Let me start by saying I’ve always considered myself a good long distance rider. I’ve done many “iron butts” and have put a good 15,000 on just my touring bike each year. In fact, last September, I did 14 states and 4,000 miles in 5 days and frankly, when I look at real long distance riders, I’m a relative lightweight. Just when you think you’ve ridden alot of miles and think you have a good long resume of asphalt under your belt, you meet a guy like Allan Karl. Allan is a guy, who on July 4, 2005, left his home in southern California and went on a two year motorcycle adventure around the world. ‘Been there done that’ you say. Seems everyone is doing round and down and up and back and over there and here adventure, but this guy takes the cake. Without any support team and riding a mid sized bike, a ‘05 BMW F650GS Dakar, Allan rode 62,329 miles, through 54 countries and crossed all seven continents! Along the way, his single cylinder bike consumed 1,116 gallons of fuel and he personally took over 30,000 photos. Hell, my little Cannon fills up after about 300 shots! So my 14 little American states, who cares? My Dad used to say: “Son, no matter where you go in this life, there’s always someone with a bigger ____!” True, I suppose, depending upon how you fill in the blank.
It seems these motorcycle riders are attaining feats that go farther faster and cover more ground than ever before. Part of the reason is the increase in modern bikes dependability and the road surface technology that has kept ours and many other countries’ roadways in good or at least fair repair. Try riding a thousand miles on a ’69 BSA and see how far you get before something pukes! Modern bikes like Goldwings, Road Kings, and K1200’s just increase dependability and ride ability. I rode the Pan American Highway in Central America in B.B.K. (That’s “Back Before Kids”) in the 90’s and it was a pothole hell. I hear that it’s much improved now. It also comes down to how much each individual is willing to suffer. I’ve just read about a Californian who trailered a large container designed to hold fuel with special fuel pumps allowing him to continually operate his bike without stopping, from southern California to Maine, WITHOUT PUTTING HIS FEET DOWN. Yes, he didn’t stop once and was reported to use a liquid diet and a catheter! Yes, folks, you heard it here! That dude, if the story is true, is WAY more excited about an iron butt than I am.
Check out www.ironbutt.com and you’ll see just how popular long distance riding has become. The organization has over 34,000 members and membership is growing by leaps and bounds. Their web site is extremely organized and lists all the types of challenging levels riders can reach. Examples are the SaddleSore 1000 (1000 miles in 24 hours), BunBurner 1500 (1500 miles in 24 or 36 hours), and the 50cc Quest (coast-to-coast in 50 hours). There is no trophy or awards banquet or big paycheck for setting a record or attaining a goal, just the personal satisfaction of completing one of the events within the time restraints. “What’s the point?” a non rider may ask. Kind of like the age old question of “why did the man climb the mountain?” The answer is obvious. Most Internet searches revolving around queries like “long distance moto…” or “longest moto trip…” seemingly end up with a long ride that in the end seeks profit. Seems everyone who does one of these crazy long trips has a book for sale or a fundraiser revolving around their particular trip, a tire contract, a tour bike building sponsor, or a waterproof jacket company.
The craziest record that comes to mind is an Argentinean guy named Emilio Scotto of Buenos Aires. He’s ridden over 456,729 miles across 214 countries, from January 17, 1985 to April 2, 1995. He set off on his Honda Gold Wing, with $300 and no previous riding experience. Along the way, Scotto learned five languages, became a Muslim, and married a girl he met in India. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this is a record for motorcycle travel without time restraints. I wonder if I could set a world record for perhaps the sorest patootie in history, or maybe for the most Advil ever consumed at truck stops by a single man, still alive. Perhaps even my record setting motorcycle trip of 9 days with one pair of socks? Note to self: switching socks left to right makes them no less stinky each day.
Well, I am quite content to do a couple of boring old iron butts a year on American tarmac, a thousand miles here, a thousand miles there, with a few beers at journey’s end. No world records. No book deals or endorsements with fancy web sites. Just a sore can and a pile of stinky socks.
Well, signing off for now. Ride strong, ride safe and in the end, make sure you ride home.