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The Ubiquitous Bandanna

January 2006

This is the sixth installment in a series about the combination of rider, ride, route and resources required to endure and enjoy long distance riding (LDR). Our resource focus this month is the ubiquitous bandanna.

Those who view motorcycles as toys to be towed rather than beasts to be rode probably see the bandanna as some sort of fashion accessory to complement their custom-fitted, hand-tooled leather chaps. But like the cowboys before them, seasoned riders of the steel horse know that the real value of the bandanna is found in function rather than flair.

I normally ride with one bandanna in my pocket, one in my forward toolbox, and a third in my saddlebags. Here are just a few of the many uses I’ve found for them:

Cleaning Bike. Sure, a soft cotton bandanna is great for cleaning your sunglasses. But what never ceases to amaze me is that–in a pinch, of course–you can damn near detail your entire bike with just one bandanna and a little spit!

Checking Oil. Sooner or later, you’re going to need to check your oil in a place without towels. Wiping the dipstick on your pants will work, but using a bandanna is cleaner.

Highway Flag. If you’re bike is broken down and you’re tired of waving for assistance, try tying a bright red bandanna to the top of your antenna or the most prominent place you can.

Head Cover. The best head cover is a helmet. But if you’re riding lidless, lose your official H-D skull cap, and still want to keep some UV rays off your bald head, just break out a bandanna and you’re good to go.

Neck Muffler. That cool-looking black bomber jacket can’t keep you warm if the winter winds whip in around the collar and down your back. Tie a bandanna around your neck, tuck it under the collar to block the air, and you’ll be good for another 20-degree drop.

Impact Pad. If you have a cellphone, iPod, XM satellite radio, or some other device or commodity you want to cushion from a long and bumpy ride, try wrapping it in your bandanna before you drop it in your vest pocket.

First Aid. The utility of the bandanna as a bandage or sling is surely no surprise, but don’t forget it also makes a fine tourniquet. About 600 miles into a Bun Burner 1500 run, a road rock hit near my left knee causing immediate pain and swelling. A quick bandanna tourniquet kept the swelling in check, and eased the pain enough for me to complete the ride.

Quick Repair. The wind shredded one leg of my chaps halfway through a SaddleSore 1000 ride, but another bandanna tourniquet around my ankle held the leather in place until I reached my destination.

Yes, the ubiquitous bandanna offers a lot of utility for only a buck or two. And even non-bikers can put them to effective uses … like wiping noses … or robbing banks.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

Riding at Night

December 2005

If you want to ride 1,000 miles in a day, our 1 MINUTE = 1 MILE rule says you can expect the run to take about 16 hours and 40 minutes. Safety and scenery considerations suggest you’ll want to make as much of the run in daylight as you can, but most of us can pretty well count on some night riding being required. Here is why:

The longest day of sunlight for places in the Northern Hemisphere is the summer solstice, which occurs in late June and marks the start of summer. On that day, Anchorage gets 17 hours 22 minutes of daylight, New York 15 hours 6 minutes, and Miami 13 hours 44 minutes. So even then, unless you are touring Alaska or Canada, “sun to sun” won’t get a thousand miles done.

LDR is a challenge, and night riding is often the most dangerous part. Accidents are more likely after dark, and statistics show that 60% of all motorcycle fatalities occur at night. Road hazards are less visible to you … you are less visible to other motorists … and the likelihood that you’ll have to dodge a drunk driver increases substantially. Plus, starting your run from home in the daylight means you’ll be finishing at night in the dark … on unfamiliar roads … with your alertness levels lowered by the fatigue of the day’s ride.

For a long distance rider, there’s no getting around night riding. There are some things we can do, however, to reduce the risks:

Leave Early. Consider starting your runs around 4:00am. That will allow you to get a couple of hours of risky riding out of the way early, when you are (hopefully) refreshed and alert, and while you are (probably) on familiar roads.

Dress Bright. Black is the most popular color among motorcyclists, and the worst possible choice for night riding. Instead, wear light colors and reflective materials, so other motorists can see you. If the sun ain’t shining, brother, you should!

Clean Shields. Dirt, grime or scratches on windshields and face shields can cause dangerous glare and distortions at night. Keep your windshield clean, and your face shield scratch-free.

Make Space. You and all other motorists have less visibility and reduced reaction times at night. Compensate by keeping as much space as you can around, in front of and behind you.

Follow Lights. At night it can be very difficult to spot road gators (truck tire shreds) and other hazards, especially on dark pavement. Use the lights of other vehicles to get a better view of the road. And watch for bouncing taillights on the vehicle in front of you, as this can indicate bumps in the road or rough pavement ahead.

Stay Alert. If you are tired, pull over and rest. Otherwise avoid distractions and stay alert, especially at intersections, where about 70% of all motorcycle-vehicle collisions occur. Think of yourself as being invisible, and watch for vehicles that may swerve into your lane or turn in front of you.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

Riding in Rain

November 2005

After two weeks of riding across the country, and another two doing what little I could to aid bikers hit by Hurricane Katrina, my web business backlog precluded participation in this year’s Key West Poker Run. I did manage to break away for a ride south to Islamorada, however, on the Sunday when everyone else was riding back north to nurse their hangovers.

As I passed through the Card Sound toll booth heading east, I could see the dark gray wall of a summer squall in the skies just ahead. Having long ago accepted that riding in rain is just part of a biker’s life, I breezed on over the bridge. I felt the first few raindrops splash my cheeks as I rounded a bend and rolled into some backed up traffic. When the road straightened out, the cause of the queue came clearly into view:

Just ahead, the westbound lane was completely blocked by half a dozen new-looking Geezer Glides–stands down, lids up, in the middle of the road–as the flock of Rolex Riders who owned (or rented) them took their own sweet time adorning their brightly-colored matching top-and-bottom raingear.

Want to know what’s wrong with that picture? JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Whenever you stop to put on raingear, or for any other reason, don’t stop in the middle of the road! Especially on a two lane road, and especially if there’s a curve or other obstruction causing limited visibility. If you need to pull over, do just that: Pull over to the side of the road, and park your bike as far out of harm’s way as you can. I don’t know if those Rolex Riders were being arrogant or just ignorant, but either way they were damned fortunate some big truck didn’t come lumbering around the bend and flatten the lot of them.

Why suit up for a summer shower anyway? Experienced distance riders watch the weather and read the skies, and so can you. If you expect to be riding in hard rain for an extended period, consider donning your raingear before you leave. It’s safer than suiting up roadside, and saves time as well. If, on the other hand, all you have to deal with is a little South Florida sprinkle, why pull over? By the time you get your gear on, the rain may be gone. If, for example, those Rolex Riders could’ve coped with a few raindrops for just one mile more, they would’ve been in the clear. And Frogg Toggs or not, I bet they ended up getting wetter from their pause and perspiration than I did from just riding on through.

Riding in the rain may be unpleasant, but pulling over is not always desirable. If you want or need to keep going, remember that there are increased risks due to decreased visibility (yours and the other guy’s), less traction and longer braking distances. The hazards are even greater at night or in fog, and the ride can be absolutely miserable if you are cold as well as wet. I know: I once rode through unrelenting rain for over 350 miles–from Mobile to Huntsville Alabama–on a cold winter’s night, through an endless blanket of fog.

I shivered, but I survived. Ride safe, and so will you.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

Sturgis: The Rally

October 2005

For me, Sunday August 14 marked the end of ten days and 5,151 miles in the saddle, passing through three time zones and nine states to take part in the 65th annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, a.k.a. the Black Hills Motor Classic, a.k.a. STURGIS (SturgisMotorcycleRally.com). Last month I told you about the ride, so this month let me tell you about the rally:

STURGIS PART 2 of 2: THE RIDE

Sunday (August 6). After eight hours sleep, a hearty breakfast, and a couple of hours compiling my IBA SaddleSore 2000 validation submission, I saddled up and rode the short 29 miles to Sturgis. My first stop was Sturgis Harley-Davidson, where parking is free and the shirts are expensive. I gave a kid 20 bucks to clean the 2,000 miles of crud off my chrome, then headed off to patronize the sea of vendor tents and, ultimately, enjoy a frosty beverage or ten at some of the several famous biker-friendly establishments. My celebrations that evening began at the Broken Spoke and ended…

Monday (August 7). The morning after the night before is never a pleasant experience, but having at least one such morning in Sturgis is obligatory. With mine out of the way, I loaded up Hidalgo (as I have christened my bike) and left Rapid City heading west on I-90. My first stop was in Spearfish, where for eight bucks I gorged on a delicious all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, and drank a very rejuvenating gallon of iced tea. Then it was west to Sundance, Wyoming, and north on US-14/SR-24 to the Devil’s Tower. Best known as the location to meet the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, on this day it was a more a place for bikers to commune with prairie dogs, who seemed totally unphased by the huge H-D flag flying over their town.

Cruising back down SR-24 to US-14, I decided to turn right just to see where the road went, and I ended up in a small town called Moorcroft, where US-14 runs into a stretch of two-lane highway lost in time called Sweet 16, promoted by the locals as “… the shortest, safest, most scenic route from Yellowstone Park to Mount Rushmore.” After buying gas from a kind lady who would not take my money until after I had pumped, and speaking with an old cowboy turned motel clerk who would not let me leave until he found me a room down the road, I headed east on Sweet 16 (US-16) to Upton–population 300–checked in with Joyce at the Weston Inn, and stayed the night.

Tuesday (August 8). My internal clock being two hours ahead, I was at the door of Upton’s Western Cafe just a few minutes after 5:00am/M, but not before the four or five Deere-capped ranchers who made it in ahead of me. I ordered breakfast for one … and got enough food for six. I downed what I could, but the five-inch biscuits were too much for me. As dawn’s first light appeared on the horizon, I left my tip, saddled up and continued riding east. The sun was up by the time I made Newcastle, and the morning chill was gone from the air by the time I crossed back into South Dakota and rolled into Custer. And I kid you not: Somewhere along that stretch of winding road and majestic Black Hills vistas, I actually pinched myself, trying to determine if I had died and somehow made it into Heaven.

From Custer, I headed north on US-385 and stopped to view and photograph the Crazy Horse Memorial, an admirable and ambitious project that has been years in the making, and may take decades more to complete. North of there, I turned east on SR-244 and made my way to Mount Rushmore. Like the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore is an awesome sight, and seeing it in person is a moving experience for which no video or photograph can substitute. I snapped my pictures nonetheless, then weaved my way through the hairpin turns and tunnels of Iron Mountain Road (US-16A) to Custer State Park. There, along the Wildlife Loop, I stopped to shoot into a small herd of about 200 bison–but only with my camera.

My time in the Black Hills was running short, so I made my way back to US-385 and then rode north to Deadwood. Over-commercialized with dozens of new casinos, I barely recognized the Eagle Bar, which is where Saloon #10 used to be, which is where Wild Bill Hickok met his demise in 1876, and where twenty-odd years ago an Ogallala-Sioux chief and I once passed a night away trading shots and telling stories. Saddened by the triumph of hype over heritage, I saddled up and headed north on US-85, connected to I-90, and rode eastward into the Badlands. I stopped for the evening in Wall, South Dakota, a tiny town made famous by the ubiquitous advertising of Wall Drug, an unabashed tourist trap, yet truly an Alice’s Restaurant. Seriously folks, if Wall Drug doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it!

Wednesday-Sunday (August 9-14). All good things must come to and end. I had to be back in Florida by Saturday, so Wednesday morning I began my 2,100 mile journey back to the Sunshine State. My route back was pretty much the same as coming up (see last month’s column), except that from Nashville I took I-65 south to Montgomery, then US-231 south to I-10. I attended an MRO meeting in Bonifay on Saturday, then rode south through the rain to Miami Beach on Sunday.

Ten days… 5,151 miles… An incredible ride… An unforgettable rally. And the Sioux were right: Heaven must be somewhere in the Black Hills.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

Sturgis: The Ride

September 2005

For me, Sunday August 14 marked the end of ten days and 5,151 miles in the saddle, passing through three time zones and nine states to take part in the 65th annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, a.k.a. the Black Hills Motor Classic, a.k.a. STURGIS (SturgisMotorcycleRally.com). Next month I’ll tell you about the rally, but first let me tell you about the ride:

STURGIS PART 1 of 2: THE RIDE

Friday (August 5). My ride began with an Iron Butt SaddleSore 2000 run from Miami Beach, Florida to Rapid City, South Dakota of 2,179 miles in 36 hours 35 minutes road time, 43 hours 55 minutes total time. I left home at 5:55am/E, headed up I-95 to the Turnpike, then north on I-75 through Georgia, connecting with I-24 West in Chattanooga. There was still plenty of daylight as I crossed the southern Appalachian Mountains, over the Tennessee River, and cruised on through emerald foothills to a 7:15pm/C dinner stop in Murfreesboro. Hydrated and refueled, I changed to my night glasses and rode on through Nashville and Paducah Kentucky, crossed the Ohio River into Illinois, then took I-57 North to Mt. Vernon, where at 12:14am/C, I checked into the Comfort Inn with 1,144 miles of my journey complete.

Saturday (August 6). At 7:34am/C the next morning-after several cups of coffee, a light breakfast and a few stretches-I headed west on I-64 through sunshine, showers and the endless corn fields of southern Illinois to St. Louis. There, I crossed the Mississippi River and connected to I-70 West right by the famed Gateway Arch, then crossed the Missouri River (for the first of several times) heading west through the Ozarks towards Kansas City. The scattered trees and grassy slopes of the Missouri countryside reminded me a lot of the Texas Hill Country, and I can certainly see why everybody from Harry Truman to Mark Twain to Jesse James chose to call it home. After passing through Independence, I bypassed Kansas City by taking I-435 North across the Missouri River (again), connecting to I-29, and heading north along the Nebraska border through St. Joseph into Iowa. Continuing on I-29 North, I skirted Omaha via Council Bluffs, then rode on through Sioux City, crossing the Missouri River (once more) into the southeastern tail of South Dakota.

The stretch of I-29 between Kansas City and Sioux City takes you through rich fields and farmlands bordered by rocky and wooded bluffs that seem to go on forever. It is the tribal home of Native Americans like the Winnebago (yes, they were Indians before they became RVs), and was once traversed by Lewis & Clark. It is a territory rich in history and heritage … but lacking in gas hoses. Riders beware: This length of I-29 has more than one exit marked for gas where the gas stations are closed down or don’t even exist. It may be a temporary problem, but my advice would be to top off your tank in St. Joseph and Council Bluffs, heading north or south.

Continuing north on I-29 to connect with I-90 West in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the landscape rapidly changed as I rode through vast, open expanses of the Drift Plains that might easily have inspired that line about “… amber waves of grain.” At 7:19pm/C, I stopped in Alexandria for gas and a change to night glasses, but thanks to an extended twilight I was still able to view another abrupt change in terrain as I crossed the Missouri River (for the fourth time) into the rolling prairies, canyons, and flat-topped buttes of central South Dakota. Somewhere in the cool darkness west of there, I rode into the Mountain Time Zone and on across the Badlands to the Black Hills. I made Rapid City and checked into the Days Inn at 11:50pm/M. That marked the end of my 2,179 mile ride, just in time for the beginning of the Black Hills Rally.

Next Month … The Rally!

Three Rules for Fuel

August 2005

This is the fifth installment in a series about the combination of rider, ride, route and resources required to endure and enjoy long-distance riding (LDR). Our focus this month is the all-important resource gasoline.

If the first commandment of LDR is DON’T GO DOWN, and the second is DON’T BREAK DOWN, the third must surely be DON’T RUN OUT OF GAS! Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? Well, once you get into LDR, you’ll be amazed at how much time and effort can go into planning fuel stops … and how unnerving it can be to find yourself a thousand miles from anything familiar … running on reserve through a dark and rainy night … praying that the next station is not too far, not closed down, and has no plastic bags over the fueling nozzles like the one you just pulled out of did. The longer your runs are, and the more often you make them, the more likely it is that something like this will happen to you. Here are three rules to help you minimize the odds, and lessen the impact.

RULE #1: KNOW YOUR SAFE CRUISING RANGE. Plan your routes and stops to stay within it. Note that I’m referring to your safe cruising range, which is not necessarily what your bike’s brochure or some online reviewer claims it is. I recommend something a bit more conservative than that. Your actual experience, riding your specific motorcycle, is the best basis for determining your safe cruising range. And until you have that experience to draw on, here is a rule of thumb you can use: Start with your bike’s fuel tank capacity (including any reserve) in gallons. Multiply that by the lowest reliable mileage estimate in miles per gallon (MPG). Then, multiply that result by 80% (or 0.8) to get what I consider to be your safe cruising range. Here is a table of safe cruising range calculations for five popular touring bikes:

Estimated Safe Cruising Ranges

On most U.S. highways, the distance between gas stations is rarely more than 25 miles and almost never more than 50. What makes these range calculations safe is that they should leave you with a better than average chance of making it to the next fuel stop whenever one you were counting on is closed or can’t deliver.

RULE #2: ALWAYS HAVE MORE THAN ONE WAY TO PAY. “Pay-At-The-Pump” is a convenient technology, but it’s a long way from being reliable. If the card reader’s clogged, the keypad’s kaput, or the computer can’t connect, so much for using your credit card. And even if you can use your card, every time you swipe it decreases your available credit and increases the likelihood that some fraud protection software program will decide you are making too many charges, in too many places, and decline further purchases.

If you are making a long run, try to take at least two different kinds of plastic with you, and always keep enough cash on you to cover one day’s gas. Pay with cash, and I can pretty well guarantee your fuel purchases will never be declined.

RULE #3: NEVER PASS UP A CHANCE TO PUMP (OR PISS). In LDR, my friends, size does matter. The size of your tank (and bladder), that is. If you want to maximize the distance you can cover in a day, while minimizing your chances of having to stop (or wishing you did), then never pass up a chance to pump (or piss). If you stop to eat, sleep, accommodate another rider or for any other reason, top off your tank (and drain your bladder). Make this a habit, and I can pretty well guarantee that one day you’ll be thankful you did.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

Havens & Hazards

July 2005

This is the fourth installment in a series about the combination of rider, ride, route and resources required to endure and enjoy long-distance riding (LDR). Our focus this month is the route.

A route is a specified course of travel from one location to another. It defines where you want to go, and how you plan to get there. In conventional travel planning, emphasis is placed on the destination and, once chosen, you simply book a flight or get in the car and go. In distance riding, however, knowing the end point of the trip is just the beginning of the process. Given the WHERE, you have many considerations for the HOW. Chief among these are distance, havens, hazards and schedule:

Distance. Whenever I plan a ride from Point A to Point B, I log onto Maps.Msn.com, click “Directions” and check mileage and time over both the Quickest and the Shortest routes. I recently planned a ride, for example, from Miami Beach to Austin, Texas for the Republic of Texas Rally. The Quickest route was 1354.5 miles in 22 hours 33 minutes, crossing central Florida on the Turnpike. The Shortest route was 1343.7 miles in 23 hours 48 minutes, crossing central Florida on US-27. I might have been tempted to choose Shortest over Quickest, because US-27 offers better scenery than the Florida Turnpike, and the price for the extra pleasure was little more than an hour’s riding time. Instead, however, I had this thought: It should only take a couple of hours to stretch this ride out to 1,500 miles, and if I do that, I can make the ROT Rally and earn an Iron Butt Bun Burner patch in the process….

And that’s exactly what I did: IH-95 north to Jacksonville, IH-10 west all the way through San Antonio into the Texas Hill Country, then US-87 north to Fredericksburg, US-290 east and FM-1376 to/from Luckenbach, then on into Austin from the west on US-290; a run of 1,583 miles in 26 hours 23 minutes altogether.

Havens. The longer the ride, the more stops you will need to make for gas/oil/air for your bike and water/food/breaks for you, and the greater the likelihood you may need shelter for sleep or a cycle shop for parts or repairs. On most U.S. highways, a gas station or convenience store is never more than 50 miles away, and restaurants or lodging rarely more than 100. As for shop locations, your motorcycle dealer or owners group should be able to provide you with a reference guide. The Harley Owners Group, for example, gives its members an annual touring handbook that includes a 50-state atlas, detailed dealers directory, and loads of other useful touring information. I never go on a long ride without it.

It is not usually necessary to plan all of your specific gas stops. It makes sense, however, to avoid stretches of empty road longer than your tank’s cruising range. Also keep in mind that the next gas station may never be more than 50 miles away, but it might not be open 24 hours a day! Same goes for restaurants and lodging facilities. If you avoid mishaps and your bike is well maintained, you shouldn’t need to stop for parts or repairs. But if you do, the closer that shop is the better off you are. Keep that in mind as you chart the specific links of your course.

Hazards. Online map services like Maps.Msn.com or Maps.Yahoo.com can tell you how you COULD go from Point A to Point B, and here is an important link to help you decide how you SHOULD go:

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/

This is the National Traffic and Road Closure Information website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. It is a clearinghouse of information on road closures, highway construction, traffic congestion, accidents, 511 traveler information service deployment, and even the weather. Another good source of online weather information can be found here:

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/

Schedule. Knowing WHERE and HOW you plan to go, your final route considerations have to do with WHEN. If you have to complete the ride within a certain amount of time, or be somewhere at a specific point in time, here’s some handy statistics for you:

If you ride at 70 miles an hour, cover 100 miles between each stop, and spend an average of 15 minutes at each stop, you will be traveling an average of 1 mile per minute, or 60 miles per hour: 1 Minute = 1 Mile. Using this statistic, for example, you can project that a ride of 1,583 miles will take 1,583 minutes, divided by 60 yields 26.38 hours, which translates to 26 hours 23 minutes. Right on the money, based on my recent Bun Burner ride! And knowing how long it will take to get somewhere, you can easily determine when you will need to leave to get there by a certain time….

In a perfect world, that is. Use the links above to check weather and road conditions, and adjust your route and schedule accordingly. Remember that rush hour is no time to cruise through a major city, and that wet roads slow you down even with rain gear. And finally, note that the one minute, one mile rule does not make allowances for rest or sleep, but to be on the safe side, I suggest you’d better.

Like the backsliding televangelist said, “Do as I say, not as I do!”

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

What Riders Ride – Part 2

June 2005

This is the third installment in a series about the combination of rider, ride, route and resources required to endure and enjoy long-distance riding (LDR), and the second of two parts discussing the ride. Our focus last month was what kind of motorcycles distance riders do ride. Our focus this month is what kind of bikes they should ride.

Part 2 of 2: What kind of motorcycles SHOULD distance riders ride?

Last month we shared a survey showing that touring bikes like the Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic and Honda Gold Wing were popular choices among last year’s IBA SS1000 riders, and that only 2 out of 2,911 riders managed to make the 24-hour, one thousand mile run on bikes described as choppers. Those two guys must have truly learned the meaning of “Saddle Sore”!

So, what kind of motorcycle should a distance rider ride? Well, it probably shouldn’t be a Billy Lane one-off hardtail kidney-cruncher, but it doesn’t have to be a Geezer-Glide either. Simply stated, the motorcycle should be capable of covering your intended route, in your targeted timeframe, with the capacity to safely, securely and comfortably transport you and your gear. The most important criteria are capability, capacity, and comfort:

Capability: Knowing your route, stops and timeframe, you can calculate how fast you will need to run and over what distances. Is your bike engineered–and in condition–to handle the demand? If so, the next question is fuel range. What is the longest distance you have to cover between gas stops? Given your bike’s rate of fuel consumption at the speed you plan to run, is your tank large enough? Next comes maintenance and repair. What are your bike’s maintenance intervals? If unanticipated repairs or scheduled maintenance are required over the course of your trip, who will perform them and where are they located?

Is your bike backed by a nationwide dealer network like Harley-Davidson or Honda, or will you have to call Russell Mitchell at Exile Cycles, praying that he’s close by and has a clear head?

Capacity: Every motorcycle has a recommended load limit. Find out what it is for your bike, and make sure the combined weight of you, your backwarmer and your gear do not exceed it. And as for gear, test and verify that everything you need for your trips can be safely secured on the bike, without impeding maneuverability, and without impacting balance by adding too much weight to the front, left, right or rear.

Comfort: Last year, the SPEED CHANNEL‘s Greg White and Dan Parisi rode cross-country on a pair of 49cc Yamaha Zuma scooters. They didn’t cover a thousand miles a day, they weren’t packing all of their gear, and they didn’t finish without repairs, but they did make it! Check out their press releases at SpeedTV.com, and you’ll see that one of the recommendations is “Get some pillows for your butt.”

In distance riding, the comfort of your ride is just as important as its capability and capacity. Comfort considerations go far beyond the saddle, and the determinations are highly subjective. A bike that feels right to a 25 year-old taut and slender six-foot female, for instance, might bring sheer agony to a short and stocky 55 year-old male. And come to think of it, so might the female….

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

What Riders Ride – Part 1

May 2005

This is the second installment in a series about the combination of rider, ride, route and resources required to endure and enjoy long-distance riding (LDR). Our focus this month is what kind of motorcycles do and/or should distance riders ride. Let’s address that in two parts:

Part 1 of 2: What kind of motorcycles DO distance riders ride?

To answer this question, I went to IronButt.com and downloaded a list of 2,911 IBA Saddle Sore 1000 (SS1000) rides certified in 2004. After several hours of sorting, sifting and number-crunching with Microsoft Excel, I came up with the table you see here:

2004 Iron Butt Association SaddleSore 1000 (SS1000) Rides

The first three columns of the table show the motorcycle makes in order by number of bikes. The last two columns show what I determined to be the most popular bike within each brand, and an approximate number (“~”) of that specific model included in the maker’s count. The count by make is precise. Expedience mandated approximating the model counts, however, due to ambiguities in the way the riders reported what they rode. A “Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic FLSTC”, for example, may have also been submitted as “H-D Heritage”, “H-D Softail”, “H-D FLSTC”, or simply “Harley-Davidson”.

My analysis shows the Honda Gold Wing as the most popular model among 2004 SS1000 riders, with Harley-Davidson being the leading overall make. Also worthy of note is that two (fool)hardy riders apparently endured 1000+ miles of unabated kidney crunching on “H-D choppers”. Beyond that, I spotted none of the over-chromed, under-engineered butt busters you see being cobbled together on the Discovery Channel … and with very good reason. We’ll talk more about that in Part 2 next month…

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

What LDRiders Must Be

April 2005

Last month, I wrote that as long as you have the right combination of rider, ride, route and resources, long-distance riding (LDR) is not only a great way to enhance your motorcycling experience, but also a practical transportation alternative. This month, let’s talk about the most important item on that list: the rider. In order to endure and enjoy LDR, a rider must be fit, skilled, disciplined, prepared and alert. More specifically:

FIT: Safely riding a motorcycle is a physically demanding proposition, and the longer the ride the greater the demand. If you need a buddy to back up your bike, or if barhopping brings back pains, you’d best hit the gym before you hit the open road. People start losing muscle mass around age 30. Proper diet and exercise counters that, and it’s never too late to start! If you don’t believe that, just check out the octogenarian abs at BobDelmonteque.com.

SKILLED: Skill is a combination of training and experience. I know of no formal LDR training courses, but you’ll find some good books on endurance riding at RonAyres.com. Weaving cones and reading tomes alone, however, will not give you the skills needed to survive an IBA Saddle Sore run. Those skills come from experience, and if you don’t already have them, don’t think you can develop them overnight. Start out with short trips, and work your way up the mileage meter. Know your limits and grow you limits, but never push yourself too far beyond them.

DISCIPLINED: Distance riders often ride alone, especially where validation is involved, and certainly in competition. When you only have X hours to cover Y miles, you don’t want to lose time because your buddy has a smaller tank or bladder than you. You’ll be riding with no Road Captain to guide you, and no Road Guard behind you. Congratulations! You are now experiencing true freedom of the road! You are also taking your life into your own hands. How quickly and well you make judgments and react will be a primary determinant of your success (and survival). This is where the discipline comes in: Anything that impedes your judgment or reaction time should be avoided, and alcohol tops the list.

PREPARED: Riders should prepare for LDR as they would any other event involving risk, i.e., hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And guess what? My experience is that the more you prepare for the worst, the less likely it is to happen! And what is “the worst” that can happen? Going down or breaking down top my list. A capable rider on a well chosen route minimizes the chance of the former. A well-maintained motorcycle, with adequate rescue and repair resources, mitigates the latter. The World Wide Web offers a wealth of motorcycle riding preparedness tips, guidelines and checklists, such as those available here.

ALERT: Whether you are riding one mile or one thousand miles, the primary goal of every sane motorcyclist should be to avoid injury and arrive alive. That requires untiring vigilance … being constantly on the alert for road hazards, changing road conditions, and clueless or careless cagers. Always watch out for the other guy, ’cause you can pretty well bet he’s not watching out for you! And speaking of alertness, this is a MUST READ:

Fatigue & Motorcycle Touring

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!