

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