Posted by: Jessie | September 20, 2009

Iron Butt


On the way out to Bonneville Jim did his first Iron Butt ride.  I’m so proud of him.  I can’t wait to see his certificate.  Iron Butt Association is for the world’s toughest riders.  In order to get into the club you have to ride 1000 miles in 24 hours or less.  I’m not into endurance riding.  Once I get uncomfortable I’m not having fun.  If I’m not having fun then I don’t want to do it anymore.  I’m concerned that when we do our big trip out west next year that we may have to pull an Iron Butt.  It would be neat to have the certificate, but I just don’t think I’m that tough.

Many people feel differently, though, and this type of endurance riding has become it’s own sport.  Every year Eric reads to me off the internet about the Iron Butt Rally.   This rally starts in one place and people are given their info packet.  This packet has a list of destinations and points for each destination.  People ride to these challenging destinations and collect points for 11 days and then go back to the starting point.  They ride 1000 plus miles per day every day for 11 days!  The person with the most points at the end wins.  Wow!  Last year Eric showed me a picture of a BMW shaft drive that was on fire.  Apparently someone had bought it new for the  rally and rode it until it burned up!

I’ve always been amazed by these stories.

This year Eric read to me a post off the Air Head list.  I thought the post explained it all.  It’s by Joel Rappoport.


Joel Rappoport

Joel Rappoport

The IBR is about safe, long distance endurance motorcycle riding.  The
concept is to ride safely balancing time, distance, speed and fatigue
in order to visit locations the rider most likely has never imagined
existed and end the eleven days having had (in the words of Vonie
Glaves) a Grand Adventure.  This is not a sit-there-twist-that rally.
The rider who is fastest, or who travels the most miles achieves
nothing.  The idea is to not only be able to ride your motorcycle
safely and far but to be able to route to accumulate points while the
clock is constantly ticking.

Every bonus is simply a location that the organizers have assigned a
point value.  The more difficult it is to get to the bonus, the higher
the value.  The rider must put the puzzle together while the clock is
ticking, be able to ride the route he has come up with, cope with the
real-world conditions such as road construction, weather, animals on
the highway and meet the challenge of achieving enough points to be a
finisher or place highly.

I was never bored in the 11 days of the rally.  I was constantly
evaluating my route, trying to make it more efficient, contending with
the constant, ever-changing equation of miles, time, fuel, open range,
avalanche warnings, slow trucks, fast trucks, massive rain events, 113
degree desert heat, 32 degree mountain cold (in the same day), staying
hydrated and safe etc.

The locations or bonuses are all of a theme.  In this years IBR it was
crime scenes.  Some were laughable and some were tragic.  Go to
 and click on the Iron Butt Rally then the tab for 2009 and then
select the bonus listings.  Did you know there was a Hobo museum in
Iowa?  A cult compound in Oregon? A memorial to a mass killing in
Idaho?  That Billy The Kid’s gravestone has been stolen several times
and is now enclosed in a wrought-iron cage?

All of these are targets for riders.  Some are daylight only, or have
a specific time range based on the tide or whim.  All of this adds up
to a continuous and rigorous rethinking of the route every moment of
every day. The challenge is to make the timing work, make the
motorcycle work, make yourself work.  Riders frequently melt down and
decide that the rally is just too hard and drop out.  I dehydrated in
2007 and lost a day and a half of riding.  There is no sitting the
bike on rollers and dropping it into gear.  This is the most
concentrated mental and physical riding I have ever done.

Example; on the last leg I chose to visit a bonus near Antelope,
Oregon which was the compound of a cult that had planned mass murder.
It is now a Christian retreat.  We had to take a photo of the water
tower to prove that we had been there. The secondary road approaching
this bonus was roughly 125 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway on
steroids.  65 and 70 mph speed limits, constant turns, desert scenery,
logging trucks, local drivers, game on roadway, open range, road
construction etc.  Every 50 miles or so there was a mile of straight
road then back to the twisties.  It was absolutely the most technical
riding I’ve ever imagined.  Interestingly enough the road had just
been repaved and striped and was in great condition.

After two hours of riding the twisties, with the clock running and
other bonuses to get that day during daylight I got to the county road
leading to the compound.  This was 6 miles of gravel, and I hate
gravel, some deep, some washboard, all twisty and moving up and down 7%
+ grades through the desert.  Then I found myself on a fair paved
road, still with 7% grades and twisties for 20 miles and then when I
stopped at the water tower there was another rider taking his
picture.  20 miles back to the gravel road. 6 miles back to the
secondary road and then 45 miles to a primary road followed by 34
miles to an interstate and on to the next bonus which was over 400
miles away on the Oregon coast and that had to be reached by dark.

The Iron Butt Rally is a test of skill.   Riding skills.  Navigation
skills.  Routing skills (they are different). Time management skills.
Reading comprehension and task management skills.

It is the most intense thing I have ever done.  I still wake up each
morning trying to figure out where I am and what bonus I have to get
to.  I trained for this rally for years, prepared the bike for years,
learned routing skills for years.

The whole thing boils down to safely combining every skill above and a
lot more, competing against a group of riders who truly understand the
nature of the task and having the adventure of a lifetime.
I did!  I learned a lot about myself, had a blast doing it, especially
on my 33 year old cycle with over 1/2 million miles on it, saw a lot
of places that I never would have otherwise.  A Grand Adventure.

Joel Rappoport
IBA 397


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