Saturday 7 October 2023

Fall Moto Photos

 Alas, the Tiger's fuel system is acting up (again), so it's all Concours14 this fall, but the big bike is doing the job. It handles two up without breaking a sweat and when I want to ride it like a sports bike, it never misses a beat. It's heavy, but once it's in motion it seems to loose one hundred pounds. It's no Fireblade, but it's surprisingly willing in the (few) twisties we have around here.

This time of year the fall colours mean you can enjoy a ride even on our tediously straight roads...

Friday 29 September 2023

Dream Motorcycle Trips: Madness in the Desert

If you've read this blog you know I've written a historical fiction of my granddad's time in the RAF during World War 2. The two books I've done already are about his time behind Nazi lines in France in 1940, but after he escaped he got sent to Africa and spent the the next chapter of his time overseas crossing the Sahara (in 1940s vehicles!) and fighting in Egypt and Libya. I'm keen to eventually trace his steps but when am I ever going to be on the east coast of Africa?

The Allies didn't have control of the Mediterranean in late 1940 (remember Guns of Navarone?), so the Royal Navy took Bill and his RAF squadron down the east coast of Africa to Takoradi in Ghana. There they unloaded their Hurricanes and ground support vehicles and then they (incredibly), saddled up in their 1940s vehicles and leapfrogged with their planes ***across the Sahara***!!! It's a 5000+ kilometre odyssey that leaves me absolutely awe struck:

Sure, Tim, you're saying, but when are you ever going to get to Ghana? Well... I applied to the Global Forum for Cybersecurity Expertise's cyber-research proposals in the summer and my paper on quantum disruption in cyber got accepted... which means I'm going to Accra, Ghana to present it at the end of November at the Global Conference on Cyber Capacity Building. That puts me about 200 kilometres away from Takoradi where I'd have a chance to stand where Bill stood in late 1940.

I'm feeling pretty scrappy. The dream ride would be to get a collection of 1940s RAF bikes, cars and lorries and repeat that astonishing trek across the desert to the southern coast of the Mediterranean. That's some pretty gnarly country, so doing it as part of a documentary with a film crew that looks at what life was like in the desert in World War 2 would be the dream part of this ride.

Some of my cousins ride and some of their kids are old enough to do it too. There are several times in Bill's military career when he shouldn't have made it out, but he had a knack for it. An opportunity for his descendents (who wouldn't be here if he didn't have that knack) to repeat this Sahara crossing while talking about the history and passing through the heart of the desert on 1940s technology would be... epic.

Yep, that's what epic looks like.

Austin Vince did Mondo Sahara, which was ambitious. This is... more.

RAF in the desert collecting downed Hurricanes. Engines of Western Allies WW2.
This was my first go at colourizing a black and white photo in Photoshop, whatcha think?

Monday 25 September 2023

Dream Motorcycle Trips: Riding with Austin

I've been watching the inestimable Austin Vince lead his latest VINCE trail riding adventure in the Spanish mountains on Facebook. Austin's Mondo self funded world trips have gotten me through many a long Canadian winter. The chance to ride with the man himself through some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Spain would be epic.

We drove through Northern Spain last winter but it was in a rental Kia. This is Spain next level!

Puebla de Sanabria in a very empty Northern Spain in December. The mountains with Austin next?

Monday 28 August 2023

Concours Tip Over

 No pride here at TMD. The other weekend I went out for a ride with my lovely wife and we stopped for a snack. The parking lot wasn't even but the bike was full of fuel and had the top box on and it was a very windy day. I had to lean on it to get it to stand up and thought it would be ok - you might see where this is going.

I was once told that bikes fall over, it happens to everyone, but I've never had it happen before. I'll be more cautious next time. My best guess is the road behind the restaurant channeled the wind making for even stronger gusts and it toppled the bike. We were around the corner on the patio when I heard the worst kind of smashing sound and immediately got up to come around to see Big Blue on its side. I remembered the lift with your legs holding the handlebar in and the back of the seat, and got the big thing upright again.

It started right up and I rode it around the corner to another spot on more even ground out of the wind tunnel. Much swearing ensued but it was really my own fault. I checked it twice to make sure it was stable, but that second check should have told me I didn't like how it was sitting and I needed to find a better spot. Lesson learned.

The wing mirrors on GTR1400 / Concours 14s are (big) plastic pieces over an aluminum frame. They're one of my least favourite stylistic choices on the bike. They work well but they are enormous and make what is already a big bike look even bigger, so my first reflex was to find a lower profile alternative. The bike looks much more svelte when it's mirrorless.

The only aftermarket option I could find is pretty much the same thing - industrially big. I might be tempted to customize something, like perhaps an electronic rear view option, but something stopped me. I've worked hard to get the C14 to fit, but it never has. Bar risers, modified foot pegs and a pang Corbin saddle and it still feels like it was made for someone else. Love the engine and it handles well enough with the rear tire mod (slightly larger profile balances the bike forward a bit more) and getting the suspension set for my size helped too, but it still feels like someone else's bike, so I started looking at other options.

I reached out to the metal shop teacher at my school but he can't weld aluminum. He suggested Fergus Welding & Machine Shop just up the river from us. It was described as 'turn of the century - 18th Century'. I gave them a telephone call (because they have no digital presence at all) and went over to show them my broken mirror frame.

Our shop teacher wasn't kidding. This place is in an old stone building and it was indeed old-school with paper filing upstairs and blacksmith come metal shop downstairs. The broken bit was in fact aluminum and their Yoda-like welder said that if it was 'white metal' he wouldn't be able to do anything with it and that he'd only find that out when he 'hit it' for the first time. I left my phone number on the box and off I went.

I got the bike undressed and cleaned everything up. I'm amazed at how strong the fairings are on this thing. Even with seven hundred odd pounds coming down on it the thing held up with only scratches.

Fergus Welding & Machine Shop called back end of the next day and Dave said he was able to sort it out. It cost me $25 and I tipped them with a six pack. The part was impossible to source used and a new metal piece was asking $260US, so I came out ahead there.

The job was really well done. Dave tacked the part back together following the break and then filled it like the magician he was described as. When I put the assembly back together it fit like a glove - all the holes lined up perfectly and when I took it out for a spin tonight everything is tight and works as it should. It gives you an indication of how over-engineered this bike is that it can tip over, break the metal mirror frame but not smash the mirror itself. There's a lot to like about a C14, but me fitting on it comfortably isn't one of those things.

Undressing the whole bike gave me a chance to clean it up properly. The owner before me parked it in a shed for several years and spiders made it their home. Many webby nests were found throughout, but they're all gone now. It also gave me a chance to lubricate the throttle cables and clean all the electrical connections of which there are many. This bike continues to amaze with how complicated it is, but it's build like a nuclear submarine.

Next steps? Sort out the fairings. If it were a more popular bike I could get some Chinese knock-offs and get them painted for a grand, but I'm not that lucky. I looked up Color Rite who I got the Neptune Blue touch up paint from when I first got the bike. The previous owner had it tip over on him (on the other side) and the touch up made it all but disappear.

Color Rite does good stuff, but it ain't cheap and their shipping (at nearly $100CAN!) is astonishing. If I'm $200 in to touch up, perhaps I can remove the panels, flat them myself and then find a local paint shop to do them up for me. I'll have to see what that costs.

Sunday 20 August 2023

A Perfect August Ride

I grew up next to the sea as a kid and miss it everyday. Sometimes I've just got to see some water. The nearest/nicest way to do that which actually hits the odd corner (I get what I can take in the corner desert that is SW Ontario) is over to the Niagara Escarpment and up it to Georgian Bay. Saturday was a 24°C perfect August day, so off I went.

Some quiet time on the trails at the end of Beaver Valley in the woods and then it was an hour blast back through the tedium to the maddening crowds.

Monday 24 July 2023

Guest Post: Wolfe and the IBR Parts 4-6

 The Iron Butt Rally is long distance motorcycling's most challenging endurance event. It runs once every two years in the continental US and Lobo Loco Rally Master, Wolfe Bonham, is a veteran of the event. Wolfe ran the 2023 IBR and has been sharing his ride on Facebook, but he said he's OK with guest posting on TMD, so here is parts 4-6! Eleven thousand miles in eleven days? Enjoy!

Parts 1-3 can be found here.

Part Four - IBR 2023

The Heavens Open up

Heading southbound it isn't long before I encounter my first of many mechanical issues.  I notice my windscreen is getting closer and closer to my cell phone.  I had adjusted it yesterday and it becomes apparent I didn't torque down my Tobinator tight enough.  I jump off at the next exit and waste 10 minutes getting it done right.  This will be one of many roadside repairs in my near future. 

Back on I-79 and it's not long before I realize I'm running short on fuel much sooner than expected.  I check my Garmin for the next available fuel and am once again off the highway.  My auxiliary fuel cell is transferring fuel much slower than anticipated and I make a mental note to turn the transfer valve on sooner.  On the upside this exit has a Jersey Mike's, so I quickly snag a Bingo location while off the highway with a quick iced tea.

My next fuel stop snags the ever present Waffle House chain, but then I see the storms building across my path.  The next 2 days will have me ride through no less than 7 severe thunderstorms.

Crossing on HWY 19 the weather changes. What had been a rather warm afternoon suddenly becomes very cold, and the skies open up.

Prior to the rally I had discovered that my now 6 year old Klim Carlsbad riding suit was no longer shedding water like it used.  I had followed their instructions to re-water proof the outfit, but this would be the first real test.

Eventually the rain was becoming so heavy that my wheels were parting puddles deep enough to send spray up to my knees.  Worried about hydroplaning I spied an upcoming Bojangles on the next exit.   That's when I also noticed I had an oil pressure light glaring at me on the dash.

It looked like a brief break would allow this storm to pass.  I could get an actual meal, dry my gear, and look into my oil situation.  

Under the awning of the gas station next to the restaurant I could see my oil levels were good.  I guessed the only thing to do was continue riding and watch the engine temp.  If it began to rise I'd know that oil wasn't getting to all the needed spots.

Soldiering on I was getting really tight on time to make The Varsity restaurant in Atlanta, GA before they closed at 9pm.  This chain is on the bingo card, but only available in the Atlanta area.  I figured this would likely be my only trip through Atlanta on the rally, so I had to get it today.

This would mean passing up on visiting a Pal's Sudden Service bingo restaurant en route.  I figured I'd be able to find one later in the Rally as they are more common.... spoiler alert... I didn't, and it would cost me blacking out the entire card!  Day 1 decisions can have a cascading effect, like the butterfly that flapped its wings in Central America 3 days ago that is now causing the storms in the southern USA I'm now riding through.

My route to Atlanta only diverged enough to snag the high point value giant peach water tower in Gaffney, SC that was featured on the rally poster.

I called ahead to The Varsity to make sure they didn't have any ideas of closing early, threw away another planned stop at a Whataburger location, hauled ass to downtown Atlanta where Cherrelle was waiting to close with my peach lemonade already poured!  Phew... and it was refreshing too.

Also in the downtown was a metal peach sculpture that proved tricky to find a spot to park to take the photo.  After doing a couple of laps around the nearby stadium I figured using one of the hotel lots was the only real option... and low and behold, I run into Jeffrey Gebler pulling out of one.  He let's me know he had greased the valet with a few dollars to let him park there.  I quickly followed suit.  

On returning to my bike a group of high school students and their teacher were checking out my bike.  They were in town on a skills competition for, of all things, motorcycle and small engine repair.  I took a few moments to chat with them and show them the live tracking.  We wished each other good luck in our competitions and I headed out of Atlanta for Florida. 

This final stretch of the night had me in more thunderstorms and it was becoming quite obvious that my Klim gear was indeed no longer waterproof.  More concerning was the amount of water now pooling in my Sidi Adventure Goretex boots from running down the back of my calves.

Watching the tracker I knew most Florida bound riders had pulled off for the night, and I could see they were snug out of the weather in hotels along I-75S.

I was determined to push further and arrived at the Florida welcome center rest area where I curled up on a picnic table under an awning for 2 hours sleep...

Or so I thought...

Part Five - IBR 2023

The Struggle is Real

I wake up to the sound of distant thunder. A quick look at my weather app shows another massive storm about to roll through, and the winds are picking up.  I doubt I'll stay dry under this little park awning so I head for the shelter of the nearby welcome center.  Inside I chat with a very friendly security guard as we watch the rain flying sideways and palm trees bending in the wind.  I hit up the snack machine for dinner/breakfast, then make the call that I might as well be putting on some miles if I'm no longer sleeping.

I make my way through several clusters of storms on the way to Cedar Key in the dark.  It should be just after sunrise when I arrive.

Suddenly my lights pick up movement from the ditch. An armadillo is attempting to cross the road, and given the wet conditions there's very little I can do but brace for impact.  I've always feared hitting one of these after seeing one destroy a wheel well and fender of an RV as a child.  I expect it to be like hitting a rolling bowling ball.  Bam!

In actual fact it was more like a large raccoon.  Sorry little dude. 

I pass by 2 other riders heading back out of of the Key that must've passed me while I napped.  It's quite windy with the nearby storms and i struggle a bit with the rally flag.

From here I'm off to New Orleans.  The morning is chilly and my gear is still soaked. As I get close to Tallahassee it starts to warm up and the sun is out.  I stand up on my pegs to get my gear in the wind to help it dry out.  It's working, except my boots are still swamped.

....OK OK... the clutch.  For the past day all I can smell when at lower speeds is burnt clutch.  I've made the decision to shift the bike to neutral anytime I'm stopped at a light to help preserve it as much as possible.   This goes against everything we teach as motorcycle instructors.  I'm also being as gentle as possible going through the gears when accelerating.  Between it, an oil pressure light, my slow to transfer auxiliary fuel tank, and wet gear, the first 24 hours has kept me on my toes. 

... back to Day 2.

As I get to Mobile the temps soar.  It's over 100F and extremely humid.  I snag a Whataburger for my Bingo card and to cool off.  I've been carefully watching my engine temp, and given how hot it is outside, if my oil pressure sensor warning was accurate the engine should be running extremely hot.  It's not.  In fact, it sounds great at speed,  although now at idle I'm starting to notice a concerning rough vibration throughout the bike.  I probably should have performed a valve adjustment before leaving Canada.   Great!  One more thing to nag at my mind for the next 9 days.

Leaving Mobile they are thunderstorms popping up everywhere due to the heat and humidity.  Coming through Gulfport and Biloxi I'm faced with 2 of the worst.  Visibility becomes almost zero, signs everywhere warn of flash flood areas,  and I'm trying to position myself behind transport trucks so they can part the water as much as possible to keep me from hydroplaning.  I'm standing on the pegs,  hazard lights on, crawling at less than 20 mph.  My mind keeps telling me this is too dangerous, but there really is nowhere to go. My mind also tells me that we're "the World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders".  The words of one of my famous instructors,  Simon Pavey come to mind.  "Have a spoonful of concrete and harden the 'f' up!".  I soldier on towards New Orleans. 

The weather breaks for a bit and I'm able to snag a CookOut, Popeyes, and Sonic, all at the same highway exit. There is another storm front about to descend onto New Orleans, though, and it's a doozy.  The I-70 bridge is so windy I have the bike leaned at almost 45 degrees and I'm getting tossed back and forth in my lane.  Fortunately there aren't a lot of other idiots out here on the bridge in this weather, so I'm not worried about hitting another vehicle.  At worst I'll get to go for a swim over the railing! 

Into the city and I'm trying to stay ahead of the front.  I quickly snag my photo and head west.  Twice the winds in town almost knock the bike over at traffic lights, and several signs are blown off buildings.  I need to get out before this hits.  With some creative moves at traffic lights I'm back on the highway towards Baton Rouge where I have a Weinerschnitzel bingo restaurant as my target.

Arriving there my weather radar shows a potential tornado, and the staff offer to let me park the bike under their drive-thru shelter. We all watch my radar in hopes it won't be too bad.  It passes on the other side of the river, less than 2 miles from us!

I thank them and soldier on toward Lafayette. It appears the storms are behind me for today.  I snag the Crawfish Capitol sign, and head towards Houston.   Other than the interrupted nap in Florida I've now been riding for 32 hours straight.   I plan to pull my mandatory rest in Houston after snagging another 2 bingo restaurants. 

That night in the hotel room I remove my boots to assess the damage.  36 hours of wet feet and hot, sweaty conditions has led to Trench Foot.  If I can't sort this out I'm afraid I won't make the next 9 days.

Part Six - IBR 2023

Reality Setting In

The alarm goes off far too early and I'm donning still wet gear.  This doesn't bode well for my feet, but there's little I can do at this point. Stepping outside at 4am I'm hit with a wall of hot, humid air. My glasses instantly fog up, as does my visor even with pinlocks.

So far I've had to throw away WVSP - 539 pts, TNGA - 586 pts, and a Pal's bingo restaurant. I realize to safely make the group photo bonus in Kansas by 3pm I'll also now need to throw out TXHU for another 556 pts.  That puts me almost 2000 points off my plan due to weather delays and mechanical concerns.  Leg 1 isn't going to plan... and it's about to get worse.

I get through Houston before most people are up and set my sights just north of Austin for Ding Dong, TX.  Austin traffic slows me down a bit more than expected, along with a missed highway exit.  I'm getting concerned if I'll make the group photo.  At this point I have 30 minutes to spare, but I'll need at least 3 fuel stops, as well as dealing with Dallas and Tulsa traffic.

Apart from a few construction slow downs I get through Dallas in decent time, despite hitting the ring highways at rush hour.  Thankfully there is an HOV system.  But I'm down to less than 15 minutes to spare for the 1632 point group photo.  I'm sweating, both because of the stress and 100+F temperatures.  At least it's not raining any longer, but I can feel my feet continuing to deteriorate in my boots.

As I get closer to Sherman, TX my phone alerts me to a traffic slowdown for construction.  It's going to add 33 minutes.  That's not acceptable. As the slowdown begins I head for the shoulder with hazard lights on.  It's backed up way too far to run the shoulder all the way through it, despite having the excuse of an air cooled bike that will certainly overheat in traffic like this.  Then I see a parallel service road divided from me by a ditch and patch of grass.  Well, I am on a GS...

Even using all these tactics by the time I'm north of the construction my Garmins indicate I'll be 10 minutes late to the group photo.  I doubt I can make that up, and I still need to battle through Tulsa.   It's time for another change of plans.

The RallyMaster Jeff Earls is a genius at making aspects of the rally just barely attainable. Riders going to the group photo in Kansas at 3pm would have very little to do afterwards except ride to the Tulsa checkpoint 2 hours south, arriving 3 hours early.  The bonus- extra rest.  However,  there is a little 702 point location just west of Oklahoma City.  If you run the calculations you *could* immediately leave the group photo, struggle through Tulsa and OKC rush hour traffic, twice, once each direction, and arrive at CP1 10 minutes late.  At 20 points per minute penalty you lose 200 points, but still net 500.  A reasonable gamble... but everyone else would gain 3 hours more rest.

I had planned to make this gamble, but now that I won't even make the group photo, I plug OKER-702 pts into my Garmins and divert away from Kansas.  I'll snag OKC early and head to the checkpoint.  I've now thrown away almost 4000 points.  My thoughts turn from top 10 to just finisher status.  It's a tough pill to swallow this early in the event.

En route I stop by a drug store for some Epsom salts, anti-fungal powder, and medicated creams.  I need to get serious about my feet.  I'm concerned this is turning into a staph infection, and that would certainly mean a DNF.

As I'm eastbound on I-44 I see 2 rally bikes hauling ass westbound.  Only 2 brave souls opt to try to snag OKER after the group photo.  I stand on my pegs, salute them as they go by, and give them a heroic fist pump.  Go boys go!

If you're into this (and how could you not be), Wolfe did a full sixteen part breakdown of the incredible long distance rally that is the IBR. You can find him on Facebook here.

If you're looking for a start in long distance rallying, Wolfe rally-masters Lobo Loco Rallies.

Here is Lobo Loco Rally's Facebook page:

Iron Butt did a nod to Wolfe's Lobo Loco (crazy wolf) rallies here.

... and (of course) you can find some Lobo Loco Ralliage on TMD here:

This has me thinking about what it takes to take a run at the IBR, but I suspect it's even more complicated than Wolfe lets on. I'm also curious about what it costs to do the thing. Fuel, hotels and the rest can't be cheap, and I'm also curious about some housekeeping items like: how do you wear ear plugs for weeks at a time without getting ear infections?

There is more to this long distance rally caper than just the willipower to do it. I'll ask and see if I can get any more details out of him.

Monday 17 July 2023

Guest Post: Wolfe and the IBR Parts 1-3

 The Iron Butt Rally is long distance motorcycling's most challenging endurance event. It runs once every two years in the continental US and Lobo Loco Rally Master, Wolfe Bonham, is a veteran of the event. Wolfe ran the 2023 IBR and has been sharing his ride on Facebook, but he said he's OK with guest posting on TMD, so here is parts 1-3! Eleven thousand miles in eleven days? Getting ready for this, let alone doing it, is an epic undertaking... enjoy!

Parts 1-3: Lead Up, Launch Pad & Take Off

words by Wolfe Bonham

Part One
Lead up, and Premonitions of Doom

The Iron Butt Rally is the Superbowl of long distance motorcycle endurance competitions.   In the 11 days of the event riders will cover anything from 9000 to as much as 14000 miles (14-22,500kms!), depending on their routing.  It is a delicate balance of miles vs. rest.  Get it right and you could find glory.  Get it wrong and you could find a hospital bed, or worse.

As entrants into the Iron Butt Rally we know more than a year in advance that we've been accepted into the challenge.   

Most riders begin preparations at least 6 months in advance making sure their motorcycle is up to the task, entering other smaller competitions to practice routing skills, and doing a bunch of progressively longer certification rides to get your body used to what you're about to put it through.

In my case I had been so caught up in new home renovations and building a massive workshop that I wasn't able to do any of this.  In fact, in all of 2022 I didn't do a single long distance certification ride.  And, due to border closures, it had been more than 3 years since I had entered a scavenger hunt style rally.

With a mere 2 weeks before the IBR, I put the final touches on my shop, pulled my motorcycles out of storage, and began the process of building a Rally Bike.

I had three 2003 BMW R1150GS parts bikes, one of which had low kilometers, but clutch issues.  That was to be my competition bike. 

I spent the next 2 weeks twisting wrenches 18+ hours a day, scrambling to get parts ordered and delivered on such short notice.

I ran into clearance issues with my auxiliary fuel tap into my main tank which had me scratching my head for 4 hours.  Turns out my other tank, being plastic, was able to flex just enough to clear the frame.  Filing down the brass fitting as much as I dared got me closer but I still needed about 1/16".  Desperate at 2am, out comes the big sledge hammer.  I'm sure that a 16th of an inch bend in the motorcycle's frame won't matter!

Two days before I need to leave for the start line in Pittsburgh I get my first test ride on the bike.  I get home after 30 minutes with a long list of things that need to still change or be fixed.

Some parts are not available in time or can't be shipped to Canada before I leave so I opt to have them shipped to the hotel in Pittsburgh.  I can do a few last minute installs in the parking lot.  These will include my hydration system and some needed wiring for my heated gear.

I'm packing the bike honestly worried I've bitten off more than I can chew.

The bike is untested.  Other than little 250cc bikes on the teaching lot, I haven't ridden any big bikes AT ALL this year, and hardly any kilometers last year.  Oh, and I'm 20 lbs heavier than I've ever done an IBR in my life, and I'm still recovering from a bad cold/cough with a ton of meds on the bike hoping it all clears up before the start....

Part Two - IBR 2023

Sitting on the Launch Pad

The ride to Pittsburgh was really my first ride of any distance this year.  As I settled into the
saddle I began to assess potential long term issues.  Relearning how to relax my shoulders, relax my grip,  sit more upright, etc.  Proper body position would become the key to enduring 20+ hours per day on the bike for 11 days in a row.

Arriving at the hotel parking lot in Pittsburgh was a very emotional experience for me.  Most of my life has been lived as a nomad, and as a result my base of friends is spread around the globe.  With all the CoVid lockdowns of the past year not only did that mean I couldn't compete in the 2021 IBR, but it also meant that I had been cut off from so many of my friends.  Seeing them all after so long meant tons of hugs and a few tears.

But I still had work to do on the bike, and the next morning would be the whirlwind of tech inspections and registrations.  I went to the lobby to retrieve 2 important packages that were shipped there in advance... and they were nowhere to be found!

The lobby staff said to check back in the morning.   This was unacceptable to me.  I had tracking numbers that showed both packages had arrived.  The morning wasn't going to make them suddenly appear!

After getting more and more insistent, and involving no less than 5 hotel staff, the packages were finally found.

I proceeded to get my hydration system installed, confirmed the new wiring functioned correctly with my heated gear, and made a few more ergonomic adjustments to the bike that had popped up on the ride down.

After some drinks and an excellent Reuben Sandwich with long missed friends it was time to sleep before the chaos of tech day.

The next morning found all the competitors proceeding through a series of lines and inspections; a mini-rally in and of itself.  The lead up to the start of the competition is 2-3 days and includes things like a 30 mile ride to calibrate everyone's odometers against each others, safety and capacity inspection for the plethora of different auxiliary fuel cell set ups, confirmation of our satellite GPS tracking systems, insurance, medical evacuation confirmations, and the sobering video deposition of death, where we acknowledge the risks of this competition and wave all liabilities to the organization. 

The whole process takes several hours to complete, and my only hurdle was that "Warchild" didn't like the way my fuel cell was vented.  An easy, but necessary fix, as you never want to be on the bad side of Dale Wilson.

The rally poster was put on display beginning the speculation by all the riders as to what the overall theme would be.  There was a prominent chicken in the poster, and I was convinced the final leg "hero run" would be from Denver to Chicken, Alaska, before returning to Pittsburgh.  Running the math it was 6600 miles... just barely doable in the 5.5 days of the final leg if you managed back to back 1200 mile days.

Greg Camp surprised me showing up with Bam Baker, so we all went on an ice cream run after clearing inspection.  We were now off the clock until Sunday's rider meetings.
However, on the ride to the ice cream shop I couldn't help but notice the ever present smell of burning clutch from my bike.  The clutch didn't appear to be slipping at all, but something definitely wasn't right inside.  Would it hold up for 11 days?  Would I have to baby yet another bike to an IBR finish, or would it leave me stranded in some place like Chicken, Alaska?!

Part Three - IBR 2023

Cleared for Launch

Sunday afternoon has our standard rider's meeting, following the rookie rider's meeting.  After that we just have to anxiously await the dinner banquet where we're finally given the Rally Book that will dictate our fates for the next 11 days.

And before you know it we're all opening our Rally Packs, which seem oddly thin.

The theme this year is food, and while there are not a lot of locations to choose from in the first 2.5 day leg, we are all given identical Bingo cards with 25 restaurant chains on them.  To claim each we'll need a photo of our motorcycle with our Rally Flag in front of the restaurant along with a receipt for a purchase inside.  This will prove to be quite a time suck.  A normal photo stop can be done by an experienced rally rider in under 2 minutes, including photo and paperwork... but going inside for a receipt could take 5-10 minutes each.  They aren't worth a lot of points, but if you start to score Bingo rows or columns the points start to add up quickly.  Blacking out the entire card is worth an additional 2000 points.  I think I'll go for it.

Back in my hotel room by 7pm I start the planning process for my route.  We are now on the clock and decisions about time spent planning/routing vs sleeping the night before begin to set in.

The Rally Book is scanned into a .pdf that I can search through while riding.  The points, time limitations, and notes are added to the location codes so that I don't have to look that up later... it all comes up on my Garmins.  Weather is checked and locations are grouped by point values.  It becomes obvious there are 3 distinct routes:  Maine, Florida, and Denver.   Given our required 2nd checkpoint in Denver I discount that one almost immediately.  Maine looks more promising than Florida, but includes several locations in downtown NYC, which always makes me nervous not being from that area.

I opt for the Florida route, with the goal of getting to the daytime only high point Cedar Key location right at sunrise.  That will mean skipping a few lower point locations on the way south, and only getting 1-2 nap on the first night.  But, doing so opens up some options on the 2nd day to scoop up everything along the Gulf Coast and end up with some restaurants in Houston before pulling the first leg mandatory rest on night 2.  Fingers crossed that sets me up to get to the big points group photo just north of the Leg 1 Checkpoint in Tulsa.
I'm happy with my plan, and in bed by 11pm.

The morning comes sooner than expected after a restless night of barely sleeping, laying in bed playing the "what if" game in my head.

Breakfast is shared with fellow riders, some not saying much about where they are headed, and others sharing ideas and concerns. 

Bikes are loaded and we are required to be standing with our bikes from 8am until our final
odometer readings are taken. 

Cory Ure, parked beside me, is nowhere to be seen as rally volunteers are coming down our line.  I look everywhere for him, but it's too late.  They bypass his bike, and now he'll be held from leaving until all other bikes have left.

Following a brief last minute rider's meeting we all mount our bikes and nervously await the start.  Next to me is Lisa Cover Rufo and her daughter Molly, who is calmly sipping on an iced latte!  The luxury of being pillion!

Before we know it we're off!  This is my 3rd IBR, and it still brings me to tears every time I start.  It is such an honour and privilege to be amongst this elite group of riders.

Pulling onto the highway we all start to spread out on our own individual plans and routes.
Who will have the best plan? Who will find glory? Who will struggle just to make the finish, and who won't get back?  Will everyone be safe, or will tragedy strike?

I take the ramp to I-79S on a beautiful sunny morning.  My die is cast.  Little do I know the next 2 days will be some of the toughest, most dangerous riding of my life.

Here's a link to a video of the start.  This is not my video, but enjoy.

That's the end of Parts 1-3. Check out Parts 4-6 so to see how Wolfe gets along on the road! And if you want to find the original story itself, you can find Wolfe on Facebook here.

If you want a taste of long distance riding to get started, Wolfe runs Lobo Loco Rallies, some of which you can run from anywhere in the world (the local ones are based in Ontario, Canada). Check it out here: