One Thousand Miles, 19 Hours, and a Motorcycle

Eight riders started at 4AM Eastern, from Willowick, OH, rode to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, turned around, and rode back to Willowick. One thousand seventy-three miles in 19 hours.

We completed an Iron Butt ride!


Clicking on the picture will open an interactive map, where you can zoom in, see some pictures, and read some ride statistics.

Some thoughts about riding (or attempting to ride) 1000 miles in 24 hours. In no particular order.

  • 4AM is damn early. Be sure to get to bed early. It may help to have a couple of beers, a bourbon, to help you get to sleep. But don’t drink too much, you have to get up early and you don’t need a hangover.
  • Keep yourself hydrated. At every stop, I drank water and/or fruit juice to keep my fluid levels up. Saturday was a hot day and it required continual fluid intake. The night prior to leaving, open some water bottles and drain some water from them. Then, put them in the freezer. You will have some rock solid bottles of water that you can put in a small cooler. They will slowly melt as you ride and  provide you with ice cold water for the entire trip. They also double as ice to keep fruit cool.
  • Keep snacking. There isn’t time, nor do you want to, to have a meal of any size. Fruit, granola bars, nuts, energy gels, maybe some jerky, are quick snacks. The linked energy gels do not require liquids to wash them down. However, some of them taste pretty bad. Regardless, I think they helped and it doesn’t take long to ingest 2 ounces of gel.
  • Invest in a pair of bicycling shorts (these are shown inside out, so that you can see the padding, you will NOT look like a baboon when wearing them). The extra padding will go a long way to make your ride more comfortable. However, with them under your pants or armored riding pants, you may find that you walk like you’ve got a full diaper. It’s worth the extra padding.
  • Know how far you can travel on a tank of gas. In my testing, I was able to get 42 miles per gallon. However, the actual ride was moving at a quicker pace than 69-72 miles per hour because the speed limits were higher in Michigan. I-75 ranges from 70-75 mph in some areas. Because of that, my fuel economy dropped to 33-36 miles per gallon (I do not have stock pipes on my bike, which makes a big difference in fuel consumption at higher speeds). Because of this, I was the rider with the shortest range. Plan your gas stops for the person with the shortest  range. In this case, it would be me. The ride leader adjusted two stops because there was no way I would make the planned stops.
  • This wasn’t my ride, so I followed. As the person with the shortest range, we could have changed the gas stops. That didn’t happen, the ride leader simply tacked on an additional stop. If it were me, I would have adjusted as we rode. Sure, that part of the planning would have gone out the window, but our stops would have been consistently 120-130 miles apart. As it was, one stop was only 60 miles from the previous stop. That cost us 40 minutes (we stopped at the same gas stations twice, going up to Sault Ste. Marie and back). It’s a small thing, but I was personally responsible for the additional stop and I didn’t like that feeling. I’m grateful for an additional 40 minute break, though.
  • If you are worried about range, you may want to consider a jerry can. However, the additional weight may reduce your range, too.
  • While the weather did not show rain along the route, I still packed my rain gear. As it was, we missed some early morning rain in the Cleveland area. It didn’t rain at all along the route. Still, I was prepared.
  • Speaking of packing, pack as light as possible. The less you have, the less you need to track.
  • I rode in a full face helmet with a Sena 10S as my travelling companion. Through it, I can listen to music, hear Waze give me directions, and, if there are others in your group with Bluetooth headsets, the ability to talk to them. It worked, as always, exceptionally well. However, a charge will only last about 16-17 hours. Which meant that the last 90 miles or so, I was travelling in silence. I did bring the charging cable, but with only 20 minute stops, there wasn’t enough time to get a proper charge. Not sure how to remedy this situation, since the Sena doesn’t have extra battery packs or fast chargers.
  • If you are starting out early, and your start point is not within 15-20 minutes of your home, I highly recommend that you get a hotel room. First, you won’t have to ride any sort of distance to get started. This means a few more minutes of precious sleep. Next, and most important, after you return, your bed is only a short ride away. I cannot stress enough how tired you will be at the finish. The thought of riding more than 20 minutes, at least to me, was depressing. Thankfully, the hotel I booked was about 3 minutes from the staging area. I was in the room, showered, and watching a little television before some of the riders were home. Also, during the last segment, all I found myself thinking was “how soon can I get in bed?” Not exactly the smartest thought, but knowing that the final ride of the day was only a mile, at worse, from the staging area, really made me feel good.
  • The Iron Butt Association (IBA) allows the use of Spotwalla for tracking your ride. This was the first time I used the app and I do like it. It may replace EatSleepRide as my preferred riding app. That said, before embarking on a 1000 mile ride, download the Spotwalla app, create an account on the Spotwalla site, configure the app, and then use it to track your ride. As you are using it, remember to post pictures and comments on your ride. When done, you can submit your Spotwalla trip, along with all of the paperwork, to IBA.
  • The use of Spotwalla also allows for the sharing of your ride with anyone and everyone. At a glance, your significant other, parents, friends, can see where you are, where you’ve been. Not only does this make the ride more inclusive, your significant other/parents/friends are aware that you are still moving or at a gas stop, reducing the anxiety of the ride for everyone.
  • Spotwalla seemed to get people to text me at points in the route. I cannot overstate the boost I got from people texting me their good wishes, their recommendations for sights to see at specific stops (sorry, no time for sightseeing), and general snarky comments. Keeping it light and funny made the time on the bike seem to go faster. Thank you for your text messages.
  • Speaking of IBA, our ride leader is an IBA member. That means easier paperwork for the other riders. It’s like he is a sponsor. When we completed the ride, we each provided him with three gas receipts; start, midpoint, end, along with the mileage written on the receipts. He is responsible for submitting our ride to IBA. It really was easy. If you are not riding with an IBA member, pay close attention to the guidelines. Since we were all starting from Cleveland, our route choices were limited to east, west, and south. I’d highly recommend that you plan a route for every direction, so that you have a chance to miss bad weather come ride day.
  • Put all of your receipts in an envelope and keep the envelope in the same place. This reduces or eliminates hunting for the envelope when you need it at every gas stop.
  • It may seem stupid to mention, however once you’ve decided on your route and gas stops, it doesn’t hurt to call the gas stations. You want to make sure that they are open 24 hours, have more than 4 pumps, and allow the use of credit/debit cards at the pumps. If you have to run into the shop to pay or to get your receipt, you are losing precious time that could have been used to eat or drink something. Or to use the bathroom.
  • We limited our gas stops to 20 minutes. That is just enough time to get gas, get your receipt and take a photo of the receipt with your odometer reading, eat and drink something, and to use the bathroom. There wasn’t any time for much more. Remember, you can ride 1000 miles in about 16-1/2 hours at 60 mph. Add in 8 gas stops at 20 minutes, you are now at 19 hours.
  • When I ride by myself, 20 minute gas stops and no lunch or dinner is my preferred method of riding. This ride fit my style of riding but at much greater distances.
  • There could be time for a proper lunch or dinner. While that is an enticing thought, don’t do it. You will get tired as your body digests a large meal. You will also need to stop for additional bathroom breaks. As I said above, just keep snacking. I didn’t get hungry or tired (I was tired, but it was from riding, not eating).
  • Do a full check of your bike before leaving; pads, fluids, tires, cables, lights, everything. You don’t need a mechanical problem out on the road. And you most certainly don’t need to ride on tires that need replacing.
  • This is not an easy ride and can be dangerous. In most cases you will be riding highways with cars and trucks. Even at 4AM in Cleveland, with extremely light traffic, I saw some pretty stupid drivers. We rode Michigan; deer are an ever present danger. More than any other ride, you have to keep awake and alert. In our case, we started in the dark and ended in the dark. Do not ride faster than your headlights can illuminate. In the light of day, you can see the idiots better, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t relax.
  • As they say, there is safety in numbers. Riding in a group helped a lot with safety and visibility. It may have also helped that, as tail gunner, I was wearing a high visibility, military spec vest. One, the leader could easily see me at the back of the group. Next, riding in the dark, I stood out like a beacon. Finally, it has an ID pocket. You know what fits in it? My EZ-Pass. Going through toll booths was a breeze (just make sure that you orient it properly before starting out). While I did have to wait for the others to pay their tolls, if everyone in our group had an EZ-Pass, we could have saved several minutes at each toll booth.
  • If riding in a group, do not skip the safety meeting prior to starting. Go over staggered riding, hand signals, a reminder of the route to the first gas stop. The leader should also tell the group the expected speed at which the group will travel depending on road conditions, weather, traffic. If you experience toll booths, the procedure for moving through them.
  • Do not allow yourself to get cold. Leaving Cleveland at 4AM, it was a bit chilly. I didn’t ask the other riders, but as I always ride in armor, I was pleasantly cool. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is markedly cool than the mitten. Wear layers, stay warm. If you’re cold, you’ll burn more calories which makes you tired. Especially at the start and end of your ride. Don’t look only at the high temperatures for the day you riding, look at the low’s, too.
  • Ride with someone you’ve ridden with and trust. I was fortunate to have two people on the ride with whom I’ve ridden many times. Not only are you engaging in friendly, pointed banter at the stops, which makes the ride more fun, you are riding with people that know you. They knew when I was tired, even though I didn’t say anything. They knew when it didn’t look like I was having fun and did their best to change my attitude. And we all had someone we could lean on at the most trying points of the ride. In short, we relied on each other to push through the hard parts and finish the ride. Also, when you broach the subject of “1000 miles in 24 hours” with your significant other, knowing that you will be riding with people that she knows and trusts, goes a long way toward acceptance of the insane thing you have in mind. “I may not like, but at least he’ll be riding with Aaron and Harvey. I know they’ll keep an eye on him.”
  • Most important: The IBA checks mileage reports based on Google Maps. Because odometers and speedometers are notoriously wrong on motorcycles, be sure to map your ride using Google Maps to confirm the distance. For example, when we finished, odometer readings ranged from 1,023 to 1,074 miles. Google Maps is the one, true measure of distance traveled.

This is a tough ride. The worse part for me was the start time. Frankly, I didn’t think I would be able to finish the ride, as I was pretty tired from lack of sleep. But, when we arrived in Sault Ste. Marie, I was feeling great and ready for the ride back home. I don’t know if I qualify it as “fun,” but I can say when we finished, I felt that I had really accomplished something. Hopefully, the points above are helpful.

Ride safe.

 

2 Responses to One Thousand Miles, 19 Hours, and a Motorcycle

  1. Rory Wohl says:

    Congrats, Gregg! Nicely done!

  2. Michael Kitis says:

    Awesome write up Gregg. Your summary, feedback and guidance are priceless.

    -MJK

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