Iron Butt Association

Who would want to become a member of something called the Iron Butt Association? Especially if you have to ride 1000 documented miles in under 24 hours to qualify for membership.

Well, I submitted my application about three months ago. They said it might take three months to process it. Sure enough. A nice package just came in the mail. I got a backing panel for my license plate, an official certificate, a record of finishers with my name at the top of the list, several decals and patches, a membership number and password, and a nice letter from president Michael Kneebone himself.

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On the same day that I rode the BMW F650, 10/15/17, a guy named Andrii Korpusov from Lutsk, Ukraine rode a BMW R1100RT 1008 validated miles to gain membership.

The finishers almost exclusively rode big displacement motorcycles, Harley Davidson Road Kings, Goldwings, big BMW touring machines, Yamaha FJRs, Kawasaki Concours, etc. But a guy named Anastasiya Vinogradskaya from Moskow, Russia finished on a Yamaha 125 on 8/03/17. I was surprised that there weren’t more small displacement rides.

I enjoyed the challenge. It was fun. I was very careful and took most of the 24 hours to complete it. On longer rides, though, I don’t want to be limited by a tight schedule on a relatively naked, lightweight bike. The more epic Iron Butt runs (coast to coast, for example) may best be left to those with a 1200cc engine and a big fairing.

Instead, I think I would enjoy some simple, aimless wandering on the F650 when it gets warmer. But every time I get on the bike, I’ll see that Iron Butt plate holder and think about US Route 1 from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida, or Key West to Prudhoe Bay, or Lubec, Maine to Homer Alaska, or even Alaska to Terra del Fuego like Lois on the Loose.

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Iron Butt 1000

I want one of these license plate holders. I don’t know why.

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All I had to do to qualify for membership in the esteemed “Iron Butt” Association (and get my plate holder) was ride from New Hampshire near Lake Winnipesaukee down through Hartford, skirt New York City via I-287 into New Jersey, take I-78 over near Harrisburg, PA and then down 15 to the Sunoco Station on the old Baltimore Pike Road in Gettysburg. Turn around and do the same thing  in reverse. Over 1000 miles in less than 24 hours. Then send a check for $49 plus copies of the ride documentation.

How tough could that be?IronButtSaddleSoreLeg1 copy

Time

I left home at 3:45 am on October 15 and got back at 3:32 am on the 16th, almost one day later. Interstates all the way, cruising at 60-75 mph. Why did it take me so long? Google Maps predicted a little over 8 hours each way. Let’s say 16.5 hours of riding.

The official start and end correspond to the first and last stops for gas, not at my front door. I gassed up first at 4:03 AM on the 15th and then finally at 3:06 AM on the 16th, for a total elapsed time of 23 hours and 3 minutes.

The F650 runs about 6% slower than the Google Maps estimate for cars. That’s an extra hour. I saw the main flow of car traffic doing 80 in a 55 zone, more than once. I didn’t feel safe trying to keep up with that but I also had too much company in the right hand lane in the form of semi’s, pickups towing trailers, RVs and some just inexplicably slow drivers.  I got comfortable passing people doing less than 65.

I refueled 10 times, riding for over two hours and 125-130 miles between fill-ups, plus an extra stop near the end. I averaged about 20 minutes off the bike by the time I refueled, took a photo of the receipt next to the odometer, used the restroom, ate and drank something, switched out clothing and gear, reset the odometer, etc. So maybe 3.5 hours total for stops.

I lost 30 minutes on the first leg due to very poor visibility in the dark, foggy mist. Almost turned around. Fortunately, there was no traffic and I knew that section very well. Probably another 30 minutes total for the rest of the ride for the same reason, off and on. I rode about 11 hours in the dark and there was some misting occasionally. It’s particularly hard to see when lights are hitting beads of moisture on the face shield. I could clear it somewhat by tipping the helmet down into the slipstream.

Another 30 minutes for stop and go traffic from an accident and some single lane construction zones.

I lost another 30 minutes on the way back when Google Maps re-routed me north to avoid I-287 for some reason. I wound up riding about 1040 miles, by Google measurements. My odometer total was 1078 miles.

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Final Fill-up

 

 

Gear

I knew at 60 degrees and little sun the heat was going to slowly drain out of me and after two hours or more I would be too cold to continue. So I got a Gerbing heated vest but I hadn’t gotten a controller and the vest was too hot on straight 12 V so I only used it a little. I will need the controller to keep my core “temperature neutral” while riding for hours in cold weather.

I used my summer armored Revit jacket in Pennsylvania where it was warm and sunny, but wore my three-season Sedici with more layers for the cold, dark northern sections. UnderArmor thermal underwear, of course. I mostly used my summer armored riding gloves although I did use my “Randy” (from A Christmas Story) down mittens with wool mitten liners for the first few hours.

I added some red and white reflective strips on the back of my helmet. Never had any close calls. People could see me.

Bike

I rode the venerable BMW classic F650.

I had installed a new chain and sprockets for the trip and those ran fine. The Metzler Tourance tires had about 13,000 miles on them but were still okay, the rear one getting pretty close to minimum tread depth.

Installed an EZ Pass transponder on the back of the windscreen. I went through about 6 toll booths with it during the trip.

I had the USB adapter plugged in to my Battery Tender outlet and a phone holder on the handlebars, but with the mist and the simplicity of the route, I kept the phone on my belt for most of the ride.

Summary

Intense riding for distance isn’t my thing. I prefer to meander, take scenic routes, and generally make use of the bike as cheap transportation. But I did want to get a feel for extensive highway riding and I find I am comfortable with it as long as there isn’t too much traffic and the road is good, which precludes going near big cities.

Riding at night is not attractive simply because I can’t see the road well enough, not only for spotting animals, potholes and debris, but also to see the arc of the road way ahead. It’s unsettling at speed when the road begins to curve in a way that was not anticipated.

At one low point on the ride I thought about retiring to a small scooter with my poser’s “World’s Toughest Riders” plate holder. But a day after getting home I started wondering what the next big adventure might be.

Does vacillating between “I’ll never do this again” and “I can’t wait for the next time” mean you have it just about right?

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Home at 3:30 AM, but I never got drowsy.

 

No Highways

Leaving for a three-night camping expedition to the Delaware Water Gap National Park area in northern New Jersey. It’s sort of the flip side of the trip I took to Maine a while back. 180 degrees in the opposite direction, but about the same distance.

I’m wearing my three season Sedici jacket here and insulated underwear. With a cloudy, 60-degree ride down, the heat gradually drained out of me and around Brattleboro, VT I was needing a place to warm up. I got rained on three times. Coming back was hot and I wore the summer RevIt jacket which lets the air right through.

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If I set the Google Map options to “Avoid Highways” I get the following route:

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It’s a nice, direct scenic run out through the Green Mountains, loosely following the Appalachian Trail down to the park.  The AT passed about 1/2 mile from our campsite, and we were able to hike a few miles on it. Perfect.

I had plugged a USB power outlet into the connector I normally use for the Battery Tender, straight connection to the battery. Bought a $10 phone mount and mounted the iPhone 7 on the handlebars with the charging cord coming out from under the seat. This worked great. I was able to navigate all the way and the phone stayed charged at 100%.

As you are passing through a complex intersection of roads, you can just glance at the screen and see your path through. You don’t have to read all the signs. I think it’s safer.

But there are some quirks to “No Highways”. It apparently computes the quickest route, which is good, but it will often avoid the center of towns. That can be good or bad. If you are sort of looking for gas or food, you might not go by any stations, stores, or restaurants. I wound up in the middle of the national park with very little gas and had to specifically go out and find some. I had started looking at 100 miles on the odometer and was approaching 150 when I finally filled up. Normally, I fill up around 125.

It does seem to like sending you by lakes and rivers, which is nice.

It seems overly averse to construction zones. Just leaving Laconia, it sent me on an unnecessary detour. On the way back from the DWG it dumped me into downtown Albany, NY, apparently looking for a non-highway, no construction way to get across the Hudson River. That’s not the way I went on the way down.

Also, using the navigate mode tends to leave you in the dark about where you are, exactly. You know how far it is to the next turn, how far it is to your destination, but you don’t have an overall sense of where you are and what is around you just beyond your vision.

Finally, it is too strict about “no highways”. On one occasion, I felt like I was riding through people’s back yards right next to the highway. Better to take the highway if all you are going to do is parallel it on much, much slower roads.

By the way, it was my wife and I making the trip, but she drove her Infiniti G37X, cruising in air-conditioned comfort while blasting Amos Lee on the Bose. We each got what we wanted.

 

Stowe, Vermont

If you are going to Stowe to attend a wedding, I recommend riding your motorcycle. I took the occasion to do just that and try out my new Saddlemen TS3200 rear bag.  I had recently adjusted the valves, changed the coolant and put in the 20W50 summer weight oil. The bike was loaded and I ran 32 psi in the front tire and 34 in the rear.

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Saddlemen TS3200 bag with the bike rain cover on top of it.

The bag sits on the passenger seat and just clears my back. I can lean back onto it or not. Pretty much ideal in that respect. I have to help my leg bend enough to clear it when getting on and off. I can still open the top box enough to get at the contents pretty well. The bag hangs down over the sides of the seat, but is still well above the exhaust, and it sits just in front of the rear directional lights. It’s held securely with quick-disconnect straps, sort of pulled back against the top box, conforming to the shape of the available space.

The bike is more top heavy when loaded this way but it handles fine once you get rolling.

I was headed to the Field Guide Inn there and got Google Maps to cook up this 123 mile “back roads” route through the mountains northwest of Plymouth, NH and into Vermont. It was a sunny, 70 degree day. Perfect. I wore my Revit Wind summer weight armored jacket my wife recently bought me. Very comfortable all the way up.

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Bridge over the Connecticut River between Piermont, NH and Bradford, VT

The roads typically follow small rivers flowing towards the big Connecticut River and I leaned into a lot of curves on the way to Stowe.

I arrived at almost the same time as my wife, who prefers her Infiniti G37X over anything with only two wheels.

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The newlyweds

In addition to a great wedding, great food and company, we enjoyed hiking in the area, visiting Moss Pond Waterfall and Bingham Falls in Smuggler’s Notch.

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Moss Pond Falls – about 60 feet top to bottom

Stowe is a wonderful place to spend some relaxing time.

On the way home, though, the iPhone radar was showing rain approaching from the west. It was 42 degrees. I layered up and wore the Sedici three-season jacket that I had squirreled away in the TS3200. Also the down mittens with wool liners. Got on I 89 for the short run from Waterbury down to Barre, but the bike felt so good with little wind that I decided to cover some quick miles by staying on the interstate down to New London and then taking NH Route 11 east. I was comfortable running 65-75 mph with an occasional unintended streak near 80 mph. The bike always runs silky smooth in 5th gear and the torque peaks by design at 70-75. I only passed a few vehicles because I was mostly just keeping up with traffic in the right lane.

Stopped for gas and then again for a quick snack. Pulled into the driveway just ahead of some heavy rain. I love radar!

2012 G650GS

I enjoyed taking a spin on a 2012 BMW G650GS, essentially the latest and final version of the F650 line that started back in the early nineties. My own bike is a 1997 F650.

The engine is pretty much the same with the notable exception of fuel injection. I looked for the enrichment lever to start the bike and didn’t find one. Give it a little gas, press the start button and it fires right up!

It has the same characteristic big-single vibration in the 4000-4300 rpm range although a bit more subdued. Nothing in the bars, a little in the pegs, nothing in the seat. I think it has slightly more power in the 3000-5000 rpm range. I rarely use anything higher than that.

The sound is different with more of a growl. The exhaust pipe feeds into what appears to be dual mufflers, but they are connected in series and the exhaust exits from the one on the right.

The geometry and dimensions of the G are identical to the old F, but it felt a bit more nimble, maybe because the fuel tank is under the seat. Or maybe the rear tire had less of a worn flat center section than my Metzler Tourance tires with almost 8000 miles on them.

The suspension is identical as far as I can tell and, by the way, having gotten used to 6.5 inches of travel front and rear, I don’t think I would be happy with the couple inches you typically get on something like a Sportster.

The gnarly headlight works for me and I like the idea of running tubeless tires on the cast rims. It was a cool day and I enjoyed the luxury of heated grips.

Overall, the G has that contemporary BMW feel of substance. It’s a great bike and could last a lifetime with the remarkable support BMW has for older bikes. But this one is essentially brand new with less than 6000 miles on it.

The G650GS got me to the local SlashBurger restaurant very nicely, but I felt like riding it further.  Say, to Deadhorse, Alaska.

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A borrowed 2012 BMW G650GS and Bell helmet and my new Sedici jacket

 

Cold Weather Riding: Part 6

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Some people drive up from Boston to go skiing at Gunstock. They look over as an old BMW pulls in with a pair of snow shoes strapped on the back. “Whaaaaa?”

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It’s alarming. No one rides a motorcycle to a ski area in February.

“What does that guy know that I don’t know?”

For one thing, it’s only 1/4 mile from my house to the ski area. I don’t get cold on a three minute ride.

I disappear into the woods.

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Steep Part

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Half way up Cobble Mountain, I notice some critters have been sharing this section of the trail. But their tracks veer off towards this shelter:

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A warm south facing rock overhang, dry pine needle floor, no mortgage.

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Snow-coated Alton Bay in the distance.

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Gunstock Downhill Ski Runs

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Panorama High Speed Quad running full capacity in the distance.

Back home an hour and a half later. Hot tea. Then, more hot tea.

Last Ride

It’s  just after Christmas, sunny and in the mid forties. That’s right. Time for a motorcycle circumnavigation of Lake Winnipesaukee. Quite likely the last such ride in 2016, by anyone.

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Alton Bay, already frozen over.

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The F650 loves cool weather.

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Route 28 north to Wolfeboro. White Mountain National Forest in the distance.

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Big lake house under construction. Just the top of it visible.

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A bay on the big lake, north of Wolfeboro

There are actually some guys in those bob houses. Recovering from Christmas.