The Longest Day Up charity ride is an annual motorcycle event that aims to raise funds and awareness for various charitable causes. It involves a group of motorcyclists riding for an extended period, often covering long distances or challenging terrains. Various motorcycle clubs or organisations coordinate the Longest Day Up charity ride, a way for riders to come together, enjoy their passion for motorcycles, and support charitable causes. In 2023, the event took place from 21st – 22nd June.
We interviewed Dave Downing, Hydrographic Surveyor at Elevate Offshore, as he reflected on his personal experience a few weeks after the ride.
How long have you worked with Elevate Offshore, and what is your role?
I’ve worked with Elevate Offshore since 2022, starting with my first job in Turkey. Since then, I’ve had multiple assignments in the North Sea, including my first rig move. Before this, I worked for Gardline and Andrews Survey for four years before becoming a freelancer in 2006. As a Hydrographic Surveyor, I conduct surveys and assessments related to offshore projects.
When did you start riding motorbikes?
My journey with motorbikes began in 2007 while I was working in Angola. I remember a shift supervisor sharing his experience of crashing his brand-new motorbike near the dealership where he bought it. Intrigued, I mentioned my teenage desire to own a motorbike, and he encouraged me to go for it, stating that it was the best decision he had ever made. Inspired by his words, I wasted no time and immediately booked and paid for my training. I even managed to buy a motorbike before passing my test. Since then, I have explored various parts of the UK, ventured into France on different bikes, and dedicated much of my time to track days and racing. I have raced MiniTwins, participated in sprint and endurance classes with my 600, and even had an eventful stay in Bangor General after a trip in the North Wales Air Ambulance. Recently, I’ve taken up offroad trials, hoping to involve my four-year-old son in the future. Bikes, indeed, are excellent!
Tell us about the charity ride.
The Longest Day Up charity ride originated a decade ago when a fellow member named Colin on a motorbike forum I frequently visit was diagnosed with cancer. In a heart-warming display of support, a group of forum members decided to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. The idea emerged to ride bikes on the verge of being scrapped from one end of the country to the other within 24 hours. Although Colin couldn’t participate due to his illness, he was delighted to witness the first batch of riders completing the ride. Initially intended as a one-time event, the ride gained momentum when Johnny McAvoy, the ride organiser, received a message six months later inquiring about preparations for the next one. And so, it has continued ever since.
Over the past decade, the ride’s essence has remained unchanged. The budget for purchasing a bike and making it roadworthy has increased to £600, but this still only affords us a neglected and worn-out machine. The route begins at Lands’ End and concludes at John O’Groats, primarily due to logistical considerations of accommodating 30 riders the night before and the morning after. Importantly, we deliberately avoid using any motorways throughout the journey, and a ferry crossing in Scotland is always part of the adventure. The Longest Day Up is a testament to the enduring spirit of camaraderie and the commitment to making a difference through our shared love for motorcycles.
What inspired you to participate in the event?
The idea for the ride came about when I stumbled upon a bike for sale on the forum. The catch was that the new owner had to commit to participating in the Longest Day Up ride. Perhaps fuelled by a few too many beers, I agreed to the conditions of ownership without much thought. The following day, I woke up with a slight hangover and an email asking when I would pick up the bike. Then, I realised just how far North Yorkshire was from West Cornwall! Once you commit, you have to follow through, so I embraced the challenge.
Can you provide some insights into the preparation required before the ride?
The bike was delivered in late October 2022, and from a distance of 10 meters, it appeared to be in decent shape. It ran, turned, and stopped, albeit with some resistance. However, upon closer inspection, it was clear that the bike had seen better days and resembled a rusty relic that had spent years submerged in the sea. I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of buyer’s remorse, especially since I wasn’t fond of non-sports bikes, fixing other people’s mistakes, or embarking on long road trips. Despite my reservations, I remained optimistic.
There was a lot of work pending. Fortunately, several companies offered discounted parts, such as exhausts and disc brakes. eBay provided a source for affordable components, and my local Kawasaki dealer kindly cleaned and rebuilt the carburettors in exchange for a homemade cake baked by my wife. I prepared myself with the guidance of Prima Bakeries, consulted Google Maps for route planning, and maintained an overall sense of “things will probably be alright”! Looking back, I would have dedicated more time to route planning and packing appropriate clothing. Hindsight is always 20/20.
If you had to highlight the best and most challenging moments of the entire experience, what would they be?
The ride’s highlights were undoubtedly the sight of people waving from a bridge over the A30 in Cornwall at 4 am and the warm welcome we received from volunteers at the five pit stops. The kindness of strangers who braved the drizzle to support us in the early morning hours was genuinely moving. The relief of reaching each pit stop, where our bikes were serviced, our visors cleaned, and our bellies filled with food and coffee, warmed our hearts and reinforced our belief that we were supported and guided. And, of course, standing under the signpost in John O’Groats, knowing that we could finally rest, was an incredible feeling.
As for low points, I was generally happy throughout the ride, except for some navigation errors that cost me some time. However, some things were beyond my control. My main low point occurred three days before the ride when I discovered the radiator was blocked entirely, and I couldn’t find a replacement anywhere in the UK. At that moment, I thought my ride was over before it began this year. Thankfully, a fellow forum member found a radiator listed on eBay just a few miles away. Although it looked worn, it worked perfectly and fit perfectly. That moment counts as one of the highs!
What led you to choose Cancer Research as the beneficiary of your fundraising efforts?
Colin’s battle with cancer influenced our decision. Over the past decade, the Longest Day Up ride has collectively raised an astounding £400,000 for Cancer Research UK. Before we embarked on the ride, a Cancer Research UK (CR-UK) representative spoke to us about the progress they had made in the past ten years. When the first participants set off on the Longest Day Challenge in 2013, CR-UK was researching an HPV vaccine. This vaccine can potentially prevent most cervical cancer cases, primarily affecting younger women. Thanks to the efforts of our riders and supporters, CR-UK has successfully developed and implemented this vaccine, now administered to nearly every girl starting secondary school in the UK and many other countries. Knowing we played a part in this achievement is incredibly rewarding and makes us proud to support Cancer Research UK.
How did Elevate Offshore support you in this endeavour?
Elevate Offshore provided invaluable support through generous financial contribution. When someone invests their faith in you, it pushes you to step up and perform. Despite feeling cold, hungry, tired, and needing a break, I always reminded myself that people coping with cancer have it much worse. Elevate Offshore’s belief in me and its financial support motivated me to keep going, even when faced with challenging circumstances. The staff at Elevate Offshore consistently showed interest in my preparations, and every phone call from Yana, Sharifa, Anthony, Gemma, Jack, or Andrew included inquiries about my well-being and the bike. Their support meant a great deal to me.
Do you have plans to organise further fundraising in the future?
Never say never again! During the last hundred miles to John O’Groats, I was adamant that I would never volunteer for something so foolish again. Every part of my body was in pain, and the thought of riding nearly a thousand miles back home added to the stress. However, after a warm shower, a beer, and some reflection, I considered improving my time and what I would do differently. Even on the journey back home, despite the bike’s faults, I was already planning the repairs I would need to make. While I would love to do it again, it would be best to wait a few years, considering the significant toll it took on my family and myself.
[End of Interview]
Dave has documented his entire Longest Day Up journey, from when the bike arrived on his driveway to sitting under the signpost at John O’Groats in the early morning hours. For more information, please see his personal blog and Flickr.
Additionally, donations can be made through this link to support his fundraising efforts for Cancer Research UK.
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