There are no proper words to describe the Cannonball experience. It’s a week-long orgasm, a petrol-smelling motorcycle shootout, and a chance to have excellent time with like-minded people.
After Saturday’s closing party we were gathering our strength on Sunday, had a few beers and ate well. I headed out to town with Markus and Adrian to get some souvenirs; I got myself another kilt. Otherwise nothing much went on, people were leaving on their respective ways and others were cracking open beers and downing gin & tonics.
The next morning we’d head out to Newcastle, where we’d take a ferry to Amsterdam. We chose to take the coastal road, and were rewarded with really nice views. Although we were riding sort of slowish, my rear tyre was starting to show a flat spot. This is why I told Joni and the Hippie, that I’d ride on my own, slower pace to Stockholm, where I’d take a ferry to Tallinn. Joni and the Hippie were going to head to Turku from Stockholm. Adrian and Markus took their own way too, the Travemünde ferry back to Finland. So our group would say good-bye in Amsterdam.
If someone plans on doing the Amsterdam-Stockholm stretch at like 100 km/h, take my advice: Don’t. I don’t think I’ve ever been as bored on a motorcycle. Oh well, I made it to Helsingborg at around 10, and got to hear the Hippie had had difficulties in adjusting to the non-Cannonball riding, and Joni got to suffer as well. They got hefty fines for speeding and reckless driving in the Netherlands.
My rear tyre was still all rubber, so I headed on the next day. As I had roughly 400 km to go, I could see the cables through the rubber. I thought I’d never make it. The next big city was Jönköping, where I found a bike store, MC Proffsen. I stopped to ask for help, telling a brief version of the story, and asking for a used tyre or something to ride to Stockholm on. Sadly all the garage personnel were busy and they said I’d have to wait. But I couldn’t do that; I’d miss my boat. Their expert opinion was that I might make it, if I didn’t go too fast. So, on I went.
I stopped a few times to check the rubber, with no mentionable change in it. I suppose the rough British tarmac is harder on the tyres as continental smooth surface, as in the UK the tyre wore out like nothing I’ve ever seen. Okay, maybe I could also have done fewer burnouts.
In Huddinge I stopped for a bite, and the rubber was still okay. As there was no mentionable distance left, I started gunning it again. I must say, to me the most exciting riding is swerving between cars in rush hour traffic. Man, that takes concentration to do relatively safely.
I arrived in harbour with some time to spare, and met a Swedish and an Estonian biker on their way to Viljandi. They asked about the license plate and got to hear a short version of the story as well. Later in the evening we met up again for one-too-many beers at the bar. I have my own breathalyser, and in the morning, just before leaving the ferry, I got a 0,1 – because of the Estonian idiotic 0,0 limit, I decided to push the bike out, just to be safe. It would be really stupid to break all the speed limits in Europe for two weeks and and get away with it, just to get screwed on your doorstep for shit like this. And sure enough, the po-po were hanging at the harbour, so I pushed the bike until I was out of their sight before starting the engine.
Now as I look at my bank account, it looks like I’ll be eating macaroni and porridge for the rest of the summer, but was it worth it? Definitely; what a crazy trip! It’s really hard to describe it to someone. It’s true, it’s not a race, like it once was, but I have honestly never ridden as hard as I have on the Cannonballs I’ve done. I don’t think even track riding is as wearing on the bike, as you rarely get to go tens of kilometres fully flat out several times a day – in case you’re not racing on the Isle of Man, that is. And you’d repeat that daily for a week.
I think Adrian put it well, when he said thank god we don’t have roads like this. If you did the roads many times, you’d start to learn them, and as the speeds would increase, there would inevitably be a point where you’d make a mistake. And that would hurt. On the other hand, these are roads you can’t do at a sensible speed, so at least you wouldn’t have a license. Ever.
But a big part of the Cannonball is also the camaraderie. All the participants are like-minded, all the evening parties are great fun and I got to meet many old friends and made as many new ones. People, they are what make the event as great as it is, after all. I am definitely going to go again, maybe not next year, but definitely in the future.
Distance travelled: 1707 km
Times lost: 3
Times pulled over: 0
Distance travelled: 6236 km (plus the unrecorded riding on the Isle of Man, maybe 100 km)
Times lost: 22
Times pulled over: 2
What to consider if you’d like to enter:
Cannonball Bike Run is not for rookie riders. Event though you can ride at your own pace, the routes are long and challenging, so it’s essential to be an experienced rider as you will get tired when riding, and that’s when mistakes start happening. So, you must know yourself as a rider and your own limits.
For safety, it’s better to ride in groups. So you should be used to that too.
Make sure your bike is in good condition before starting and get new tyres. This is not your regular touring ride. For instance both tyres on the Kawasaki are worn out and I got new ones fitted when I bought the bike.
Take with you:
GPS. It can be of great help if you get lost.
Wet weather gear. It’s not likely that it will ever rain as much as this year, but you never know.
Spare levers etc. They can make a difference between continuing and retiring.
Essential tools. It’s good to have at least the tools required for chain adjustment plus a Leatherman or similar.
Gaffer tape and zip ties. Proven invaluable many times this year as well.
Some money for beer. And possibly for a spare motorbike.
Your worst jokes.
A positive attitude.
More information: cannonballbikerun.com.