Lands End to John O’ Groats…..well almost!

Beit immersing yourself into a bath full of beans, shaving off beards or even cycling ridiculous distances, raising funds for good causes has always been a great thing to help organisations that lack government funding. Regional Manager at Backline, Simon Steer decided back in 2020 that as a keen biker, he wanted to do something that would raise money for the very worthy Devon Air Ambulance. After all, the DAAT is a crucial service for bikers who end up in trouble and ‘shiny side down’.


Of course, it had to be challenging enough to get peoples’ attention to encourage them to part with their hard-earned cash. It didn’t take long to decide on a punishing ride starting at Land’s End and finishing at John O’ Groats. 857 miles in anyone’s book is far enough over a few days however, to attract sponsorship it had to be a greater challenge. It was therefore decided to do the run in one day!


After much organising, booking of accommodation, and human and mechanical preparation, the time had arrived for the lads to meet up and set off for deepest Cornwall. They got together feeling excited but also with a huge feeling of dread as the weather forecast had taken a turn for the worse. This was one occasion where they all hoped that the Met Office had got it wrong.


Sunday 26th June 2022 saw the intrepid bunch set off from St Just at 0215 to get to Land’s End in time to set off no later than 0300 from the famous fingerpost itself. Much preparation had been made calculate time taken for fuel stops and any potential issues. This gave an estimated arrival time at the very top of Scotland between 1930 and 2030 which would see them in the saddle for approximately 17.5 hours…. ouch!

They set off on time with bodies and bikes fully serviced for the journey ahead. 20 minutes in and it started to rain. Indeed, the England leg of the journey saw regular, light rain but this didn’t dampen the day to that point as waterproofs were proving effective. Alas the Scottish border loomed where the story took a dramatic turn.


As they hit Carlisle, the heavens opened, and their waterproofs were quickly back on. Little did they know that they wouldn’t come off for some time. It rained hard for the next 5½ hours and couple that with hazardous side-winds, the ride took on a whole new dangerous complexion.

Passing artics on the A74M proved to be almost life threatening with visibility down and the savage sidewinds posing a real threat even to the larger, heavier bikes in the group. The fuel stops on this leg had to be restricted to 30 minutes to ensure they kept to the schedule. The fuel itself was painfully expensive but the cold and wet was even nastier and the stops saw many of the group stood there shaking uncontrollably. Not bad for the middle of Summer!


They all soldiered on with every mile seeing them wetter and colder, but progress was steady with them all continuing to munch the miles whilst doing weird looking stretches to fend off the aches and pains. Suddenly and with Inverness in their sights, the clouds parted and a rainbow, the brightest of which they had ever seen, welcomed them by hovering over the most beautiful, hilly landscape. This heralded the end of the bad weather and instead the arrival of clearer skies and the long-awaited dry roads to accompany them all the way to the top!


The group of very damp but smiling bikers stopped for a toilet break just outside of Inverness. But as they prepared to go, Simon’s bike wouldn’t start. He tried everything but alas, the bike wouldn’t spring into life. The only option left was to get roadside assistance and sadly send the others on their way to complete the arduous journey. As if it couldn’t get worse, Pete who was riding his T reg VFR800 F1, had a flat battery. But after some swearing and pushing they got him bump-started and he joined the others to complete the journey. They arrived at 2145 with the sun setting behind the famous John O’Groats fingerpost.


As the others were breathing a sigh of relief that they had arrived, Simon struggled to get his insurance company to play ball and had the nasty choice of gambling on getting his bike recovered to a garage to get it fixed in the morning or getting himself and the bike relayed home to Exeter. It was one or the other and if they couldn’t fix it he would have to pay to get him and his bike back to home. With the prospect of missing out on the 5-day return journey he gambled, and it paid off.


After 2½ hours of pacing around the oily old bike garage and after glugging copious amounts of tea, Simon’s FJR1300 finally sprung into life. The extreme, wet weather on the way up had got into the electrical system but all was now sorted. With the 2½ hours ride down through the most fantastic roads and scenery, ahead of him, Simon headed off with a renewed vigour and ultimate relief to meet the others at the 1st overnight at Fort William. Before he left, he called them and told them a porkie that his bike couldn’t be fixed and he was on his way home. When he unexpectedly arrived at the hotel, the relief that they were all back together was massive. They then celebrated and tucked into many beers and the most fantastic curry.


The next 5 days saw them winding their way back to the Southwest by riding the most fantastic roads in the UK. The Highlands, Trossachs, Lake District, Snowdonia, Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons etc etc….it was just pure biker heaven. The mountain passes in Snowdonia were a highlight. Browsing these passes and seeing the endless ribbons of tarmac stretched out in front of them at the bottom of the most stunning glacial valleys was emotional. Even a touch of rain couldn’t spoil the experience. In fact, the weather was much kinder than the upward journey and there were grins from ear-to-ear all round.


As the lads hit the M5 there was a tinge of sadness that the adventure was pretty much over and to rub salt in the wound, the traffic was as heavy and at a standstill for miles…. but they were on bikes! With filtering (split-laning) now legal, they cut through the carnage and headed home with sore bodies but big smiles and memories of a lifetime.


Cast and bikes left to right at Fort William: Jamie Wells with his cracking little Honda CB500X, Simon Steer, Backline RM with his mighty but flawed Yamaha FJR1300, Andy Callan (Backline Trainer) with his beautifully engineered BMW RT, Marc Wells and the awesome Honda Africa Twin 1100, Kev Burt, and his beloved Kawasaki Vulcan S 600, and finally, Pete Williams and his totally underestimated and beeeeeautiful yellow ‘T’ reg VFR800 F1).


Finally, and most importantly, many, many, many thanks for all who donated their hard-earned cash and to those who shared our posts to raise the profile of this incredible journey. To date the LEJOG 2022 team have raised £1315 for those wonderful people at the DAAT.