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Born to ride

Monday 21st September 2015

MAIDSTONE scooter enthusiast Steve Cooper has been clocking up the miles again.
Well known for his endurance rides at home, on the other side of the Channel and the States, Steve, from Mayfair Avenue, has just completed two marathon motorcycle rides – back to back – to clock up a total 2,500 miles in 60 hours.
Recovering after his gruelling fifth UK Ironbutt challenge, followed by the bikers’ Bum Burner a week later on May 16 and 17, he is beginning to feel slightly shame-faced about having announced he would be giving up his long-distance drives.
“I’ve often heard it said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing but to expect a different outcome. By that definition, I must be insane,” he told the Downs Mail.
Those completing the Ironbutt challenge must cover 1,000 miles in 24 hours on a powered two-wheeler, collecting fuel receipts along the way. Not satisfied with setting out on a powerful motorbike, Steve opted to go the distance on a scooter.
“As I’ve already pleaded on the grounds of diminished responsibility, I don’t believe that my particular level of insanity can be considered in a worse light by admitting that I elected to do these challenges on a scooter. This choice was driven partly by the sheer novelty factor, but also the thought that if I’d chosen bikes it would just be too damned easy.”
This time, he teamed up for the Ironbutt challenge with Tony Green, on his Vespa GTS300, who was raising money for East Anglia Air Ambulance, setting off westward to Wales into the teeth of a bitter headwind.
All went to plan until Chievely, where the M4 was closed and a “Rubik’s Cube diversion” introduced. Steve said: “It was a total puzzle as to how anyone could understand it, thanks Highways Agency. Time wasted away as we queued in a seemingly interminable snake of snarled up cars, vans and lorries.”
Eventually rejoining the M4 West, Steve and Tony turned right for Monmouth and North to Edinburgh.   
Steve said: “My Downtown scooter could make 170 miles before refuelling but Tony was restricted to 100 on his Vespa, the result being that frequent stops slowed our progress, though the breaks did help postpone the inevitable fatigue that always sets in. Even so, the further North we travelled, the better the weather became until eventually the sky cleared and we were rewarded with a wonderfully clear view of the mountains.”
At Scotch Corner an interview with the local press proved another highlight of the journey and a parting of the ways as they both headed for home.
For Steve, the last leg was to prove familiarly problematic; having plumped for the M1, he found roadworks and 50mph restriction zones and a Snap-On tool bag in the middle of the road that he had to avoid.
He added: “Shortly afterwards, I was nearly blinded by gantry lights set up for the average speed cameras, then just as my eyesight was returning I hit a pothole so hard my teeth rattled, waking me better than any cup of coffee before finally reaching home and a welcome bowl of soup and a warm bed.”
And so followed his second challenge, seven days later - the “Bum Burner”, a truly gruelling 1,500 miles in 36 hours, which began as he rode off the Eurotunnel, heading through northern France, in the rain, Belgium, Holland and to Lubeck in Germany where he paused briefly before retracing his route.
He said: “Riding the Autobahn is special; it’s sometimes a surreal experience, and when it’s not being special or surreal it can be downright scary. For a start it feels as though time becomes distorted as you travel along, the view ahead seems to remain unchanging; two never ending strips of concrete with woods or fields on either side appear to stretch into infinity, the road so straight that you don’t feel that you’re advancing. You have to glance at your clock and milometer to reassure yourself that you are making progress.”
Nevertheless, he was and Steve completed 1,509 miles in 32 hours – four hours under the time allowed – to achieve the challenge.
In October Steve will be off to Florida to attempt a 1,040-mile tour of the state in one day. We wish him luck.