Sunday, 15 November 2015

10 Downing Street

Hi all,

Thanks for tuning in to another edition of the Arctic Rider blog.

Hopefully by now you know that I am getting stuck into the planning of my next charity motorbike adventure... THE IRON BUTT CHALLENGE. In July 2016 I'll ride my motorbike the length of the UK from Land's End to John O'Groats in (hopefully) less than 24 hours... all to raise money and awareness for the charity Tiny Lives Trust.

I'm both excited and nervous about my Iron Butt ride but one thing is for sure, its going to be a challenge.

However today's blog is not about my Iron Butt training but about my continued work with the charity Cerebra whom I did my Arctic Ride 2014 for (click here if you want to know more about that).

After my Arctic Ride 2014 fundraising Cerebra gave me the honor of becoming an Ambassador for them. Cerebra has a team of ambassadors, made up of parents, carers, professionals, and others who are passionate about the work that the charity does (like me). My role as an ambassador is to raise awareness about the work of Cerebra, fundraising, and get involved in publicity events.

Previously, in December 2014, I was invited to attend the Cerebra Children's awards at the Houses of Parliament.

House of Lords - November 2014  (Gordon second right)

A few months ago I received an invite from Cerebra and Samantha Cameron (the UK Prime Minister's wife) to attend a charity reception 10 Downing Street (the Prime Minsters House) one of the most prestigious and exclusive locations in the UK. Downing Street only hold a few of these receptions each year so its testament to the great work of the Cerebra PR team to get the charity a slot.

The aim of the event was to raise the profile of Cerebra in London and across the UK, as well as sharing some stories of families supported by the charity, and encourage donations and support.

10 Downing Street, London
I was due to be joined by my wife Kirsty (my biggest supporter for all my crazy journeys) however the day before our little girl Islay came down with Chicken Pox so Kirsty stayed home in Newcastle to look after her.

The reception started a 7pm and after queuing outside with other guests I passed through airport style security at the gates of Downing Street before wandering up to the famous door. It was quite a surreal experience. I'm used to seeing heads of state, celebrities, and ministers entering the door but I was actually walking through it for the first time. After being frisked (again) and giving up my mobile phone (they are not allowed inside hence the lack of pictures on this blog) I headed down a long corridor before being shown up a grand staircase. This staircase was decorated with all Britain's past Prime Ministers. When I got to the top I noticed the last picture was Gordon Brown and there was no room for any more. My only assumption is that David Cameron's photo will be put either on the ceiling or a nice table at the top of the stairs when he leaves office.

The reception itself was fantastic. I met some amazing people including an elderly Scottish couple who had been raising funds for brain injury charities longer than I've been alive, some barristers who support Cerebra and do pro-bono work to help families supported by the charity (I also managed to sell them an Arctic Ride DVD), and some great families who have been supported by Cerebra and are truly inspiring through there resolve, dedication, and love for their children.

I came away feeling a great sense of pride. Pride in the charity that I am an ambassador, pride in my fundraising efforts in 2014, and pride in the children who carry on living life to the full in the face of adversity.

On the way out of Downing Street

While my next ride will be raising money for Tiny Lives Trust, you can still support Cerebra by donating today. One of my favorite was to donate to Cerebra is through their 'Count me In' lottery. Joining the Cerebra lottery is really easy and gives you the chance of winning a great weekly cash prize of £1,500 (plus other prices). It only cost £1.20 a week and can be set up quickly and securely. Click here to find out more information.

Thanks for reading. Look out for my next blog when I have some exciting news about my Iron Butt Challenge.

Ride safe,


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Lets get planning

Hi everyone,

Thanks for tuning in!

I've been very bad and not blogged for a month or so, but I've been a busy lad so hopefully you'll let me off.

Its been nearly 2 months since I announced that I am taking on the Iron Butt Challenge in 2016 and the Dalton Highway in Alaska before 2020.

The Iron Butt challenge will see me ride the length of the UK from Land's End in the South to John O'Groats in the North in LESS THAN 24 HOURS - The map below shows you my route:

Now not only do I have to ride the 875 in less than 24 hours (300 of which is through the Scottish Highlands), I've also got to get myself to Lands End from my home of Newcastle upon Tyne the day before and back from John O'Groats the day after... its a good job I like riding my bike!!!

I've had a few people ask me if I'm mad... I think the answer is yes. A few people have asked if its possible, which of course it is... but not many have officially completed it which is why I see it was such a challenge. And the great thing for me is that no-one, as far as I'm aware, has done it on the bike I ride, a Suzuki GSX650f... so I might just get into the record books.

So what have I been up to that's caused me not to blog...? Well apart form the usual working, playing a bit of footy, and doing family stuff, I've been starting with my preparation.


I've now officially linked up with Tiny Lives and let them know what I am doing. They are fully behind me and have started tweeting messages of good luck and are helping me with my preparation.

They have also sent me some merchandise to help spread the word!

Also, I've finally opened my giving page. So if you would like to sponsor me for my IronButt challenge, so matter how big or small, then you can do so at the below link.


For a ride like this I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to do some training to be successful. I've been in touch with several seasoned IronButters on twitter with the majority of advice being to practice small and long rides as part of my training.

In September I popped up to the South West of Scotland to see some family and completed a 300 mile day. This was just on A-roads and showed me the challenge I'm going to have in terms of losing time if i get caught behind a tractor, hit some road works, or take a wrong turning. More practice needed indeed.

Corporate stuff

As with my Arctic Ride 2014 I'm looking for corporate supporters to sponsor and support my ride and the charity. I've been trying to work my magic to get some companies on board but nothing concrete yet! If you know of a company that might be interested in being a sponsor (name and logo on my bike and website for a fall fee which goes straight to Tiny Lives) then please do get in touch.

Also I'd like to give a big shout out to Mrs Arctic Ride (my wife Kirsty) who is taking on her own, non-motorbike, challenge to raise money for Tiny Lives Trust. Check out her 365 Miles to Setpember blog here: 

And that's all for this blog. Slow and steady wins the race (or gets to John O'Groats in less than 24 hours).

Watch out for my up and coming Vlog on Youtube.

Ride safe.


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

What next: The Results


Thanks for tuning in to my blog!

I'm currently planing my next charity motorbike challenge, which will raise money for the charity Tiny Lives who supported my little girl Islay when she was born. Islay turned 1 this week which means this time last year was being cared for on the Special Care Baby Unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. What a difference a year makes...

In my last blog I detailed the different options for my next ride which I asked you, my lovely readers, to help me decide. I also spent a bit too much time on Paint making them into 'Top Trumps'.

Thanks to all those who voted and let me know their thoughts. All of the options will be a challenge and its my goal to complete all of them, some day, but your votes and my thoughts will take me through the next few years.


In 4th place is Arctic Ride: Trans Siberian Highway -  The 9,000 mile ultra long distance ride didn't appeal to those who voted taking a slim 6% of the votes.

In 3rd place is The Mongol Rally - Maybe it was the £1,000 entry fee, maybe it was the thought that a 125cc bike wouldn't hold my weight for 6,000 miles but either way only 12% of the votes went the way of this ride through Europe and Asia.

In joint 1st place is Arctic Ride: Adventure Alaska (Dalton Highway)  and Iron Butt Challenge - UK end to end - Both of these options came in with exactly the same number of votes, each gaining 41% of the the total. This is a clear indication that those who voted leaned more towards me doing 'shorter' more intense rides.

The Announcement 

So that's the voting over and I can now officially announce my plans!

In 2016 I will attempt the Iron Butt Challenge - UK end to end - This is to ride the length of UK, from Lands End in Cornwall 874 miles to John O'Groats in the Scottish Highlands in less than 24 hours. All to raise money for charity Tiny Lives.

And before 2020 I will attempt the Arctic Ride: Adventure Alaska (Dalton Highway) riding one of the worlds most dangerous roads deep in Arctic Alaska, again for Tiny Lives.

And that's it for now. Over the coming months there will be plenty more information, pictures, and videos on the blog including more on Islay's story, more about Tiny Lives the charity, and of course my preparations for the Iron Butt Challenge next year.

Thanks for reading.

Ride safe.


Saturday, 4 July 2015

What next: The options

Hi everyone,

As I said in my last blog, I'm currently planning my next charity motorbike trip to raise money for the charity Tiny Lives who supported my baby girl Islay when she was first born.

Ever since I returned from Arctic Norway I've been looking at the map to decide where I'm going to head in the future on my trusty steed. I've narrowed it down to 4 options (at the moment).

Arctic Ride: Adventure Alaska (Dalton Highway)

Summary - Ride from the city of Anchorage is Southern Alaska to Prudhoe Bay, the most northerly town in Alaska, deep inside the Arctic Circle. The route is via the deadly Dalton Highway, one of the worlds most dangerous road.

Total mileage - 2,000

Difficulty rating - Very High - Due to the treacherous nature of the Dalton Highway and the potential climate of Arctic Alaska. Off road riding required.

What the experts say - "Every year motorcyclists are killed on the Dalton Highway. Almost half of the highway is paved or chip sealed. The other half can be smooth or baseballs. There are relatively no places to stop along the way: no gas, no convenient stores, no McDonalds. There are stretches of up to 245 miles without gas. You are literally riding through pristine wilderness.  Welcome to the food chain." - Phil Freeman, Veteran of 10+ rides up the Dalton Highway.

Cost Rating - High - Flights to the states + bike rental or shipping.

Time needed - At least Two weeks including travel to and from Alaska.

Dalton Highway, Alaska

Iron Butt Challenge - UK end to end

Summary - Ride the length of the UK, Lands End to John O'Groats (874 miles), in less than 24 hours. Officially 117 people have competed this challenge.

Total mileage - 1,800

Difficulty rating - High - Ultra long distance single day ride with over 1/3 on country roads. Time limit and major fatigue.

What the experts say - "Know your limits. If the longest ride you have ever taken is 300 miles in a day, don't plan a trip with a string of endless five- hundred mile days. Iron Butt Association surveys also warn of an important trend in long distance trip planning. Discounting weather or other problems; after an initial mileage peak on days one and two, daily average mileage will steadily drop during trip days three to seven. If the pros have this type of mileage attrition rate, would you plan on any less?"Archive of Wisdom, Iron Butt Assosiation

Cost Rating - Low - Fuel + food.

Time needed - 3 days. 1 to Lands End, 1 to complete the challenge, 1 home from Scotland.

Mongol Rally

Summary The Mongol Rally thunders 10,000 miles across the mountains, desert and steppe of Europe and Asia each summer. There’s no backup, no support and no set route; just you, your fellow adventurists and a tiny bike you bought from a scrapyard for £11.50. Must be done on a bike no bigger than a 125cc.

Total mileage - 6,000

Difficulty rating - Very High - Ultra long distance, off road, 125cc size limit, across barren countries...

What the experts say - "Bollocks to tarmac, ABS and gadgets that help you find your navel. The Mongol Rally is about getting lost, using your long neglected wits, raising shedloads of cash for charity and scraping into the finish line with your vehicle in tatters and a wild grin smeared across your grubby face. Neither your bike, nor your life, will ever be the same again" Mogol rally website,

Cost Rating - Very High - Entrance fee, fuel for 6,000 miles, repatriation home for the bike and I.

Time needed - 3-6 weeks.

Arctic Ride: Trans Siberian Highway

Summary The Trans-Siberian Highway is the network of federal highways that span the width of Russia from the Baltic Sea of the Atlantic Ocean to the Japan Sea of the Pacific Ocean. It stretches over 11,000 kilometres from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok.

Total mileage - 9,000

Difficulty rating - Very High - Ultra long distance across barren countries...

What the experts say - "Stretching almost 7,000 miles from St Petersburg to Vladivostok, the Trans-Siberian Highway - much of which was built by gulag inmates - varies from pristine motorway in the west to dirt track in the east. For most of the year, conditions are excellent (if a little cold), but during the warm, wet summers, sections of the road have been transformed into an impassable quagmire" - The world's most dangerous roads, Telegraph Travel supplement

Cost Rating - High - Fuel for 9,000 miles, repatriation home for me and the bike

Time needed - 4-7 weeks.

The above has been my thinking over the past year or so (and I've looked into them in a lot of detail). For me its all about how I can mixed my passion for motorcycling with challenging myself and raising a whole load of money for charity. You've got to spend money to make money.

I've taken the liberty of creating my own version of 'Top Trumps' to compare the options and I'd be grateful for your opinion.

CLICK HERE to vote for your favorite. My choice will be announced in due course.

Ride safe y'all.


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

What next for the Arctic Rider?


Thanks for visiting my blog!

Now its not easy being a charity motorbike adventurer sometimes. Like most on the internet these days, it seems to attract trolls who want to try and spoil what you are doing. Only this week I had a social media commenter who 'didn't understand the bit about raising money'... which I found pretty odd. From my point of view if someone can do an activity that's a bit out there, or different, or challenging, and they can raise some money for a charity along the way, then its all good. Whether you are a runner, a cyclist, jumping out of a plane, or riding your motorbike to very cold places... it shouldn't matter. In fact it should be something to be proud of, not only those who do the activities, but those who support and donate. The world is a greedy enough place without people bashing charity fundraisers.

On a personal level, one thing that really inspires me when I hear about charity fundraisers are those who raise money and take on challenges for a particular cause which is close to their heart. Now I'm not saying that if Joe Bloggs runs the London marathon for Cancer UK when he or his family haven't been impacted by cancer isn't a good thing, because it sure its. However for me, I'm always draw into the stories that have a more personal touch and feel like I want to donate more than I normally would.

The Cerebra Children's Awards at the House of Lords, London
The reason I chose to raise money for Cerebra during my Arctic Ride 2014 was down to the support they have given my little brother and my family, and for me that was certainly the right decision.

Its a huge honour to be an Ambassador for Cerebra. While I'll continue to do my ambassadorial activities for the charity, recent events in my life have also drawn another charity towards me... Tiny Lives.

Tiny Lives are a charity that supports premature and sick new born babies and their families on the Neonatal unit at the RVI hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. They support babies and their familes through:

  • Developmental care aids and equipment
  • A support pack for every family
  • A family room and accommodation for families to stay close to their baby
  • travel cots
  • A Neonatal physiotherapist
  • Special training for nursing staff 
  • Research grants
Tiny Lives need to raise at least £150,000 every year to support the work that they do.

So you're probably wondering what is is that has drawn me to Tiny Lives? We'll on the 4th August 2014 my daughter Islay was brought into the world 6 weeks earlier than planned. She spent a week on the special care Neonatal unit at the RVI hospital in Newcastle. She received exceptional care from the staff on the ward, supported by Tiny Lives, in what was the toughest week of my wife and I's life.

In conclusion, my next charity motorbike trip will be in support of Tiny Lives. What will that be? Well you'll have to find out in next blog. Alaska? Mongolia? Siberia? Africa? Time will tell!

Until next time.

Ride safe!


Sunday, 19 April 2015

On the road in Norway... Valdresflye Plateau


Welcome to the Arctic Rider blog, and thanks for reading.

First of all, since my last blog I finally got around to closing my giving page after all post-ride donations and DVD sales had been collected. The final total including gift aid that will go to brain injury charity Cerebra is £5,001.58... DOUBLE my target. THANK YOU so much to everyone who donated and supported me, it wouldn't have happened without you.

Final total of £5,001.58 raised for Cerebra from my ride the Arctic

This certainly isn't the last from me and my charity motorbike causes, I'll be announcing my next adventure for 2016 very soon.

Sticking with Arctic Ride 2014, the DVD is still available (in very limited quantities) to buy and is available on eBay (click here)

Now I've mentioned many (many) times on this blog how amazed I was by Norway and it's roads. If I'd known they were going to be such great biking roads, I'd have been there a lot sooner. Even if you are not a biker the scenery, people, and culture of Norway is something that cannot be missed.

The website summed up pretty well the 24 reasons why Norway should be your next travel destination and I have to say I must agree. However, even though they included the Trollstigen Pass (see my video of riding up the Trollstigen by clicking here) and Geirangerfjord, they missed out one of my favorite places in Norway, the Valdresflye Plateau. Valdresflye is one of the highest passes in central Norway with some breathtaking views. It wasn't part of my original planned route through central Norway on my way to the Arctic, but my friend Hans convinced my to take the extra miles on the chin and ride with him over the pass... well worth the extra miles and extra hours on the road.

As with most of my trip to the Arctic, I captured the ride over Valdresflye on my GoPro and condensed the few hours riding into a 2 minute and 39 second video. Check it out below (mobile device users - Click here).

Please leave any comments and give my video a like on YouTube.

That is all for this blog. As always thanks for reading and supporting! You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Stay tuned for my 2016 trip announcement.

Ride safe.


Friday, 27 February 2015

Suzuki GSX650F review

Hello there,

And welcome to another edition of the Arctic Ride blog! My trip might be a distant memory (last year in fact) but there is still plenty to come from me both for Arctic Ride 2014 post trip (like this blog) and future adventures.

I'm pleased to announce that earlier this week my blog reached 45,000 views which I am both pleased and humbled about.

So with this blog I wanted to share my thoughts on the bike I rode on my ride to the Arctic this year, the Suzuki GSX650F. I've had many people ask me to review the bike and, well, here it is.

My GSX 650F and I at the Arctic Circle in Norway

As a background in my 9 years of riding I've ridden a smallish cross section of bikes, but I feel it has been enough for me to put some context behind my views on the GSX650F. An example of some of the bikes I have ridden include my first bike, Suzuki Marauder 125, a Yamaha Virago 535, Kawasaki ER5, SV650S, BMW LT 1200, Harley Davidson Street Glide 1800, and a Kawasaki KX125.

On to the GSX650F, I made some slight modifications for my trip. I fitted the bike with 2 Givi MonoKey sideboxes, and a 46lt Givi MonoKey topbox. As well I had a gel touring seat and a tankbag.

Lift off: The Suzuki at my starting point, St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay

I had an overriding memory of riding in the arctic on my bike and that was "This bike must be the best 'mid range' touring bike there is" and this is why:


I rode just over 6,000 miles in 3 weeks, and did some days in excess of 600 miles and not once did I feel uncomfortable to the point where I had to pull over, which I've had on other bikes I've ridden in the past. The bike is easy on the wrists when gripping the bars, the seat and leg position allows an upright body position, and fairing keeps the most of the wind off you.

Speed and Power

With 85bhp with a weight of around 216kgs this bike has plenty of power to deal with all real world situations on the road. Ok, it can't do 180mph like its big cousin the GSX-R 1000 but its got everything you could ask for on the road. On the autobahn it easily kept up with the traffic doing 100+mph. On the Norwegian country roads, even fully loaded with 3 touring boxes, power to nip past camper vans and Volvo estates was no problem at all. It was so easy in fact I started calling 3rd and 4th gears 'The sling shot' as a drop down of the gear and a twist of the throttle and I was past anything that was in my way.

Fuel Economy and Range

The bike more than matched my expectations of a 650 and was surprisingly good on fuel both on the motorways and on the twisty country roads of Scandinavia. It cost me around £18 to fill the tank in the UK (at 125p p/l at the time of the trip) and this would see my through 150 good paced motorway miles and around 180-190 on the twisty slower roads, which certainly helped when putting 6,000 miles worth of fuel in the tank over 3 weeks.

Price and ££££

I was a lucky biker when I picked up my GSX650F for sub £2,500 for a bike with less than 10k miles on the clock and only just needing an MOT. Even from new the price compared to other bikes used for touring its very very cheap. It also benefits from a moderate insurance group and a wide range of cheap parts, which are readily available due to it having the same engine and frame as the new Suzuki bandit 650.

A factory Spec Suzuki GSX650F

I would highly recommend any tourers or weekend riders looking for a good priced bike to take a look at the 650F. I've been nothing but impressed with this machine and love to see more of them taking the adventures they deserve. All specs from the bike included below.

If you have any questions you would like to ask me about the bike that isn't cover please comment below.

Ride safe.




Engine: 656cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16 valve, four cylinder, four-stroke 
Power: 85bhp @ 8,900rpm 
Front suspension: 41mm Kayaba forks, adj for preload 
Rear suspension: Kayaba shock, link type, adj for preload and rebound damping 
Front brake: 310mm discs, four-piston calipers 
Rear brake: 240mm disc, two-piston caliper 
Dry weight: 216kg (claimed) 
Seat height: 770mm 
Fuel capacity: 19l 
Top speed: 130mph (est) (I've tested it to 115mph on the autobahn)