Arctic Butt 2000 A SaddleSore 1000 to Remember

 

By Dan Sullivan and Michael Wolf (as told to each other)

The intrepid crew wasting time taking pictures after getting the official start time.  Left to Right:  Chad, Chico, Dan, Woody, Wolfie, and Sacramento.

The intrepid crew wasting time taking pictures after getting the official start time. Left to Right: Chad, Chico, Dan, Woody, Wolfie, and Sacramento.

It was 2:30 in the morning on November 11, 2000.  Six motorcyclists were converging upon a dark parking lot in Rancho Cordova, California.  For over a month prior to that dark, cold, cloudy morning, several of these two-wheeled enthusiasts from Northern California had been conspiring to embark on a 24 hour journey.  The carrot in front of their noses was the anticipated sense of pride and accomplishment at completing an official Iron Butt Association Saddle Sore 1000 motorcycle ride – not to mention placing a block of Concours on the IBA website (www.ironbutt.com).  All aspects of this trip were scrutinized with the utmost of care.  The start and finish times and locations must be witnessed by authorized personnel, receipts with time and date stamps must be kept, and logs must be properly filled out.  These documentation requirements were nothing, though, compared to the time management and stamina that would be required of these riders in order to make the 24-hour deadline.  1000+ miles in under 24 hours – the Saddle Sore 1000.

Dan Sullivan of Napa, and Steve Viertell of Chico were first to arrive.  Dan quickly parked the 1991 “Candy Persimmon Red” Concours he fondly calls “Red Sled.”  True to it’s sled heritage, Santa would indeed be proud to mount such a vehicle – Dan’s Autocom intercom/Kenwood FRS/MPTrip MP3CD system surely put the jolly man’s sled electronics to shame.  With his red eyes, rosy cheeks, Tourmaster one piece suit, heavy gloves, Alpinestar Stage GTX boots, and multiple wires protruding from various locations, Dan looked ready to go, all the while bearing a vague similarity to a demented Michelin Man.  Steve, now forever known as Chico Steve (or simply “Cheeko”), docked his 1994 Wineberry flavored Connie, appropriately named “¡La Vaca Roja!” (The Red Cow!).  Like Dan, Steve was dressed in Tourmaster two-piece attire, heavy gloves, and a pair of unseemly boot covers.  With the pending chilly ride, though, Stevie wasn’t too worried about having frumpy looking feet.

Mike Wolf was next to roll in from Folsom, a small suburb of Sacramento like Rancho Cordova.  Mike is a three-time Concours owner that has been stolen away from the fold by his Ducati – a bright red 1998 Ducati ST2, otherwise known as “Contessa.”   Apparently in love, he continually spouts off about how Contessa is the perfect motorcycle – kind of like a supermodel that drinks beer and likes hockey.  What more could a man ask for?

Next came Steve Long on his 1995 Wineberry Connie.  Steve didn’t have far to come from – he lives just a few miles up the road in Sacramento.  He definitely looked the coolest of all the bunch. Between the leather jacket, the scarf, and the jeans, no one could determine if he was ready for a back roads ride, a 1000 mile endurance test, or club hopping.  The ladies along our route in his old “stomping grounds” of Boron, California, would have to watch out.

Wolfie - Just under the speed of sound.

Wolfie - Just under the speed of sound.

The last two riders were missing, but the growl of a Kawasaki inline four-cylinder engine or two could clearly be heard from across the parking lot.  Dan, Chico Steve, Chad Olson from Bay Point, and Woody Steplight from Fairfield all had stayed at the Fairfield Inn, just a stone’s throw from the meeting location.  Finally, the distant engines revved and the two wayward riders pulled into slots with the rest of the bunch.  Chad and Woody (“The Twins,” as Mike called them) rode quite similar bikes – their 1993 Connies were both black with red pin stripes.  Chad’s “Ilean” wore fairing extenders and Chad was decked in a Tourmaster two-piece suit.  Woody’s mount was bone stock; Woody had shed his customary black leather chaps for a real riding suit (“I bought this years ago” was the closest he would come to divulging a brand name).

The two scheduled witnesses, Tom Austin and Joe Denton, both IBA members themselves, were ready to do the honors.  This had been our first clue as to how dedicated these IBA folks were. Without complaint, both Tom and Joe had pulled themselves out of bed at 2:00 in the morning to watch a bunch of motorcycle nuts embark on their journey, a journey that each of them had previously made.  Tom was already there and had been waiting when the first of the group arrived.  Odometer readings were taken and with a few strokes of a pen, each rider was certified.

With the pre-formalities out of the way, the procession moved about 50 meters east into the Shell station parking lot where each rider fueled up.  The gas receipt would serve as one of the most important pieces to the SS1000 puzzle – the start place and time.  The bikes were lined up, and Tom and the cashier girl took the obligatory start pictures of the ragged bunch.  Each rider was obviously pumped up for the upcoming adventure.  In the back of each rider’s mind, though, apprehension about the 40 degree weather had the potential to consume that excitement.  Northern California was in the middle of a cold snap.  The weather forecast was predicting temperatures in the mid-30s to mid-50s, with a “chance of showers” in the south. Nevertheless, with a few blips of each rider’s throttle, the boys were on the road.

Dan:

We got our start time at 0306 and proceeded to take some pictures, in the true spirit of good time management (Not!), then headed south on I-5 from Sacramento, destination Bakersfield.  About 150 miles out, the numbing cold forced a stop in a place with an unlikely name – Firebaugh – for a bit of hot chocolate, fuel for Contessa, and some duct tape for the Connies’ fairing vents.  If you put duct tape over the lower air scoops, it allegedly forces more hot air around your feet and shins.  Yeah, right, sure it does.  Fortunately the place had a working water heater; I spent 5 minutes making sure my hands were thaw- er, clean.

 Mike:

Yeah, in hindsight, the dawdling at the gas station wasn’t too efficient, but hey, we needed pics!  Besides, in the beginning, it seemed like we had DAYS to get this thing done.  As we pulled onto Highway 50, I had thoughts of making Bakersfield without much of a stop.  With a 2.5 gallon fuel can in the Nonfango top box, all I needed was a quick stop to easily extend my realistic range of 200 miles on Contessa.  In addition, Chad, Sacramento Steve and I had the secret weapons: heated handgrips, so the cold wouldn’t bother us, right? Guess again.  After only 30 miles on I-5, my toes felt like ice cubes. The rest of the body was OK, and the warmth working it’s way into my gloves felt amazingly close to being illegal, but there was no doubt I was deeply chilled.  I’m a desert rat from Arizona, so the stop in Firebaugh was quite welcome.  I needed warmth, water, Fig Newtons, and my Walkman batteries needed to be refreshed.  As soon as we stopped, the duct tape began to fly.  I think I remember someone mentioning wanting to make a tube to route exhaust from the mufflers into their pants.  Hmmm, not a bad idea, but after 10 minutes in the store, I felt like my toes were again part of my feet.

Kramer's Junction, CA - A quick fuel stop and sanity check.

Kramer's Junction, CA - A quick fuel stop and sanity check.

 Dan:

After that break, we got back on the road and the sun finally came up.  We hit Bakersfield for fuel at 0753 and then we had to make a stop at Denny’s for some much-needed Pilot Fuel(tm).  At 0900 we left Bakersfield on East 58, heading up over Tehachapi Pass at the south end of the Sierra Nevada and out through the beautiful-in-its-desolate-splendor Mojave Desert.  We had a slight bit of rain over the pass, and there was snow sticking on the hillside a couple of hundred feet higher than the roadway.  Yes, it was cold.

 Mike:

I’m not sure exactly when the sun came up, but it seemed like it took forever.  If we ever thought Denny’s looked like fine dining, today was it.  Hey, they had heat in there!  After filling our bellies and calling various wives (well, mine, anyway), we were again on the road.  Tehachapi loomed ahead, the mountains shrouded in dark looking clouds.  From a distance, the pass and surrounding clouds looked like someone wearing a giant sombrero.  At the top of Tehachapi, the snow just above the roadway was a bit telling of things to come.  As we hit the downside, though, the wind picked up, and we were presented with several hillsides covered with giant windmills. “Uh, when I stare at the windmills, I get really dizzy,” a voice sounded out over the FRS units.  After a pregnant silence, another voice shot back, “Well, don’t look at ‘em!”  Thankfully, we made it past the windmill without any replays of breakfast.

 Dan:

By the time we made it down off the mountain and out into the desert, the temperature was a balmy 52 degrees F in the “blazing” desert sun.  We continued east on Highway 58 through Mojave and Four Corners, then onto I-15 through Barstow, Baker and heading northeast toward our intended destination, Las Vega$, Nevada. Running out through a desert is a great way to lop off big chunks of mileage.  It isn’t particularly entertaining, unless you like sagebrush and cactus and tumbleweeds.

Chico Steve Viertell going the posted speed limit.  Yeah, right.

Chico Steve Viertell going the posted speed limit. Yeah, right.

Mike:

Now, Dan, don’t gloss over our excellent tour of the high desert’s main attractions.  Sacramento Steve, who is quite obviously in love with airplanes, gave us an excellent tour of the little desert town of Mojave over the FRS systems.  There is a very large airport there that serves as not only an R&D center for commercial and some military aircraft, but it’s also a significant storage area for currently unused planes.  I think Steve, who used to live relatively near this desolate place, used to come here to pick up girls when he was in high school.  In fact, I thought I caught a whiff of aftershave whenever I rode behind him.  Hmmm….

 Dan:

That’s right, “Sacramento Steve’s Desert Rat Tours.”  Mojave Airport is where the Voyager was based.  Nonstop flight around the world without refueling.  Fitting that we’d pass that Mecca on an Iron Butt ride.  But if you thought the Mojave Airport tour was exciting, you should have been along coming home from Utah when we rode the Extraterrestrial Highway through Nevada’s Area 51.  It was “Look – there’s ‘The Black Mailbox’,” and “that dirt road runs out to Groom Lake” and “there’s Freedom Ridge.”  But I digress.  Fortunately, we were all equipped with FRS, so we could keep track of each other, and of course listen to Sacramento Steve’s running commentary.  I do recall the name “Cliff Claven” being mentioned with some degree of reverence.  The entertainment value of bike-to-bike communication is well worth the price of the radios.  There was a safety factor, too.  At times we were spread out far enough that the lead rider could not clearly contact the sweep; the guys in the middle would relay communications when that happened.

 Mike:

From Mojave, through Four Corners, and onto I-15, we absolutely moved.  We did have a bit of a scare, though, when we were separated on Highway 58.  I was with the Steves, and Dan, Woody, and Chad were riding together about a mile behind us.  We thought we had communication with the rear group, but we were in fact out of range for about 30 seconds.  I guess that was the most important 30 seconds, because during that stretch, Chad informed us of a CHP speeding our way.  The first I heard of possible Law Dawg intervention is when I heard Steve Long say over the radio, “Oh, Crap, here comes a CHP!  He just pulled over the car behind me!”   Now that was too close for comfort.

Dan:

I haven’t seen that many CHPs along a stretch of road EVER!  It was like a convention.  I lost count after 8 going the other way in about a 10 mile stretch.  Traffic was toddling along between 80 and 85.  Only the speeders got pulled over.  Somewhere around 1300, we crossed the California/Nevada border at a gambler’s oasis called State Line.  According to all calculations, we were at 550 miles.  What to do?  We were faced with a major dilemma: what’s the point of doing another 50 miles to Vega$?  The consensus was there was no point in that at all, so we broke for the halfway rest point.  After getting fuel, Woody strolled into Whiskey Pete’s Casino and walked back out $63 up.  I was only down $0.50 at that point, so it was a fair cop (a good deal).

"We made it!"  Wolfie and Sacramento Steve yelled to no one in particular.  They must have forgotten about the remaining 575 miles.

"We made it!" Wolfie and Sacramento Steve yelled to no one in particular. They must have forgotten about the remaining 575 miles.

Mike:

That damned Woody.  I walked in ahead of him, found a machine and put a five-dollar bill into it.  The thing nearly shredded my money, and I could just barely see the edge of the bill sticking out.  I waited about 15 minutes for someone to extract it.  While I waited, Woody strolled in, saw me, and plunked down 10 bucks into the slot machine next to mine.  I think it was on the third press of the button that three sevens popped up and the thing poured out money.  I finally got a new five-dollar bill and put it into the machine.  Of course, I got skunked and Woody snickered almost uncontrollably for several hours.  Lucky bastard.

Dan:

Notice how nobody mentioned what Chad was doing during this break?  Chico was hanging around by the bikes, listening to college football while Sacramento and I grabbed a couple of cokes.  We gathered up outside, took a few pictures, and then it was time to head for the barn.  We left the State of Sin and Pleasure at 1420, heading west back to the Land of Fruits and Nuts.  We made our way back the way we’d come, still riding through the desert, traffic was still motoring right along at 80-85 mph, not really seeming to be concerned with a 70 mph speed limit, although a Valentine One would have added a much needed security factor.  We turned onto Highway 58 at Barstow and kept clocking miles, while the sun kept tracking toward the horizon.

Mike:

That’s right Dan, we haven’t mentioned where Chad was.  Well, after losing my last five bucks cash that I had saved for dinner, I was a bit downtrodden in the early portion of the ride back.  At first, I thought of several ways to get Woody back.  That didn’t last long, and my mind moved off elsewhere.  Suddenly, the FRS crackled, “Mike, you OK?  You’re weaving.”  It was Chico Steve, who was right behind me.  Damn!  Some people can be so rude.  He woke me up from a perfectly good nap.  Seriously, the early morning and several hours on the road were beginning to wear on me and I hadn’t even realized it. After a couple of mental adjustments and a new tape-full of music, I was as good as new.  Thanks, Chico….  The stop in Four Corners was right at Dusk.  The desert had never warmed up, and the chill immediately set in over the little junction.  The rest of the trip promised to be mostly lacking in the heat department.  After eating at Four Corners’ finest dining establishment, Astro Burger, we again were on our way.  As we approached Mojave, I could barely make out that sombrero hovering over Tehachapi.  Unfortunately, it looked much darker.

Dan:

The Astro Ortega Burger was just what the doctor ordered.  A handful of miles out of Four Corners, next stop Mojave, and the FRS started getting active: “Man, is it getting colder?  What are those dark clouds still doing hanging over the southern end of the Sierra Nevadas?”  We chased the setting sun on 58 while closing on Mojave until around 1700 and then the sun was down.  By the time we left Mojave, a full moon was up. We were climbing up the long grade to Tehachapi Pass, aiming for the clouds when the moon disappeared and the temperature started to drop precipitously, through the 40s and down into the 30s.  And then the fun started.

Mike:

Fun?

Chad reflects upon the true meaning of civilization.

Chad reflects upon the true meaning of civilization.

Dan:

Snow.  A few flurries at first, then the white stuff started dropping furiously.  Man, that’s what happens every time Chico Steve rides a SS1K; we should have known it was going to happen.  Who brought chains?  How do you put studs in a front tire?  Snow. Windshields loading up, visibility dropping, Red Sled running at a temperature usually reserved for The Garage of Speed and Power when first starting in the morning, below the big white band.  Snow.

Mike:

Oh, THAT fun.  Snow sticking to my face shield so I can’t see fun.  Ice on the roadway fun.  Snow so thick I can barely make out Woody’s flashers fun.  Idiots driving Semi’s 65 miles an hour on icy roads fun.  Ah, yes, that’s the fun you’re talking about.  Just before my FRS conked out, Sacramento Steve had these reassuring words for me, “Man, this is cool!”  I felt so much better.

Dan:

You saw ice?  I guess the whiteout was only up toward the front, then.  We were riding into a headwind, which was blowing the white stuff on top of the road surface in little waves.  Face shields started to obscure, snow was building up on the outside, condensation fog on the inside.  There was enough snow to make us drop speed and turn on flashers, but it didn’t seem all that serious.  Although we were riding in what closely resembled a blizzard, I figured that it was mostly cornice effect, and that the snow would abate once we crested the summit and started down the other side.  Like Mike mentioned, a couple of the FRS units had taken on some water from the brief rain and quit, so we adjusted our riding positions to compensate and keep everyone more or less together via radio.  Actually, Mike had been leading and he suggested that Chad take his place while Mike generously offered to go ride sweep for a while.  I’m sure Chad had just been waiting for the chance to lead.

Mike:

I kept telling myself that, too.  It wasn’t that bad.  Right?  Well, we finally crested that hill and started down towards Bakersfield.  The snow turned to rain and the pucker factor slowly began to fade.

Dan:

When we crested the summit at 3,793 feet, Chad’s handy thermometer read 33 degrees F.  We started to head down to The Big Valley, the San Joaquin, and the snow finally quit.  Five more minutes and there was no rain, no clouds and the temperature started to rise. As we looked out across the valley, the lights of Bakersfield loomed in front of us.  The stars were out in force and the moon was full.  Finally we reached the bottom of the grade and it was a torrid, sweltering 53 degrees.

Mike:

Break out the Hawaiian shirts, boys!  It’s 53 degrees and we’re in need of some sun to bask in.  Actually, 53 did feel wonderful after the bitter cold in the pass.  Little did we know, we had loads more cold weather in store for us.

Halfway point.  Left to right:  Woody, Chad, Dan, Sacramento, Chico, and Wolfie.

Halfway point. Left to right: Woody, Chad, Dan, Sacramento, Chico, and Wolfie.

Dan:

Into Bakersfield at 1845 and around 800 miles.  We made a quick stop for fuel and to phone home, and we were on our way again, heading north now, homing in on home.  By this time, I figured the only thing that was going to keep me from finishing was an earthquake.  There was a little stir caused by a southbound CHP who did a quick u-turn across the center median and took off northbound in hot pursuit of something.  And since we were pretty much the only vehicles on the road through that stretch, the FRS started crackling again.  A few miles later, he turned off without getting out the booklet.  By the time we hit Santa Nella at 2150 (home to the world-famous Linda Blair Green Pea Soup), we were approaching the 1000-mile mark; the wind had come up and the temperature was back down into the low 40s.  We took a break and plotted the final leg of the trip. At 2215, we left Santa Nella and crossed the 1K line with time to spare, but miles to go.  Shortly thereafter, the group split up at Tracy, with the Steves and Wolfie heading north to Sacramento, and Woody, Chad and me heading west for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mike:

We headed straight on I-5.  Six were now three, and none of us had any communication with each other.  My waterlogged FRS was only good for receiving, Chico’s was dead, which left only Sacramento’s Chatterbox the only fully operational unit.  The rest of the way was silent, with loads of time for reflection.  I don’t know about the Steves, but I reflected A LOT on how damn cold it was.

Dan:

The Bay Area crew had a quick bout with reserve while heading through Altamont Pass and then picked up fuel in Livermore (Liveformore?), where the temperature was a brisk 37 degrees F.  We headed north up I-580. Chad dropped off for home at Concord, after promising he would not get up in the morning and go for a ride. Woody and I hit rush hour style traffic at the Benicia Bridge; Caltrans, the group of brain surgeons masquerading as a highway department, had decided that the best time to do maintenance was at Midnight on Saturday night with three lanes of traffic bottlenecked into one.  It took 20 minutes to go three miles.  We paid the troll at 0016, got our bridge receipts and split up, Woody heading east to Fairfield, while I headed north to Napa.

Mike:

Man, it seemed like it took forever for us to get into the Sacramento city limits.  We finally made it, though, and Steve Long and I began to creep over into the right lane to take Highway 50 east the last few miles towards home.  Chico Steve still had a ways to go on I-5, so we were splitting up.  As we exited off of I-5, Chico Steve seemed to shiver as we lost sight of him.  He was too cold to wave.

On the way home...

On the way home...

Dan:

At Benicia, I was at roughly 1090 miles.  After about 21 hours in the saddle, it was funny how hard it was to exceed the speed limit. The sign said 55mph and that seemed just about right.  I hit I-80 for a quick jump through Vallejo, then Highway 29 to Napa and home.  My final fuel receipt came in at 0045, 21 hours, 39 minutes, and 1,109.5 unofficial miles. The last 3.6 miles to the house seemed to take forever on surface streets.  Finally, I saw a familiar driveway with an open gate and the outside light glowing an inviting shade of yellow. The Garage of Speed and Power looked pretty good, and I managed to dock Red Sled without incident.  It was pretty quiet for a few minutes.

Mike:

Steve broke away towards home, but I still had more miles to go.  My heated grip wraps turned out to be too hot, and had burned my hands through my gloves in two places.  Even with the small blisters on each hand, that heat still felt great.  I smiled in my helmet as I envisioned steam rising from my hands and into the cold night air.  I completed the final gas stop at the 76 station in Folsom at 0009.  Near the station, on the road towards the house, I could see about seven of Folsom’s finest stopped with their blue lights flashing out of control. I couldn’t see what was happening, but it looked like the road was blocked off.  While I gassed up, not a single car headed in that direction.  I wonder why¼  After grabbing the last receipt of the trek, I rolled towards the collection of officers, wondering if I would have to talk my way out of something.  I was certainly a ragged looking vagabond, ripe for a bout of power abuse.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw they had some pillar of our community handcuffed on the ground.  Thank goodness they had no interest in harassing late night drivers, after all.  When I finally arrived on our street, the place seemed deserted.  The only sound for miles was the guttural sound of my Italian v-twin.  I coasted into the driveway and cut the engine.  The sudden total lack of sound was almost deafening.  Not wanting to wake the entire neighborhood, I subsequently rolled Contessa into her garage at exactly 0014, 21 hours, 7 minutes, and 1,146 unofficial miles after I began this nutty endeavor.  That first hot shower felt amazing.

Dan:

You mean you didn’t stop to have one of the officers witness your final mileage?  This was a great ride.  Time management, fuel management, speed management, self management; an IBA ride is an exercise in management.  Will I do it again?  You betcha.  Endurance riding is addictive.  As much as I hate the slab, I had a blast.

Mike:

Absolutely.  Everyone appeared to have loads of fun.  Before this event, I had very little experience in the long distance riding arena.  I have lots of riding under my belt, along with four 850 mile days through the Arizona/California desert in July heat, but embarking upon the SS1000 opened me up to a completely new style of riding. The challenge was intense, the company was magnificent, and the memories will be unforgettable.

Dan:

The bike performed superlatively.  The cold, dense air made a HUGE difference, compared to summer riding in hot dry air.  “Frisky” comes to mind – full power, smooth, good fuel economy (considering the, shall I say, enhanced speeds).  Comfort?  Aside from the hands getting a bit cold, I had no real complaints.  The Bill Mayer saddle left no bunsaburning, a common affliction of the stocker.  Overall, it was an outstanding experience, highly recommended, and I can tell this won’t be my last one.  You’ll see a block of Connies on the IBA list. It’ll look good to me.

Mike:

My sentiments exactly.  The Ducati was amazingly comfortable over the long haul.  Sure, the Corbin seat and the ¾” risers added to the comfort level, but the trip highlighted and reinforced just how capable a motorcycle my little Contessa is.  I must admit, leading up to the ride, I was a bit apprehensive with a bike like the Concours now missing from my stable.  The Iron Butt website added to my doubts.  I counted the number of Ducati’s in the list of bikes – I came up with only 12.  Oh, great, I would be number 13 – hopefully lucky 13.  As it turns out, my worries were swept away within the first 50 miles, and the odometer just kept ticking away.  At home, as I laid there in bed reflecting on the ride before I drifted off to sleep, it was difficult to remove the smile from my travel-weary face.  I tell you, that block of Connies will look great next to my Ducati.  It’s amazing how good riff raff can look next to a supermodel!

Dan’s ramblings on getting ready:

Preparation for an IBA ride is the key to completing one.  The old adage “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” rings true.  I look at preparation from the perspective of “Get rid of the Nags,” because I know that if I don’t have any nags, I’ve prepared as well as I can.

As far as mechanical preparation goes, Red Sled is completely reliable, doesn’t have any nags that need correction, and is pretty well set up for long distance riding.  But on the ride, I kept laughing/cursing at myself.  I’d noticed that one of my mirrors had moved down a bit when I put the cover on Friday night.  I’ve got them adjusted pretty tight so they don’t flop, and basically, I need to be off the bike to make fine adjustments.  EVERY time we stopped, I’d forget to make the final adjustment.  When you get off the bike, there are a whole bunch of big things you’ll need/want to do, and the little things will get lost in the shuffle.  I got it close while riding, but it wasn’t perfect and thus was a little nag the whole way.  Tire pressures, suspension adjustments and fluids are things that absolutely have to be done before leaving.  A throttle lock will keep your right arm from going dead.  The main point is, if your bike is running reliably, it’ll most likely make the trip without a complaint.

If you’re adding new equipment, don’t do it right before the ride. Get it set up in advance, test it in advance, and be sure that it works the way you want it to.  Mike had problems with his hand warmers blistering his hands, which could have been a disaster for his ride.  We could have dealt with that a little better, just like we could have adjusted my mirrors, but a lot of things will get pushed aside once you’re out on the road; deal with the mechanical stuff before you get started.  A special note on FRS and Chatterbox communications: This isn’t the first ride where we’ve had a Chatterbox go down after getting wet.  You might want to think about coming up with some way to add some waterproofing, even if it’s a ziplock baggie and some duct tape. If it gets wet, you’re going to lose bike-to-bike until it dries out. Likewise, make sure your batteries are fully charged before you leave, or it’s going to get real quiet at some point.

One other part of mech prep that can’t be ignored, and that’s a quality saddle.  If your stock seat starts bunsaburnin at 200 (or 500) miles, it’s gonna be a long day, you won’t be a happy pilot, and you may not finish your ride.  If you get the mechanical preparation out of the way before you start, it’ll leave you plenty of time to deal with the ride itself, and you won’t be wasting attention on the bike (or your butt) when you’ll need it for the road.

Mental preparation for a long day ride is a completely different game than short day riding.  The first IBA ride takes some fairly serious mental prep, because it looks like Mt. Everest when you’re standing at the base looking up.   Keep track of the weather along your intended route, starting a couple of weeks before you leave.  We had several routes we were considering that would satisfy the ride requirements; we ended up choosing the one route that gave us the greatest chance for success given the weather we anticipated.  Be prepared to be flexible.

You’re going to be riding at least 1000 miles in a day, and some of that is going to be during darkness.  Get used to the idea.  You know you’re going to be on the bike for a long time.  You know you’re going to cover a bunch of miles, and you know you’re going to be tired at some point.  Recognizing and accepting the fact that you’re going to get tired will help let you find a way to deal with it (i.e., don’t deny fatigue; recognize it, accept it and compensate for it).  I kept an internal dialogue going the last 100 miles, reminding myself that the decision making process could afford no errors.  Reducing speed helped give me additional time to SIPDE, and I kept running that acronym through my mind.  IBA is endurance riding, and you have to prepare your head for the long haul.  It’s a bit more than a quick spin to the corner store for a loaf of bread.  I think the fact that we did our ride toward the end of the riding season made our mental preparation easier.  Having ridden to Utah for the National, and having done three 3-day rallies between August and October was good mental preparation in itself; a 1000 mile day wasn’t as intimidating as it might have been in April.

Physical preparation is important.  Like your bike, if you’re in good shape and don’t have any nags, you’re going to make the trip without any problems.  Doing some sit ups every morning for a couple of weeks before the ride will help keep your back together.  Stretching when you get off the bike will really make the next 250 miles easier. Get a throttle lock, because you’re going to want to give your throttle arm plenty of time to rest.  If you can deal with the physical attributes, you’ll minimize the nags that will draw your attention away from the road.  On the road, eat well and drink plenty of water.  Even if you only carry a tank bag full of Power Bars and have a Camelback full of water, you’re going to be keeping your body operating optimally if you eat and drink regularly.  If you’re hungry or thirsty, your attention will be diverted by a nag.

Attire is critical.  There’s a difference between full gear and fool’s gear.  Again, if you dress for a ride in a way that doesn’t have you getting nags, you’ll increase your chances for success.  I wore thermal underwear under Levis under my riding suit and had one spot on my leg where the thermals separated from my sock.  For the next 100 or so miles I had this 3 square inch area on my shin that was colder than the rest.  It felt like a square foot.  At first it was mildly distracting, then it became annoying.  My hands were cold until I put rain covers over my gloves.  It’s amazing how a little nylon windbreaker will keep your hands warm when leather and thinsulate won’t.  It almost goes without saying, but dress for the get off you don’t plan to have.  Protective gear from head to toe will save your skin.  As far as 1000 mile underwear goes, $20 worth of lycra/spandex bicycle shorts will really save your butt.

Last thoughts on preparation: If you’re going to ride an IBA ride with a group, know who you’re riding with and practice riding together before heading out.  If you don’t have bike-to-bike communication, spend some time going over hand signals with the group before you ride.  I added FRS in June before Utah, and now I wonder why it took me so long; having bike-to-bike comm is well worth the money.  Knowing each other’s riding style in advance will be one less thing to be concerned with on the ride.  Our group had all ridden together before; most of us had ridden with Wolfie once and with Chico Steve a few times, but the other four of us have ridden thousands of miles together.  Having a lot of group riding experience made a group IBA ride a lot of fun.  In a group, take turns riding lead, and volunteer to lead.  Teamwork is key.  Ride Safe!

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