The numbers say that riding 1,610 km in less than 24 hours (average speed just 67.1 km/hr) is required to earn an entry-level Iron Butt Association SaddleSore 1600K certification, but I believe an equally important number is four. I’ve previously written about How to do an Iron Butt ride, but the other, perhaps bigger, question I regularly get, is “Why?” The short answer, is time.
We all have the same amount of time in a day. It’s how we use it that differs. We don’t all have the same amount of vacation time for one thing. And vacation time is where you will notice the amazing ability to stretch time that comes from being able to safely complete an Iron Butt ride. If you can do a SaddleSore 1600K, there isn’t much in Canada or the USA that is more than a four day ride from home, which really makes the most of your vacation time. Read that line again and start planning some trips.
If you live in Whitehorse and want to experience the Gaspe’ Peninsula, it’s only four days (6,100 KM) to Rimouski, QC. Add half a day for the extra 850 KM to Baddeck, NS and you can also ride the Cabot Trail. How about the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee? That’s just three and a half days (5,600 km) from Whitehorse. People in Newfoundland have the disadvantage of a ferry ride but, by catching the overnight ferry to North Sydney, NS, it’s just over three days ( approx. 5,100 km) to Banff and the Icefields Parkway. It’s possible to enjoy the Sea-to-Sky Highway and the Duffy Lake Road with a four-day ride (approx. 6,100 km) to Whistler, BC. Or, if you want to check out Big Sur in California, it’s just four days (approx. 6,400 km) to Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Big Sur, featuring the Bixby Creek Bridge, is a popular motorcycle route in California.
Being able to ride 1,600 km in a day doesn’t mean all your days have to be that long, though. My wife has completed two Iron Butt Saddlesore 1600K rides on the pillion seat. I made the rides easier for her by mapping routes that ended at Fairmont Hot Springs in BC, at the start of a long weekend, just in case she had a sore saddle that needed some restorative hot spring soaking. Knowing that she could handle the time in the seat (a custom Russell Day-long saddle on the second ride, mind you) she had no problem when I suggested back-to-back 800 km days to get to South Dakota to see the 2017 total eclipse of the sun.
A survey in 2011 of the 230,000 members of the American Motorcycling Association ranked Wyoming’s Beartooth Pass (3,337 m /10,947 ft) as the #1 motorcycle road in America (it is pretty awesome!). Beartooth is less than 3,200 km from Whitehorse or 4,600 km from North Sydney. Divide those distances by four and you’ll find your days are relatively short.
Wyoming’s Beartooth Pass was voted the #1 Motorcycle Road in the USA in 2011.
Are you getting excited at the thought of riding your own bike on some of the most memorable roads in North America? You rode your bike here from where?!? Trust me, it’s a blast and you will have stories that most people will have a hard time believing. Don’t forget the pictures. Anyhow, that’s it for the Why, now for a quick How-To.
Riding at least 1,610 km in less than 24 hours is not a trivial task but, with a few tips and the right preparation and attitude, completing an Iron Butt Association SaddleSore 1600K is possible.
1. Read the SaddleSore rules and the Archive of Wisdom at ironbutt.com
2. Plan ahead and tell your family and friends your intended route. Multi-lane divided highways are often the best option. Get a satellite tracking device or share your phone location so others can participate vicariously. Carry a phone charger and cable.
3. Ensure your bike is in proper working order before you depart. Check all fluids including the final drive oil/lube your chain, ensure your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of rubber, test all lights, etc.
4. Long distance rider adage: figure out what makes you want to get off your bike, and fix it.
5. Make sure you are well rested and healthy. Try to clear up any nagging issues that might distract you.
6. Avoid stimulants like coffee for a few days before the ride. The boost they provide will be more effective if you’ve been off them for a while. Better yet, wean yourself totally and just drink water or sports drinks during your ride. A hydration bladder enables drinking while riding so you stay properly hydrated. A simple rule of thumb is you should have to urinate every time you stop for gas (two to four hours) or you’re not drinking enough.
7. Pack a sub sandwich and/or energy bars so you don’t have to spend time buying food. I also like to put a sliced apple in a ziplock in my tank bag or breast pocket. By opening my visor I can easily slide the slices into my mouth while riding which provides a good boost in mid-afternoon. I also pack some microwave popcorn, cup-a-soup, and instant oatmeal. Every hotel room has a coffee maker to heat water so if there are no restaurants open at the end of your ride you won’t starve. Pack some Tylenol, Advil, and Imodium – ’nuff said.
8. Practice fuelling before your ride. Use your credit card at pay-at-the-pump stations. Choose truck stops or large multi-pump stations so you don’t have to wait for a pump. Write your odometer reading on the receipt and take a picture in case it gets wet or lost. Save the receipts in a protective bag to document your accomplishment. You’re working a time/distance puzzle here and the less time you’re stopped the better. A good fuel stop is six to ten minutes including a bathroom break, snack, and drink.
9. Rain delays are for baseball. Pack your rain gear, a heated jacket liner, cooling vest or neck roll, and extra gloves. And change clothes before you need the protection. Earplugs help reduce wind noise and fatigue.
10. Plan your first ride near the summer solstice in June. With 15 to 19 hrs of daylight throughout Canada you won’t be riding in the dark much, if at all.
11. Recognize when it’s time to stop. A quick break to stretch and get the blood flowing, or to have a snack, is preferable to a crash.
12. Most of all have fun, think about the number four, and build on that first ride!
Ride responsibly and enjoy your extended vacation time.
Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula traces a scenic route along the St. Lawrence River.