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!

Fly Versus Ride

March 2005

When I received my first acceptance package from the IBA it included a handwritten note from President Mike Kneebone. The last line reads “… Welcome to the insanity!”

Dictionary.com gives several definitions for insanity, the most fitting being “extreme foolishness.” Iron Butt rides are unquestionably extreme LDR (long distance riding), but are they extreme foolishness? And would that mean LDR is foolishness, just not to extreme?

The answer to the first question is largely subjective: I don’t think Iron Butt riders are extremely foolish … but I think cigarette smokers are … and I bet I just lined up a bunch of you eager to assert the opposite.

The answer to the second question is a definite “NO”. As long as you have the right combination of rider, ride, route and resources, LDR is not only a great way to enhance your riding experience, but also a practical transportation alternative. Here is one example:

Option 1 (FLY): Let’s say you needed to go from Miami FL to Athens GA for business (serious … or monkey). If you fly commercial, Orbitz.com says the best deal from MIA is US Airways connecting through Charlotte NC. The flight will cost about $120 each way, and the published flight duration (air plus connection time) is about 5 hours. To these figures, let’s add $30 at each end for ground transportation, 45 minutes for getting to the airport and through security, and another 45 minutes for getting you and your bags to your destination. To fly, we now have a one-way trip cost of $180 with a total trip duration of 6.5 hours (assuming, of course, that the airline employees show up for work … and no one tries to detonate their sneakers).

Option 2 (RIDE): What if you rode instead of flying? Maps.Msn.com says Miami to I-95 to the Turnpike to I-75 to US-129 to Athens is a 685.5 mile ride that will take you 11 hours and 24 minutes. At 50 miles and $2 per gallon, you’ll need about $30 for gas. Let’s add $30 more for food and incidentals, and 1.5 hours for meals and breaks. To ride, then, we have a one-way cost of $60 with a duration of about 13.0 hours.

FLY vs. RIDE: How do these options compare? Obviously, riding from Miami to Athens costs only a third as much as flying ($60 vs. $180), but it takes twice as much time (13 vs. 6.5 hours). So, which is the best way to go? Personally, I would gladly choose the freedom of the road–and a few extra hours of rolling, scenic countryside–over the hassles of airport security and the all the rest of the headaches of post-911 air travel. But what’s right for you … is up to you.

BTW, if you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer browser (MSIE), you can type any of the partial web addresses I gave you in bold above directly into your Address Bar. Your browser will automatically resolve the complete URL (Uniform Resource Locator), and take you there.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

15 Grand and 15 Miles

February 2005

According to the U.S. DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2003 the 5.37 million motorcycles registered nationwide traveled a combined distance of 9.54 billion miles. This suggests that the average American motorcyclist logs less than 1,800 miles of saddletime annually, which is less than 150 miles a month.

150 miles a month? I usually cover more than that in a day! No wonder I get those odd looks when I mention that 2,500-mile maintenance is a monthly ritual for me….

Anyway, our warm tropical climate and endless summer sunshine make South Florida a year-round biker’s paradise. Aside from occasional showers (and a hurricane or three), almost any day is a good day for cruising over to your favorite beachside bistro, and the four counties of Southeast Florida (Palm Beach/Broward/Miami-Dade/Monroe) offer what may be the most scenic assortment of biker-friendly watering holes this side of Sturgis. Yes, bar-hopping through Buffet Country can be a real blast, but there is a lot more to motorcycling than that. As the helmet sticker reads, “15 GRAND AND 15 MILES DON’T MAKE YOU A BIKER.”

Sooner or later, hopefully, you are going to want more from your biking experience than Sunday’s bucket, band and free buffet. Next will come runs across the Everglades, or down to the Upper Keys … followed by Key West Poker Runs, circling the “Big Water” of Lake Okeechobee, and of course north to Daytona or Leesburg for BikeWeek and an “I Rode Mine” pin. So much for 150 miles a month!

I’d like to think that most of us are willing if not eager to extend and enhance our riding experiences at least this far … and then some! In future columns, I will provide you with ample reasons to consider long distance riding, and plenty of resources to help you reap the rewards of LDR. Many of those will be Internet resources, which can be accessed from your browser by means of their Uniform Resource Locator, or “URL”. A URL contains the name of the protocol used to access a resource, a domain name that identifies a specific computer on the Internet hosting the resource, and a pathname to the resource itself. On the Web (which uses the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP), an example of a URL is …


… which specifies HTTP protocol, a computer named “www.PervasivePersuasion.com”, and a web page whose pathname is “/index.php”. Another URL (or “web address” in common parlance) is that of the source for the statistics used above:


Want to see more? Put these URLs into your browser address bar and click “Go”.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

Long Distance Riding

January 2005

Welcome to the first installment of Bikin’ and Bytin’ with Bruce™, a new monthly column for Wheels on the Road. Miami Mike has graciously provided this platform to let me preach about my passion–long distance riding–so long as I also pass on pearls from my profession–web design. Thank you, Mike! Now, let’s get started:

First, let’s establish what we mean by “long distance riding”. Michael Kneebone put 107,501 miles on his Yamaha Venture Royale in 1984. That certainly involved some long distance riding. Phil Mattson added 30,603 miles to the odometer of his Harley-Davidson FLHTCI in July of 2001. That’s LDR for sure! And last November, yours truly clocked 1,132 miles in 18 hours and 25 minutes on my H-D Dyna Convertible. I believe the Iron Butt Association will say that qualifies as well.

Staying in the saddle for a thousand miles or more is unquestionably LDR, but I can tell you first-hand it’s LDR to the extreme. We will have more to say about that in future columns, but we’ll also discuss distance riding in a more mainstream context. Although some enthusiasts will argue the point, for most of us “long distance riding” is a relative concept anyway, and that’s the way we will deal it: If your idea of LDR is crossing the country from coast to coast, I’ll share news you can use. And even if your riding range extends no further than a Key West Poker Run, I’ll have plenty for you, too.

Some of what I write will come from experience–my own, plus what I hope you will share with me. The rest will come from research–much of which is done on the World Wide Web (“the Web”) via the Internet (“the Net”). If you want to send me an email or check out my web references, you are going to need four things: (1) a computer; (2) Internet access; (3) a Web browser (preferably Microsoft Internet Explorer); and (4) an email account with either client software or a webmail interface. If you do not have these four things, I suggest you contact your nearest computer consultant–or teenager–to help you get them. If you do have them, I will do my best to help you get more out of them.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!