Gadgets and accessories adorn the cockpit of this IBA participants Gold Wing (Bryan McCrary photo)
I must confess before we go any further that I secretly yearn to be an Iron Butt Rider. One of those small numbers of motorcyclist that the Iron Butt Association has certified to having had completed a minimum one thousand mile ride in twenty four hours, or less. I read recently where less than 1% of the riders here in the U.S. have done this and received their coveted IBA number. For me it would be a milestone, a notch in the ‘ol belt.
You’ll know these riders when you see the black license plate frame that reads “IRON BUTT RIDERS” across the top and “WORLDS TOUGHEST RIDERS" along the bottom on the rear of their motorcycle. They will be mounted to a variety of bikes but most will be touring and sport touring machines or the larger adventure class bike built in Europe. Sometimes they’ll be mostly stock appearing but more often they’re adorned with farkles and gadgetry galore. From specially built custom seats to all sorts of radios and communication devices, to radios, GPS’s and even extra capacity auxiliary fuel tanks and lap top computers mounted on the fuel tanks these can be some extraordinary machines. The riders, even more so.
The small compass looks out of place with dual GPS units (Bryan McCrary photo)
The IBA certifies 107 different challenges that the LD, or Long Distance rider can choose from, the one my son and I are interested in doing is the Saddle Sore 1000. This is the one thousand mile ride done in less than twenty four hours mentioned earlier and is considered the ‘entry’ level ride for them. Some of these challenges are mileage and time based like the SS1000 each of them getting more difficult in progression, others are ‘tours’ like the National Park Tour where the participant must have proof of visiting 50 US National Parks from 24 different states in less than a year.
There are rallies too, but not in the more traditional sense. These rallies will have the riders competing to get as many miles as possible in a given amount of time, passing through controlled check points and obscure locations that are off the most direct route to them, gaining needed bonuses for scoring. The premiere event for the IBA, the Iron Butt Rally, is held every other year and is one the ultimate tests of the LD rider lasting for eleven days with the best finishers covering over eleven thousand miles. One participant joked it took “Eleven days, eleven thousand miles and eleven thousand dollars to do!”
An auxiliary fuel tank and car tire are mounted on this FJR (Bryan McCrary photo)
Safety is the number one rule with the IBA and LD riding. The bikes are meticulously maintained and not riding past the individual limits of the riders is stressed at every opportunity. Rider fatigue is the biggest obstacle and can take many attempts for a rider to attain the goals they set out for themselves.
My son and I had planned on attempting our first SS1000 in 2009. The Motorcycle Tourers Forum or MTF, was hosting an organized event that started and ended in Charlotte, North Carolina. A route was laid out that took the participants into Virginia and West Virginia and back, provided them with witnesses and notified merchants at various fuel stops along the way alerting employees that riders would be needing time stamps and signatures on receipts for documentation. Sadly something came up and we weren’t able to be there on the scheduled day. But wish us luck in our attempt this year!