Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Longest Day Up

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 Longest Day Up Challenge, is now in its fifth year, having raised over £75,000 so far for Cancer Research UK. The event format is for a signed up group of motor-bikers to set out from Lands End at sunrise on the longest day, the 21st June, and to ride to John O'Groats, arriving before sunrise on 22nd June, some 900+ miles later. It is important to point out now, that this is not a race as the challenge can be completed without breaking any laws. This is an endurance challenge and if that isn't enough, then 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 meant 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 they realised that finding a working bike for £300 was more difficult than expected. Eventually, Keith, a RoSPA Gold rider and volunteer Bloodrunner, located a Kawasaki ZZR400 for sale in north London. 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 previous 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 bike. 

By January, both machines were road legal and the serious testing started...and then it dawned! 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 for 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 a previous charity ride in 2005, and Ben who lives in Leigh on Sea with his wife Frankie, will set off for Cornwall on Monday 19th June before the start of their challenge. They will follow the set route, which actively avoids motorways and have purposely not set themselves any personal targets for the day. It is more important for them both just to finish the ride, and complete it safely. This is particularly so for Ben who will fly straight back from Scotland to be home with his young son and wife, 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. Short sleeps is not something he is known for! We will have to set a 15 minute alarm or we might get left behind.”
Keith, who hopes for a double celebration in John O'Groats, both for his birthday and arriving in one tired piece said: "We would like to raise as much as we can for Cancer Research UK as we all have friends and family who have been affected by this awful disease."

If you would like to support the riders you can visit their JustGiving pages by following the links below.
Do please leave any good wishes for the guys in the comments box below - they will need all the encouragement they can get.

Many thanks.

Keiths JustGiving

For more about the challenge go to

Oh, and I will be on hand at the end of their ride, covering the story for the press so will bring you an update on this 'midsummer madness' challenge. Keep an eye on Twitter too https://twitter.com/ailecphoto

Meanwhile here is the online press version of this post


  1. What a fabulous endeavour, hope they have great weather and the Snicker bars manage to keep them full of energy for the long day. All the best to them and looking forward to the day's photos! Cheers

    1. Thank you - you could call it midsummer madness but I have every confidence in the two of them - not sure I have the same confidence in their machines so I will wait and see at John O'Groats.


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