UK Buell Enthusiasts Group 2015 Buell Challenge: Nordkapp.

“As in life, motorcycling should never be about the destination, it should be all about the journey you take to get there”

The UK Buell Enthusiasts Group 2015 Buell Challenge was about both.

Motorcycles used: 2008 Buell Ulysses XB12X and ‘Barney’, Jane’s 2006 Moto Guzzi Breva 750.

Excerpts from our daily travelogue:

Sunday 28th June

Tonight, we are in Ronneby, Sweden on the south coast. We have covered 741 dry miles so far.

Yesterday went well with 424 miles from Europort to Heiligenhafen, Germany. What a way to spend my birthday, riding across the Netherlands and Germany in beautiful weather.

Near Hamburg we met an intrepid group of trials riders from the Newcastle area who were riding up to Sweden for an off-road holiday. No wimpy vans for these guys, they are doing the whole round trip on medium capacity machines equipped with knobbly tyres and a small mountain of luggage.

Monday 29th June 

Another 357 dry miles covered today, making a total of 1,098. We are now in Uppsala, north of Stockholm.

It has been a terrific days riding on great roads with hardly any traffic. We certainly picked some good routes along the coast and then inland through forests and lakes. Tomorrow, which is Jane's birthday, we are continuing north up the coast.

We are impressed with the Garmin; at the end of each day, it has taken us to the front door of our prebooked accommodation.

Tuesday 30th June

Another beautiful day in beautiful Sweden. We are now in Umea, on the north east coast.
Forests, lakes, coastline, wildflowers in bloom everywhere, rolling countryside, mountains, great roads, and spectacular bridges, all this on today's route. What a way to celebrate Jane's birthday.

We covered 360 miles today, the total is now 1,458. Tomorrow we cross the Arctic Circle and travel up into Lapland. The bikes have only needed an engine oil top up so far and we still have not unpacked the waterproofs.

We have seen many classic American cars on the road, including a blue 1956 Cadillac. The owner bought it in Florida and had it specially shipped over. Apparently, the Swedes are big collectors of 1950's and 1960's American vehicles and bring them out in force during summer.

Wednesday 1st July

We have covered 392 miles today. Total mileage 1,850.

We are still enjoying good dry weather and entered Finland early this afternoon. We have crossed the Arctic Circle and we are now staying the night in a beautiful log cabin in the middle of nowhere, in Lapland. During the last 30 miles or so we have started to see reindeer on the roads, so we are riding with even greater caution. In fact, there are reindeer in the forest around our cabin and we have seen three since we arrived.

Thursday 2nd July

Easy today, just 236 miles. This allowed time for more leisurely stops and to soak up some sun. The total is now 2,086 miles. We cannot believe how lucky we have been with the weather; we are sure to see some rain eventually but the local forecast for the next few days is still rather good.

We crossed into Norway at lunchtime after a great ride across Lapland. It is a real wilderness with hardly any traffic. It is not the sort of place to breakdown or run out of petrol, so we didn't!

The Nordkapp road and tunnel were free. The toll was removed earlier this year because they had paid off the costs of construction.

We are now staying two nights near Alta on the northern coast of Norway. Tomorrow is a day off, so it will give us chance to clean some of the dust and bugs off our motorcycles. They have only needed a second engine oil top up so far.

Friday 3rd July

We are having a great time on this Nordic adventure, visiting areas that we have never been to before and we loved Lapland. The roads in northern Finland are not quite as smooth as the ones in Sweden but generally they are in rather good condition. We are looking forwards to our return trip south through Lapland on a different road. Everyone we have met has been very friendly, helpful, and interested in where we are going and why we are doing it. Twenty-four-hour daylight does take some getting used to, but we have been so tired at the end of each day that falling asleep has not been a problem. We have never slept so well!

Saturday 4th July

Big day today.

Both our bikes have been cleaned and checked over, so we are good to ride the last 150 miles to the Nordkapp. We aim to spend most of the afternoon there, tonight's accommodation in Honningsvag is only 20 miles from the Nordkapp visitor centre.

That is the first part of this year's UK Buell Enthusiasts Group Buell Challenge accomplished, after 2,252 miles we arrived at the Nordkapp this afternoon. It has been a windy and cold day (+4C) with occasional showers but that did not dampen our spirits, we were elated at achieving what we set out to do.

We struggled to find anywhere suitable to fasten our Buell banner so with a bit of ingenuity we used cable ties, Jane's backpack, her knees, and my top box. We are pleased with the result; it made a good picture under the circumstances.

The E6 and E69 between Alta and the Nordkapp are magnificent roads which take you over mountains, through tunnels and along rugged coastline. Over 150 miles of Norwegian heaven with hardly any traffic, a true riders paradise, even in mixed weather.

We start heading south tomorrow, back into Lapland and along the west coast of Finland. Only another 2000 or so miles to do.

Sunday 5th July

Today we have had a fantastic 328-mile ride down from Honningsvag, Norway to Muonio, Lapland. Total mileage 2,600.

Early this morning in cold and damp conditions we headed back down the cracking E69 which follows the eastern coastline of the Nordkapp peninsula and then we rode across some more Norwegian mountains on the E6. As we entered northern Lapland through a vast wilderness filled with forest, lakes and rivers, the temperature picked up and the weather finally improved, giving us a dry afternoon.

Tonight's accommodation is a cabin on the Muonio River.

Monday 6th July

We covered 337 miles today. Total mileage 2,937.

Tonight, we are staying in Kalajoki on the west coast of Finland. We have gone from one extreme to another, a basic cabin next to a river in Lapland to a plush beachfront apartment.

Tuesday 7th July

Another 335 miles under our tyres today. Total mileage 3,272.

We knew last week’s good weather was too good to be true, the last two days riding down through Finland have been a bit damp. We are pleased to report that our waterproofs and boots have passed the test with flying colours, only our gloves have let us down. Does anyone make a pair of waterproof summer gloves? We've yet to find them. The middle part of each day has been quite sunny and warm, it is just the beginning and end bits that have been wet.

Today's route took us through beautiful forest and farmland full of wildflowers and skylarks singing their little heads off, most pleasant.

We are now in Raisio, north of Turku, staying two nights. Tomorrow's a day off (our 26th wedding anniversary) so we can have some much-needed rest and recuperation.

The bikes have had their third engine oil top up. Other than checking tyre pressures and replacing one headlight bulb on the Ulysses no other work has been necessary. They could do with another clean though.

Wednesday 8th July

The most challenging thing we did today was eat an ice cream.

We visited HD Turku this morning and bought a litre of engine oil for the Ulysses. I have just enough left for another top up but with another 1100 miles to do I thought it best to replenish stocks. While having a look around we noticed a jumbled assortment of clothing in their sale area. Buried at the bottom was a ladies Buell top, it was their very last item of Buell stock. With it being a special day, I splashed out and bought it for Jane.

Later we visited Naantali, a popular tourist destination on the coast. We spent a couple of hours there and then went for a tour of the local countryside. A very pleasant, chilled out sort of day.

Tomorrow we catch the ferry from Finland to Sweden. This takes around 8 hours and sails through the archipelago between both countries. We are looking forwards to this part of the trip, it is said to be one of the prettiest ferry routes in the world. We have only 80 miles to ride when we arrive in Sweden before we reach tomorrow nights’ accommodation.

Thursday 9th July

It was a beautiful day at sea, and we saw plenty of yachts, it was exceptionally good sailing weather. The Finnlines ferry was smooth and comfortable.

What should have been the easiest days riding turned into a real nightmare. We expected bad weather when we landed in Sweden, but the sky did not look too threatening and it was dry for the first five miles, then it started to spit so we stopped and put our waterproofs on. We are glad we did because during the next 75 miles to Sodertalje where we are staying tonight, we endured downpour after downpour. We have rarely seen rain like it, traffic slowed to a snail’s pace and many sections of road became flooded. Combined with the back end of the Stockholm area rush hour it did not make for a very pleasant riding experience. The Ulysses developed a misfire during the heaviest of the rain, but Jane and Barney just sailed (pun intended) through.

Friday 10th July

That is more like it, 312 miles today on dry roads and the sun's come out again. Not sure how long it will last though, I think we will see more rain before we get to Europort Rotterdam late Sunday afternoon.

Following yesterday’s downpours Barney developed 'wonky winkers' syndrome, as Jane calls it. He has had it before following awfully bad weather. We have had to strip the left-hand switch unit apart and clean the contacts, all is well now. Other than that, we have done the fourth and final engine oil check, the Ulysses was fine, but Barney needed a top up. He has now rolled over 106,000 miles and still has the original piston rings and valves fitted so his oil consumption has increased, but not excessively so.

Tonight, we are in Klippan, 57 miles north of Malmo. Total mileage 3,727.

Saturday 11th July

Wonky winkers were the least of Barney's problems today.

We had planned to meet our friend Gunter early this afternoon when we got off the ferry from Denmark to Germany, so we were up with the lark, or whatever the Swedish is for lark, and set off at 7.15am. We had 180 miles to cover before catching the ferry but only 20 miles into the journey, on a slip road between the E4 and E6/E20, Barney came to a grinding halt. When we are riding together, I am in the habit of glancing in my mirrors every 5 to 10 seconds to check that Jane is OK, so I noticed straight away that she had slowed down for some reason. Luckily, I had not got too far down the slip road so was able to pull over before entering the motorway. The slip road was curved so I didn't have a clear line of sight, I thought Jane had pulled over to the side but as I walked to where they'd stopped, I realised they were stuck in the middle of the slip road. With it being early there wasn't much traffic about but it was one of those heart stopping moments when I saw them both. Jane had the presence of mind to switch her hazard lights on but was helpless because she could not paddle Barney to safety.

Just as I reached them a Swedish driver stopped to help, but Barney was stuck solid. At first, I thought it was a transmission failure, but it soon became apparent that his rear brake had seized. With the drivers help we wheeled Barney to the side by lifting his back end. After thanking the driver for his help, I walked back down the slip road to fetch the Ulysses.

The rear brake caliper is located under the swinging arm out of sight, right in the line of fire from water and dirt so it is prone to corrosion if you do not keep everything well copper slipped. I can only assume that the recent bad weather we have ridden through had washed all the grease out causing the inboard pad to stick on its sliding pin. I checked the pads and greased the caliper before we set off on this trip but 4,000 miles in 2 weeks in very mixed conditions have clearly taken their toll. I managed to remove the caliper and pulled the pads and pin out, cleaned all the parts, and greased them up. You never know what to take on a big tour, but a small tube of copper slip sure comes in handy.

Sorting this problem out delayed us by over two hours so we sent Gunter a couple of text messages to let him know what was happening. When we finally got back on the road, we still had 160 miles to do so we clearly were not going to catch one of the midday ferries as we had hoped. Just to add to the drama as we approached the ferry terminal in Rodby, Denmark we got stuck in a 6-mile traffic jam on a dual carriageway leading to the port. It was exceedingly difficult to filter through but eventually we made it to the toll booths to catch the 3.00pm ferry, arriving in Puttgarden, Germany around 3.45pm. So, after all that we missed meeting Gunter.

Handy tip, if you are going to breakdown make sure you do it on a warm and sunny day, it makes things so much easier!

We are now in Heidenau, Germany as planned. This is a beautiful little village, and the hotel is first rate. We celebrated finally reaching today's destination with a nice cold beer.

Mileage today was 304. Total mileage 4,031.

Sunday 12th July

We made it to Europort Rotterdam without further drama, covering 313 miles today in mixed weather. Now that we are sat on the good ship 'Pride of Rotterdam' enjoying a cold beer we feel as though we have successfully completed this year's Buell (and Guzzi) Challenge.

We have had an absolute ball. Sure, there has been a few lows, but we have also had many highs.

Monday 13th July

Last daily travelogue entry.

Home at 9.45am having completed the very last 65 miles safely. Total mileage 4,409.

2008 Buell Ulysses = 54,055 miles, 3 engine oil top ups and 1 headlight bulb replaced.
2006 Moto Guzzi Breva 750 = 106,723 miles, 4 engine oil top ups, waterlogged left hand switch unit and a seized rear brake.

The UK Buell Enthusiasts Group 2015 Buell Challenge raised a total of £1,182.87 for Emma’s Charity.