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FEATURE: Iron Butt Association UK reinforces reputation as world's toughest motorcycle riders

Iron Butt Association: Home of the world's toughest motorcycle riders
Iron Butt Association: Home of the world's toughest motorcycle riders
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Wednesday, 04, Jun 2014 04:27

by Laura Diaz

Iron Butt Association UK lives up to its reputation as having the world's toughest motorcycle riders by continuing their traditional annual Brit Butt Rally. This year, MotorbikeTimes was given an inside look into the arduous rally. We must warn you, riders, Brit Butt is not for the faint of heart. The rally most definitely lives up to its clever name!

What do you get when you combine long-distance, endurance motorbike riding with some of the world's most picturesque locations? That's right, the Iron Butt Association (IBA) - an exclusive club of extremely skilled motorcyclists. The hardcore reputation of these riders precedes them, as they have earned the title of 'world's toughest motorcycle riders'.

One does not simply join the Iron Butt Association by paying membership fees, nor does the club host any formal meetings or send out a monthly newsletter. Each rider must prove his or her worth on the road and meet the IBA's requirements. To earn a membership into IBA, riders must successfully complete the Archive of Wisdom, for example, contains a list of long-distance riding tips from the club's most seasoned, veteran riders. There is also Iron Butt Magazine, which is designed to inform, educate and inspire the club's 53,000 plus members.

Originating in the United States, the IBA also boasts strong presence in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, India, and South Africa. The Iron Butt Association UK lives by the slogan: 'The world is our playground', and play they do - by way of the intense rallies in which they partake. One of the UK's most notable annual IBA events, the Brit Butt Rally, took place between 24 and 25 May 2014.

A Rally Fit for Adventurers

The purpose of IBA UK's annual Brit Butt Rally is for participants to ride their motorbike throughout the UK, visiting places they have neither seen nor heard of until the event. The obscurity of these sites certainly creates an edge for the riders while giving them a unique riding experience. The riders' objective is to collect as many points as possible, over a 36-hour period, ranging from 6 am on Saturday through 6 pm on Sunday. Participants accumulate points by visiting various locations as detailed in the rally bonus book, which is given to each rider on the Friday evening in order for them to prepare their routes. Every year, there are approximately 60 to 70 bonuses (or possible sites) available. As imagined, it is literally impossible for riders to visit all sites in 36 hours; therefore, they must decide which bonuses to visit upon receiving the bonus book. These decisions usually depend on the riders' bikes and riding styles. Once at the bonus locations, participants must provide proof they have reached the sites. The bonus description on the book will detail what type of proof is required for that particular one. Typically, proof can be provided through a photograph, a receipt or something pertaining to that bonus location in particular.

Even though the Brit Butt Rally is filled with strenuous routes, the IBA strongly encourages rider safety. For instance, a compulsory 3-hour 'sleep bonus' must be documented on the Saturday to ensure driver awareness on the road. Furthermore, the IBA strongly encourages riders to refrain from speeding since the rally is a non-competitive event designed as a fun form of sightseeing. To discourage speeding, the IBA claims "riders who can calculate a high bonus yielding route, whilst maintaining a sensible average speed, tend to achieve the highest scores." Moreover, the IBA also encourages drivers to rest whenever they feel it is necessary.

The IBA's suggestions clearly work in the riders' favour. The 2013 Brit Butt Rally, for instance, had an astonishing end result in which all 43 participating riders finished the challenge. That was the first time, since the rally was established in 2008, that such a feat was accomplished. The IBA UK also has a Roll of Honour listing the riders who have proven they can solve the equation of time, distance and speed in order to complete the various rallies in which they have participated.

2014 Brit Butt Rally

This year's rally saw more riders than ever before in the Brit Butt's 7-year history. The end result was that 47 riders started and finished the challenge; it is the second year in a row in which all participants were, quite remarkably, able to successfully finish the rally. In previous years, mechanical problems and other issues had prevented some riders from finishing. However, competition was indeed tough for this year's rally, especially considering it is not a non-competitive event.

The schedule of the rally is as demanding as the actual task. The event begins the Friday evening before the riders start their journey. At 2:00 pm, the riders check into the rally. During this time, the team performs technical and odometer checks on the bikes. The latter include short rides to ensure the odometers are marking distances accurately. Document checks are also done once the riders check in. Throughout the evening, the riders get to meet each other as they share dinner. After dinner, the riders are issued their tally books, flags and goody bags prior to a good night's sleep.

This year, the rally books had 80 bonus locations listed, which was more than on previous years, with each bonus location being worth a certain amount of points; the rider who at the end of the rally has accumulated the most points wins the challenge. Once they are issued their rally books, the riders must then retire to their individual rooms to plan their routes. The task for the Brit Butt Rally is for riders to plan an efficient route which will allow them to earn the most possible points. Experience and sheer luck usually have to mix in order for a rider to be successful as far as having a smooth journey is concerning, all the while accumulating as many points as possible. One of the tricks within the challenge is that some bonus locations can be reached at any time, while others must be reached during daylight hours for riders to earn credits. Other bonuses are strictly time restricted, which can limit the riders' potential routes. Extra points are awarded for combination bonuses for visiting pairs of specified bonuses, such as two transporter bridges, for example. The numbered flags the riders receive on Friday evening must be in every picture they provide as proof of their arrival in the scattered bonus locations.

Riders have quite an early start on the day of the challenge, as they are expected to meet in the car park at 5:30 am for a final check of odometer accuracy. They then depart at 6:00 am. As previously mentioned, the compulsory three hours of sleep must be observed to ensure driver safety. However, if drivers wish to rest more than the minimum requirement, they are encouraged to do so. Points are deducted from any riders arriving after 6:00 pm on Sunday; this year, three riders were subsequently late.

One of the biggest surprises at this year's Brit Butt Rally was the winner. Throughout the entire history of the event, the winner had always been Robert Roalfe. Winning six Brit Butt Rallies in a row is definitely no easy task, yet Roalfe seemed invincible to his fellow peers. However, this year's winner was actually John Young, who admirably jumped from 34th place last year to first place this time round. His standings in other years range from third, fifth and twentieth places; in 2011 he was unable to finish the rally due to mechanical problems. Young finished the rally having driven 1,488.70 miles and earned 39,895 points. Kevin and Lynda Weller, the couple who shared second place, drove 1,333.10 miles and earned 38,635 points. Finally, Lee Edwards came in third place having driven 1,383.90 miles and earned 38,350 points. The six-rally champion, Robert Roalfe, locked in at fifth place with a nonetheless outstanding performance. He drove 1,327.40 miles and scored a total of 37,135 points.

The IBA UK forum has subsequently exploded with support for Young. Several of his fellow riders congratulated him on realising his dream of winning the Brit Butt Rally. Indeed, it is quite the achievement, especially when one considers competing against the reigning champion of six rallies in a row. The participants were also raging about the professionalism of the rally organisers and showed excitement at the prospect of participating in next year's rally.

Looking Ahead

The Brit Butt Rally grows in success and popularity each year. The number of participants and finishers increases every year, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the UK's riding community. In the meantime, the brains behind the Brit Butt Rally operation remain busy at work ensuring the event improves each year.

Philip Weston, president of IBA UK, declared, "At times the roads were only fit for Noah in his ark so lastly thanks to all the riders remembering that the most important part of the weekend was to return home. There was a minor drop at a junction and a puncture fixed with riders covering anything from 600 to 1400 miles each and getting as far as Wales, North coast of Scotland, Cornwall, East Anglia and Kent." Weston proudly continued, "Everyone who started finished, so they can be proud to be called the world's toughest motorcycle riders."

Additionally, Weston has adopted quite a familiar anthem for all future Brit Butt Rallies:

"Always Look on the bright side of life

Always look on the light side of life

If life seems jolly rotten

There's something you've forgotten

And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing

When you're feeling in the dumps

Don't be silly chumps

Just purse your lips and whistle that's the thing

And always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the right side of life."

The team at MotorbikeTimes agrees with Weston in that the newly adopted anthem encases the attitude required to complete a feat as challenging as the Brit Butt Rally. Let's just hope it continues in the spirit intended for many more years to come.

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