Friday, October 8, 2010

Morituri Te Salutamus

Tomorrow evening around ten o'clock my intention is to hug my dog, peck my wife on the cheek in a manly manner, and while surreptitiously wiping away a sentimental tear, board my motorcycle for a bloody silly experiment.Generally I don't like to talk about my plans ahead of time but this secret project got away from me, so at the risk of jinxing it all I feel obliged to explain.When I completed the Iron Butt's simplest ride, a thousand mile "Saddle Sore" a year ago I went into the thing pretty much on a whim and in complete secrecy. After all if I found the ride to be too much all I had to do was turn around early and bugger off home. As it was the 520 mile ride to Lake City and back one Saturday night in early October was a piece of cake and I incautiously suggested to Jack riepe, a man whose arthritis prevents him from sitting still on a motorcycle for eight minutes at a time, that I might be ready to go further than a thousand miles (1600kms) in 24 hours... Clearly my 2007 mile Triumph Bonneville called "Bonneville, Just Bonneville" (I am not in the habit of naming machinery) is up to the task especially as it has 42,000 miles on the clock and is by now well run in. The question is can I complete 1500 miles (2500kms) in 36 hours? In an effort not to die of boredom I considered riding the distance one way which, if you get out a pair of dividers and measure from Ramrod Key means riding either to a) San Antonio, Texas, b) St Louis, Missouri or c) Flint, Michigan or d) Albany, New York. Of all the choices New York state looked the most interesting (and closest to riepe) and in consultation with my wife we settled on the second week of October as the best moment for me to give it a shot. I have now got a new chain and sprockets on the Bonneville and the Loobman chain oiler is ready to do it's magic lubricating as I ride.I'm guessing the total trip will be about 2200 miles, as the Bonneville and I are taking the Auto Train home from Washington to Orlando to save 900 miles riding. My final destination depends on the weather and temperatures along the way but at this point it looks like it will be Binghamton, New York, 1517 miles from home. My first choice was coastal and congested and warmer by riding to Long Island, a destination I ultimately discarded for fear of traffic jams along I-95's major cities. while the second choice wil be mountainous with less traffic but colder, riding up Virginia to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on I-81. After the Iron Butt ride I hope to spend two days being insulted to death by riepe in Amish country or torn to pieces by stiffie's charming hounds. Then I will come home a wiser and sadder man. My tool kit for the ride will consist of some basic items, sufficient to tension the chain and handle a few simple roadside chores as needed but no more. Modern bikes do not lend themselves well to roadside repairs as the electrics are mostly electronic and the engines no longer run on bailing wire and hope...happily. I will have Ride On anti-flat goop in the inner tubes. As the Bonneville doesn't have tubeless tires punctures are a real problem and my solution is to call AAA ( I have the RV/ Motorcycle coverage) and get a shop to replace or fix the inner tube. If I ever ride to Alaska I will learn how to do the job roadside but it is a ghastly messy job replacing a tube. Tubeless tires are wonderful and usually easy to fix with plugs. If I get a flat the Bun Burner ride will be over.
I used to be a big fan of hard saddlebags but in the modern era I find fabric bags like these official Triumph accessories can be made entirely waterproof with silicone spray. Additionally they come with waterproof built-in covers which I can use if I have to stop to put on my own waterproofs along the road. Aside from mechanical problems which will kill the ride stone dead, weather will be my biggest mental difficulty as I am riding late in the season and cold nights or heavy rain will be hard for me to overcome so I am keeping my fingers crossed for a nice hot Indian Summer Up North. My waterproofs work okay but driving freezing rain is more than I am prepared for these tropical riding days in the Fabulous Florida Keys.In addition to a waterproof bag with my street clothes inside (no pink Crocs by special request of that fashion maven Jack "Toad" riepe) I will have my top case with my man purse and Iron Butt papers inside and that will be that more or less for luggage. I am not a fan of tank bags which give the motorcycle a cluttered feeling in my opinion but I did want somewhere to put my maps on display. Tank bags have a handy plastic window on top for just that purpose. Aerostitch has created a special magnetic Velcro frame for their map case which is designed to attach to the leg of their riding suits. The magnetic Velcro square enables the map case to go right on the tank. Aerostitch is run by people who actually ride motorcycles and it shows.The whole set up is not cheap at $60 but it should work beautifully. This is important to me as I have-gasp!- absolutely no GPS. I loved satellite navigation while sailing but for this trip straight up a few Interstates I will be fine navigating the old fashioned way.So far I have $930 for the motorcycle tires and chain, oil change, brake check etc... at Jiri's shop. About $200 at Aerostitch and $250 for the train ticket. Granted the bike needed new tires and was about ready for a new chain anyway but I have been working a great deal of overtime for this trip... Time to install the saddlebags after they have absorbed the silicone spray. Remove the old fashioned seat bolts. Triumph really does need to get this method modernized.Every time I unbolt the seat I like checking my quality control sticker. "Triumph OK" it reads. That about sums this motorcycle up.The factory bags and bag frames ($250) fit exactly as they should and with the bags clipped to the frame nothing moves around. The bags also don't stick out as far as hard bags on detachable frames would. Hepco Becker makes a rear rack and hard bag set for the Bonneville in chrome, but at $1300 it's a bit pricey for me and my kind of low key daily riding. My luggage rack came from Bella Corse for $130 and the Emgo case from the Key West Yamaha shop for another $100. I use it all the time. For some reason I bought this $22 bike alarm which will screech if moved or if the cable is cut. It's also from the indispensable Aerostitch catalogue. It is so cheap and easy to use it seemed silly not to drape it on the bike while I sleep at a Motel Six in the badlands Up North. In addition to my Tourmaster mesh riding suit with foul weather inserts and my Kevlar lined dress pants and my Elkskin Roper winter gloves (Aerostitch) and my full face winter helmet I bought a set of Merino sheep's wool underwear, socks and helmet liner. I probably should have an electric heated vest but that seemed too much for a single ride. to be used no more often than once a year. Besides I think I look daft enough as it is. Motorcycling is one of those habits whose dress makes you look nerdy no matter what you do to mitigate the effect. However like the gladiators who hailed the Emperor with the words in the title of this essay I have to wear riding appropriate clothing, damn the appearance.

The Emperor saluting the gladiators in the arena was supposed to reply: "Avete vos!" usually translated as "Fare you well." One can only hope.
This is the IBA website with the official ride rules for those who have questions: The Iron Butt Association takes great pride in certifying these rides and the rules aren't that hard to cope with. Once they certify a ride you know it was actually carried out.