West Texas Highway

Over 1500 in Under 24 … Twice: Part 1

October 2006

Part 1 of 2: The Rules

I began and ended my weeklong Independence Day 2006 holiday break with successful Iron Butt Association (“IBA”) Bun Burner Gold rides, covering over 1,500 miles in under 24 hours each time.

On June 30, I rode north on I-95 from Miami Beach to Jacksonville, then west on I-10 to Junction, Texas, logging 1,529 miles in 22 hours 7 minutes. I returned by a similar route on July 7, logging 1,546 miles in 22 hours 28 minutes.

Of the more than 10 million motorcyclists in North America, less than 25,000 are members of the IBA. The majority of these complete only one certified ride: the SaddleSore 1000, which requires logging at least 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less. And since 1988, less than 150 of those who sought greater challenges have completed more than one Bun Burner Gold.

Why so few? The answer is the pace. Consider this: If on average you maintain a speed of 70 miles an hour, cover 100 miles between each stop, and spend 15 minutes at each stop, you will be traveling an average of 1 mile per minute, or 60 miles per hour. Maintain this pace for 24 hours (with no meal or rest breaks), and you will cover 1,440 miles … 60 miles less than the 1,500 miles required. In other words, the 1 MINUTE = 1 MILE rule I once gave you will not get you a Bun Burner Gold certificate. To get a BBG, you have to change the equation to pick up the pace, which means (a) riding faster, (b) riding farther between stops, and/or (c) making shorter stops. Here are some tips on each:

Riding Faster

You will find it extremely difficult to map a 1,500 mile course that does not take you through any intersections, stop signs, red lights or traffic congestion. You can also consider yourself blessed if you’re able to ride that far without encountering rain. To compensate for these delays, understand that you must target a speed that is higher than the speed you must average. Even on open interstates, for example, you may need to target 80mph to average 70mph. And to raise that average speed, you must increase your targeted speed as well.

There are some speed “limits” you need to consider: One is the maximum speed of your motorcycle. Another is the maximum safe speed with respect to both road and traffic conditions and rider skill, experience and fatigue levels. And last but not least, of course, are the posted legal speed limits.

Riding Farther Between Stops

No matter how fuel efficient your bike may be, no matter how large your gas tank is, and regardless of whether you have an auxiliary fuel cell, IBA rules for the Bun Burner Gold require that you log a stop at least once every 350 miles (or 5 times over 1,500 miles). For most riders, however, riding 350 miles between stops is more of a theoretical ideal than it is a practical limit.

The practical limits of how far one can ride between stops are usually (a) how far your bike can go before you must refill your tank, and (b) how long you can ride before you must empty your bladder. As to the former, lower speeds may give you better gas mileage, but you have to carefully weigh what you are gaining in MPG and fewer stops versus what you are losing in maintained average MPH. As to the latter, with conditioning and practice most healthy riders should be able to coordinate their potty breaks with their pit stops.

Making Shorter Stops

Most stops on Iron Butt rides have to do with accomplishing one or more of the following: buying gas, cleaning shields and visors, checking oil and tires, drinking liquids, eating food, restroom breaks or rest stops. Any of these tasks that can be omitted or done more efficiently gets you back on the road quicker, and every improvement in your stop “routine” will benefit you at every stop. There is probably no single best way to achieve this, but here is what worked for me on my two Bun Burner Gold runs:

First, I decided to forego any rest stops or meal breaks. Going 24 hours without sleep is not that great of a challenge, and a vest pocket full of jerky combined with a c-store snack and something to drink (mostly water) every two to four hours kept me nourished and hydrated. Second, I checked my tires and topped off my oil before each run, so I didn’t have to do so along the way. Third, my glasses, helmet visor and windshield were spotless at the start of each run, maximizing the time I could ride before they needed cleaning again. Fourth, I used SVM Gas Cards–which do not get cut off for frequent use like most credit cards do–and paid at the pump whenever possible.

Altogether, I was able reduce my average time per stop to under 8 minutes, which compared to 15 minutes saved me about an hour and a half on each run. That savings, more than any other, is what brought me in under the 24-hour wire.

So much for the rules … next month, I’ll tell you about the rides!

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!