Racking Up Those Motorcycle Miles, In A Big Way

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You might wonder if 1,000 miles in one day is even possible but it not only is, there’s an organization composed solely of people who have done it, some of them many times. Called the Iron Butt Association (IBA), this group’s motto is “World’s Toughest Riders.” You can say that again.

To become a member of the IBA all you have to do is do the ride. Any ride, as long as it’s 1,000 miles and you complete it within 24 hours. You’ll need people other than your riding companions to sign as witnesses to your ride, and you’ll need to hang onto your gasoline receipts. Bundle them up in an envelope with a check for $40, send it to the IBA requesting certification, and presuming it’s all in order and you get approved, you’re in. No dues, and you remain a member for life.

Of course, the first question everyone asks is why would anyone want to do something like that? Ask an Iron Butt member and he’ll probably have a hard time answering the question. “I just wanted to prove I could.” “I wanted the sense of accomplishment, of personal achievement.” But mostly what you’ll hear is, “It’s really hard to understand unless you do it yourself. When do you want to do your first?”
OK, let’s back up. Before we even start considering doing a ride, let’s answer a few questions. First off, what kind of bike do you need? And is it really important to have some kind of custom seat so you can stand to sit for so long?

It turns out that just about any kind of bike will do, if that’s what the rider wants to ride. There have been scooters that have done Iron Butt rides. Mostly though, what you see are the sport-touring bikes like the Kawasaki Concours or the Yamaha FJR, or the luxo-tourers such as the Suzuki Boulevard M109. Bikes that are made to cover the miles in comfort.

Yes, you may want to modify your seat with gel pack inserts or other things but that’s not essential. The point is, you’re going to be stopping with some frequency. You’re going to be making gas stops, you’re going to visit restrooms and restaurants, and it’s not as if you have to be on the bike riding all of those 24 hours.

In fact, when you do the math, an iron butt ride is not that daunting. If you do it all on the interstate, at interstate speeds (75 mph) you’ll cover 1,000 miles in 13.4 hours. Give yourself ample time at stops to rest and stretch your legs and maybe it will take you 16 hours to ride that distance. That’s an average of just 62.5 miles per hour. Heck, that’s not so hard. Just turn on your iPod and slip in your ear buds and go.

Now, if you want some back-up, just in case, the IBA does host events. They’ll often offer a ride especially for first-timers where you start in one place and ride out to the first stop, come back, then ride out to a second spot, come back again, and then ride out and back to a third spot. A three-pointed star. And all on the interstate, so you eat up the miles quicker.

That way, if you reach the point where you just don’t feel able to–or just don’t want to–continue, you can always just stop back at home. It’s not as if you were doing a big loop, had gone 600 miles and decided to stop, but were still 400 miles from home.

So no, it’s not for everybody. Heck, it’s not even for most people. But if you want to see if you’re one of the toughest riders in the world, the IBA has a lot of information on their website to help you prepare. And they love new members.

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