The riders are gone…..


So the riders have taken off. Eleven long days are ahead of them. Eleven days of happiness, frustration, surprise, soaring muscles, boredom, euphoria and pure joy. As the famous quote says: „you don’t know what the Iron Butt Rally is like unless you have ridden it.“ True. It’s difficult to explain, but it is definitely an experience of a lifetime.
Two years ago, the riders had to gather at 8 a.m. in the bike park. Two hours of agony before we could take off. Last preparations…did I think of everything? It was raining and some bike were under some rain covers. I wondered why bikes that will go on a 11.000 miles adventure needed to be sheltered from the rain….another culture shock was the provision of ice cubes…riders put them in their big water jugs on their bikes. At high temperatures…OK! But it was rather cool and raining…weird. I put on my flashy yellow rain suit and together with my fluorescent helmet I stood out of the crowd in the last minute rider meeting. Some guys were laughing at my sight but I knew that I would stay dry the whole day. The other riders in their Roadcraft suits probably wouldn’t…
We had been instructed to leave immediately then the finger would be pointed at us, because the whole pack should leave within four minutes. The police would stop the traffic for us, and the start should be very quick. So it was 10 a.m. and the riders that had participated in the „hair cutting contest – oh my dear!“ were out first. You’re nervous when it’s your turn and don’t want to cock it up…finally Warchild’s finger pointed at me – wrooooom! What? No propulsion? Ah, The bike was in neutral gear! And with an enormous „WHACK!!!“ I hammered the first gear in its position. Off I went! Through an applauding crowd, through lines of policemen keeping the traffic stopped. A special moment.
From the first day, I remember rather little. It was partly raining and rather cool. I went on not so crowded roads in Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont. I learned soon that there was a huge difference with Europe: when riding on highways, there were no parkings where you could stop and empty your bladder….After the first bonus point location ( an old locomotive), I couldn’t hold it for longer and I disappeared in the high grass…..ouffffff. I visited some locations and enjoyed the countryside roads, especially in Vermont. I had a lot of pressure during the whole day for I wanted to visit a location before sunset and there was little time to spare. I was pushing for the whole afternoon, but in the end I arrived with the last sunlight…but I found out that the access was closed already….aaargh! I rode along the site and could see the boat from the distance. This should do. However, it was getting dark very quickly and I needed a lot of shots before I had an acceptable picture of the boat and my rally flag. 5 minutes later, it was pitch dark…..I put some petrol and finally could have snack. I checked my next locations and decided that I better stayed in this town for I needed to go to some remote places and it didn’t make sense to do this at night. So I checked in a hotel and had a good rest for a couple of hours. I took it easy, I knew that the first leg would only be a snack compared to what was ahead of us and I wanted to sleep a lot to be fresh for the second leg.

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The Iron Butt Rally 2015…


….will start tomorrow morning. But this time, without me. I had a place at the start for this year’s rally, but in January, I had decided to pull out of the rally. I had to make a decision and it was not easy. But in the end I had no other choice than to set my priorities. I simply had to save my holidays this year to realize a long-term objectives: developing a multi-day rally in the Alps in 2017. This will take a lot of time and actually while I am typing these lines, I am on my fourth scouting trip. Many more will be needed. But maybe I can follow the rally, remembering what happened two years ago when I was in this place…

I always had in mind to write a report of the IBR 2013, but it never materialized. During the 11 day rally, riders are not permitted to communicate with the outside world, so it was my buddy John Young who posted some news during that period. Anyway, there wouldn’t be time to write a blog post.

The atmosphere is tense before the rally. Some riders are relaxed and easy-going, but most are full of tension and some have already put on their game face. Even I was a bit nervous, although I was not on a competitive mission. With my old XBR500, I had achieved the „Hopeless Class“ status and I only wanted to arrive at the finish. I had received a lot of wishes from spectators that were studying bikes in the parking.

In a couple of hours, riders will gather in a large hall in Albuquerque. After some words of the IBA president and the rally master, riders will be called one by one and will receive a big envelope with the rally book and the electronic GPS data. They will rush to their rooms and load the GPS data onto their laptops. I had received all the data for all three legs, but only the first rally book. It took me quite a while to sort and re-name all the data for the first leg. More than 100 points to visit. This looked massive. And then there were the minimum points. After a first, shy calculation, I realized that I had to plan much more ambitious for I would not have had enough points in the end. So I designed a 4700 km ride for the next three and a half days. I discarded NYC and planned to go to Vermont, Quebec, Lake Superior and Detroit before returning to Pittsburgh. It was getting late, but at least the start was only at 10 a.m. the next day. But still, the planning took a long time…and in the end, it’s always the same story: when you’re finally in the bed and should get some precious sleep, the brain is still working and your ideas are spinning in your head….

(to be continued)

Can a Honda really break down???


Well, I was on a nice day out this morning and when chasing a Hayabusa at some 225 km/h (140 mph) on the Autobahn 🙂 , I suddenly noted that something was wrong. I noted the steering was harder and I immediately pulled over on the hard shoulder. Not a second too late. I had a flat font tyre. Gulp.20150614_112051 I had to call the towing truck and when the Pan was loaded, I could hear John Young giggle in my head: after 460.000 km (300.000 mls) on Japanese bikes, I finally had to be towed away, for once! So Hondas could break down? But then I had a closer look. First of all, a flat tyre is not related to the bike per se, this can happen to anybody. But what had happened here? The valve looked strange. Where was the cap? And where was….the metal stem, including the valve??? Gone with the wind! GULP!!!VentilI had the tyre changed last week – I’ll have a serious conversation with my tyre shop tomorrow!!!