Background

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John Chivers on his recently bought Zero DSR electric motorcycle, in June 2016.

In early 2017, I was talking with a couple of fellow electric vehicle (EV) owners and YouTube vloggers who’ve gone on to become friends: James and Kate, about an event due to take place on Orkney in May. The event was an EV meet-up around a visit by actor and EV advocate Robert Llewellyn, who was taking a film crew to Orkney to film some items for his YouTube channel, Fully Charged. James asked if I planned to attend.

At this stage, I had already planned a round trip around mainland Europe with old friend and fellow biker, Chris, and my Germany-based younger brother, Peter, so the prospect of a few days up in Orkney in May eating into holiday time was not a priority in my mind, and I decided against the trip, with the flippant comment,

“Perhaps I’ll attend next year, if one takes place, and I’ll ride up on the Zero electric motorbike. Hell, if I’m going to do that kind of journey, I might as well head up there from Land’s End.”

On returning home, I did an initial cursory search for any trips people had done on an electric motorbike from Land’s End to John o’Groats, but was surprised to find none. Electric cycle, yes; even a mobility scooter; but nobody had done the journey on an electric motorbike from what I could see. Further, more thorough searches also drew a blank, as did a search in the Guinness Book of Records.

I had a quick chat with my wife, Emma, about this and said,

“Wouldn’t it be good to be the first to do the trip by electric motorbike?”

She agreed and, as usual, was completely supportive to the idea.

The fact of the matter is, of course, the main reason that nobody had done the journey was simply down to the small number of motorcyclists who own an electric motorbike, but there was another, more obvious challenge in undertaking the journey: namely of power management. More on that presently.

It also made sense that if I was going to do the journey, that it should benefit a cause or two in the process, so I decided to use the opportunity to do some fundraising at the same time.

I am a member of Coventry and Warwickshire Advanced Motorcyclists (the local branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists) and an observer (the club's term for a trainer) with the club, and one of the reasons I bought the bike in the first place was that it lends itself ideally to training purposes on our check rides, where I follow an associate member and give feedback on their riding in preparation for them undertaking the advanced riding test.

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Alex Hogg of Streetbike, Halesowen with John Chivers (left), James Coates (right), and Streetbike's Zero SR demonstrator.

There are also a number of members in CWAM who are involved as volunteers with our local blood bikes group, Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes, who provide an invaluable, service to the NHS out of hours by rapidly transporting blood, tissue samples, x-rays, drugs, and anything else required between hospitals. They are constantly raising funds to maintain the fleet of bikes used for the runs they have to do, so that seemed to be the most appropriate cause.

While plans were formulating in my head, James contacted me and asked whether I’d mind if he accompanied me on the trip and wondered whether my Zero dealer, Streetbike in Halesowen, might be prepared to lend him their demo electric bike (a Zero SR – more of a dedicated road bike) for the purposes of the trip. I contacted Streetbike with the idea and to my surprise, they were very supportive, especially considering that we planned to use the trip as an opportunity to do some fundraising on the back of the journey.

With James on board, in addition to raising funds for the blood bikes, we decided to split the fundraising efforts for Tommy’s – a pregnancy support group, close to his and Kate’s heart.


Introduction