Well with the wonders of modern technology, here am I posting on the blog about Roberts IBR ride over there in the good old US of A, whilst I am sitting in a hotel a few miles south of Nordcapp.
As you will all be aware, Robert will be some 6 hours into his ride now. If he’s anything like I was on that last night before the rally and during the first few hours, his mind will be full of all of the things that can go wrong.
6 hours into an 11 day rally, will undoubtedly mean he’s still shuffling in his seat trying to get comfortable !!!
This will be a whole new experience for him. He’s done many big bike trips before, but during those, he was master of his own timetable. If he wanted to stop, he could. If he wanted a day off, he could. On the IBR, those options aren’t available to you. All he’ll be focussing on, is hitting that first leg cut off deadline.
I have been pleased that during my chats and text messaging with him over the last few weeks, the normally ultra competitive Robert has been replaced by a Robert whose primary aim is to finish and get that important “3 digit” IBA membership number (the first 999 membershis numbers are reserved for those IBA members who have finished an Iron Butt Rally. Since the first rall was run nearly 30 years ago, less than 600 of those memebrship numbers have been issued) . Riding a “Hopeless Class” bike will present Robert with all sorts of issues that the riders of modern machines just will not have to face. As reliable a Roberts Honda is, it was never built with the thought of it running virtally non stop for 11 days. Thing will go wrong with the bike. Ultimately what will decided whether Robert comes homes with the “3 digit” number is how well he copes when they do.
Finally a quick apology – just whilst we’re away on this trip, my Blog entries may at time be a bit short and to the point. I’ll try and post something each day as I get news, but it will not be until we are back home a week today (Monday) that I’ll be able to write much more than a rief summary of what’s happening
OK friends, this is my last post for the next 11 days. The rally rules do not permit me to publish anything during the rally (“You’ll have no time for that!”).
I have finished my planning which I cannot reveal now. I only can say that I will go where I wanted to go, Some relaxed 4700 km in quiet surroundings…just follow my spot or if you don’t have the password, follow the public SPOT site on http://www.ironbuttrally.com. I think you will soon find out which is my tag.
You will also find the daily reports from Robert Higdon there that comment the rally every day.
And I hope that John Young will be able to entertain you until I’ll be back on air. So pop in every now and then. Yesterday, the blog received 326 hits, impressive! Thanks for your interest.
When I logged into my account, I was stunned: to this point, the blog has 239 hits today! And the day is not over yet! This topped the record back in 2011 when I reported during the Africa trip. Thanks for your interest!
I received a lot of good wishes from many friends, but also from people I don’t know…be it via the blog, in the bike parking from the many spectator, from other riders, from rally staff, or from people on the street who wave at me to stop!
I went to the Walmart today and bought some food and water. I couldn’t get a pre-paid phone card there, this was already tricky in Canada. So I will reply that the data roaming will work. I had planned so many things around my electronic farkles, but as often, I might not really use them, including the radar detector. I’ll just stick to the speed limits and that’s it.
I also bought me a E-Z Pass, a transponder for the tollways system in the Eastern States and activated it. I filled up the tanks and everything should be prepared now. I followed the advice of Jeff Earls during the rookie meeting yesterday and I will leave half of the luggage back here. The stuff is already in the panniers, and the bag including the spare tyre that I will leave here are also prepared. Maps are unfolded on the bed and the electronic devices are prepared for the routing this evening/night. At 4 p.m., there will be the rider meeting with the banquet. The riders will be presented one by one and the layout of the rally will be explained. Then the rallybooks will be handed out and the riders disappear in their rooms to do the planning of their routes for the next 4 days (leg 1). Tomorrow morning we have to be in the park at 8 a.m. and will start at 10 a.m. Leg 1 ends on Thursday, July 4th on 8 p.m., right here in Pittsburgh. There will be a bank holiday in Canada (1st) and in the USA (4th), heavy traffic is expected and the weather forecast for the Northwest predicts rain, rain, rain. I plan to take it easy and to ride some 3000 mls, the top riders will surely do some 5000 mls.
I took some pictures in the car park this afternoon:
This morning, I had a light breakfast and started my day of registration. I got me my registration papers that should lead me throughout the day. My first stop was a video recording of my statement that I understood all the risks of the rally and was aware of all the liability issues. Second stop was at technical inspection of the bike. Apart from some comments about loose cables (that have no function) my bike was approved, also my insurance and bike documentation. Good! I am getting a lot of positive reactions about the selection of my bike, the Americans can hardly imagine you can do long distance riding with a bike with less than 1000cc. My next stop was at the camera station, my memory cards and the settings of the camera were checked. Next was the odometer check. We had to ride a 50 km route on the highway to calculate a calibration factor. During the ride, the bike went perfect. I had received a lot of friendly offers for help with the carburetor, but at the moment, there is no problem anymore. One reason more to be relaxed. I removed the fuel tube and cleaned it, just in case. Finally it was time for the compulsory rookies meeting. We made aware what is ahead of us. This will be nothing we have ever experienced before. It is challenge to ride 1 to 2-day rallies, but no comparison to 11 continuous days of about 18-20 hours riding per day. This really serious. We were presented the statistics of rookies in the last years: DNFs (did not finish), accident, hospital stays….to remind us this is no piece of cake and that the most important task is to return safely to the finish here in Pittsburgh. Anything else is less important.
In the end I had to pass the final station with some of the most important guys. My emergency information sheet was not there and also my notarised liability waver. I sent it by e-mail, but apparently they had waited for the originals. Finally, this was accepted. I sorted the issue about my Spotwalla track with Mike Kneebone, the IBA president and thanked him for his invitation in person. I had to answer final questions by Ira Agins and after asking, he told me that I was granted the status of being in the “hopeless class”. Yes! My first achievement! I will start the rally on Monday morning!
I didn’t have time to get to the Walmart again, so tomorrow it has to be. I attended a reception for all riders plus the subsequent dinner. I was with the other riders of “Team Europe” and had many chat. Tomorrow is supposed to be a relaxing day, however, I’ll be busy with the visit to Walmart, preparing my gear, my luggage that I will take with me, the luggage I will leave here…and at 4 p.m. there’s already the rider’s meeting!
It is a very warm welcome here, people are impressed that riders from other continents show up here, despite all hurdles. And a 500cc thumper get’s some extra attention, of course 😀 .
Well, was could possibly go wrong? Usually the things one does not expect…
In the morning, I left somewhat later than planned as the cup of tea I took in the room was so strong I felt like a hit in the stomach. Woah. I left the hotel, turned onto the Rainbow Bridge over the Niagara Falls and I was already at the border. I was sent into the big building. I carried my document box and I was asked several times what was in there. I showed it finally to an officer…look, only papers, papers, papers, and…oooops, a copy of a swiss army knife…and a letterman. The officer took the two items from me and then I was admitted to the upper floor. I was interrogated about many things, whereabouts, when, where, why, who. I had expected this, after all I carry some picturesque visas in my passport, such as. syrian, libanese, iranian, egyptian, moroccan and many more.
“So, what did you do in Syria?” “The same as here – tourism”. “But why Syria? Couldn’t you just go to…France?” “Well, I do go there..a lot”.. Again, the officer was interested how many leave days I had. Do I sense same envy there? I was finally interrogated by a second officer, had to leave my fingerprints and finally received my visa. After one hour, I was already on the road again. I didn’t put on my rainsuit and I regreted it half an hour later. There are little possibilities to stop and put on your rain gear. Finally I stopped at a service area and dressed properly before I got even more wet. But what was much more annoying…was the carburator problem. Well, that’s my guess.I had problems to go 65 mls, sometimes only 60 mls uphill. Over time, it got so bad, that I couldn’t do more than 5000 revs/min. A nightmare! And this time, it was independent from the front or rear tank. 2000 kms without problems and now it’s that bad? I was deeply frustrated and tried to think of a plan B. Could I get another bike for rent for the rally? I wouldn’t be able to do the rally like this? Suddenly, sunshine was back and I stopped for a drink. The bike behaved really bad. OK, let’s at least get to Pittsburgh. At 25 mls left to Pittsburgh, the bike suddenly made WROOM and accelerated like normal…more than 80 mls! This stayed until I arrived at the Marriott Hotel near Pittsburgh. This leaves me really clueless…I tried to fumble around at the bike, but I was interrupted by a heavy thunder storm. I finally said hello to Phil, Gerhard, Michiel, Kevin and Lyn from Europe. All arrived well, despite smaller incidents (lost sat navs, stolen tankbags). I also didn’t visit the Walmart due to bad weather. Tomorrow then.
So, what to do? I have cleaned the fuel filter (plastic chunks) and will investigate more tomorrow. I have recalibrated my objectives: arrive well after the first leg back here in Pittsburgh on next Friday. From there on, let’s see. At least I want to start the rally. What comes then…let’s hope for the best. You can also finish with this handicap, but I would require lot’s of luck and a massive amount of patience.
Today Robert will arrive at the start hotel.
That is as long as the USA customs people allow a German, who lives at an address in Belgium, who is riding a Japanese motorcycle that is registered in Germany but shipped out from France, to cross their border overland from Canada ….
I mean, what could possibly go wrong ?
This morning, I drove to the bike and fixed all the luggage. I returned the rental car in the airport and I had to take leave of MJ who returned today. I returned to the bike by shuttled, put some petrol – and I was on the road. It was a very short stint today, I had booked a hotel in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side of the Falls. The riding didn’t take very long, however, I experienced similar problems as during the Brit Butt Rally – limited top speed at 70 mph (116 km/h) and this time I have no clue what is the reason, seems to be independent from the tank. However, it also stopped again and everything was back to normal. I’ll check the tubing in Pittsburgh again. But in the very worst case – I’d have to take it more easy. John Young has demonstrated that you can finish an IBR with a 60 mph cruising speed…right, John? I had very often small problems during my long travels, but in the end I always ended up where I wanted. So, no worries, all will be fine.
I was starting to get nervous today: now I’m on my own and every minute I’m closer to the start, THE question is more and more evident: What on earth have I gotten myself into? It’s not the sheer distance, it’s not the little time, it’s not the conditions that await me, it’s not the fact that I have almost no tolerance for problems…..it’s the combination of it all!
During the last 10 minutes, the rain still caught me, but I noticed that my cleaned gear was very well treated with a water repellent. I checked in the hotel and made a quick to the Niagara Falls just around the corner. A lot of water, but a lot less spectacular than the Victoria Falls I had visited in Africa two years ago. But worth a (quick) visit.
My first task tomorrow morning will be to cross the US border right here in town, then head for Pittsburgh!
Some important information: The official IBA bulletins will be available from Friday/Saturday on under
The official public SPOT site with the locations of all riders will also be linked there.
My personal SPOT track is protected with a password. If you want to follow my track in real-time, please send me an e-mail on time (e.g. before Sunday noon) to hutzlmandl(at)t-online.de and I will send you the password. Sorry, but the IBR rules are like that!
Let’s see if I can get some decent food in this town….
Last week passed quite quick and after a couple of relaxing days in Canada, we are back in Toronto and our common holidays come to an end. We had rented a huge Chrysler (I like to call him ‘Big Daddy’) for a comfy ride, but the main reason was that it has a large trunk: all the luggage plus the complete luggage for the IBR plus my complete motorcycle gear had to go in there. So we have visited Montréal, Québec and Toronto, with Québec probably being our favorite. Where Montréal seems to be an American city with a European touch, Québec is like a European city with an American touch. At least the Old Town. It was probably the highlight of this short trip. I can’t resist to share this anecdote: when standing on the historic citadel of Québec ( the only one in Northern America), looking down to the St. Lawrence stream that converts into a fjord, a US tourist asked the guide: “Is this the US, on the other side of the river?”. The tour guide stayed calm and replied with a very subtle amusement in his voice:” No Ma’am, the border would be some 2 hours driving from here”. The historic part of the city is very beautiful, even for European standards. The French spoken in the province of Québec gave me a hard time, the accent is quite different from the French spoken in France, sometimes I had to ask a lot to repeat the last sentence….
It was quite hot and humid these days, with heavy thunderstorms in the evenings. But today, we got a nice, sunny day in Toronto, going up the huge CN tower, visiting the Steam Whistle micro brewery and the St Lawrence market.
I have now prepared all my luggage for tomorrow, the first real (short) riding day on American soil.
This is me here, aka John Young.
Having just read the introduction that Robert has given me, I’m not that sure whether I’ll be able to live up to the billing he’s given me. However, I really do consider it an honour that he’s asked me to do this for him. Perhaps we are entering a new age of Anglo-German relationships ? Anyway, here goes …….
So, the Iron Butt Rally what’s it all about ?
Well, for now, all I’ll say is that here’s a statistic to “chew on” – more people have been to space than have completed the Iron Butt Rally.
Lot’s of people attempt this rally (which is run every two years) and lots of people fail. Many of those DNF’s (did not finish) are riding “bang up to date” modern machines, generally 1000cc plus, equiped with ABS, Cruise Control, variable suspension, etc etc etc
Robert is riding a 27 year old Honda 500cc single …….
Soooo, I had no time to write during the last days…or I was just too lazy :-). I’m in Montreal, Canada now and things are on track. But what happened during the last days?
As the requirements for the transport of the bike say that the bike has to be clean for the shipment and I know that Canadian customs authorities are very picky when it comes to bugs or dirt on the bike, I decided not to ride myself to Paris, but to rent a truck and to deliver the bike with it. So I did. I borrow some wooden planks from a friend and manage to push the bike myself in the enormous Mercedes Sprinter. I went to a village north of the Paris airport where I had booked a little room. The area was gastronomic wasteland and so I had to deal with an ‘Italian’ restaurant that set new limits….on the lower end. The next morning, I went to the cargo area of CDG and I presented myself at the shipper office. To my surprise, everything was finished after 30 min, they even went to customs for me. I only had to drive to the warehouse and to drop off the bike. This could have been also very quick, but the inspector had some problem with the weight that the company had put on the dangerous goods form and the paper had to be printed again in the office which took some time. but in the end the whole process was very quick and professional. I could start my return trip, putting the pedal to the metal. Quite a good truck, this Sprinter. When I had left the day before, Heinz had called and had asked me one question:”very nice, the cut fairing. But where are the vertical forced now going to?” And suddenly I realised that by cutting the fairing, I lost also the lower holders that gave a lot of support to the whole construction. And this was gone now. This meant that most of the weight is carried by the small bars in the cockpit – bound to break. I passed by Heinz and I returned with some iron bars that I planned to put between the fairing and the older lower holders – something to be done in Canada. Another last-minute task. At home, I had to start to pack my things – very late! But in the end, everything was ready: divided into the luggage for the rally and for the vacation. MJ and I will pass a couple of days in Canada, touring around with a rental car.
Finally, the big day was there and we took the plane from Düsseldorf to Toronto. apart from a very windy landing (woooops!), a regular flight. Surprising how the manufacturers of the stewardess puppets manage to give them this human touch. At the border control, the welcome was not particularly very warm and, treating me like suspect and not like a guest. Dropping the luggage at the hotel and taking a taxi to the cargo airport. I hoped that this would be as quick as in Paris but I soon learned that this was asking too much. I got my papers from the warehouse, but I had to pass customs. How to get there? Oh, it’s at the other end of the airport, you need a taxi. 33$ later, I arrived there and told the cab driver to wait because I didn’t to call and wait for another taxi. The customs official also had an interrogative style in the beginning. The best moment was:
“why are you staying such a short period?” ” Because I do not have more holidays” “But you guys do have three months of vacation, don’t you?” “Three months??? I wish I’d had…”
I was explained that the inspector had to go to the warehouse and to check the bike first. After an hour, the official explained the paper documents and told me that he had helped me because he had convinced his boss to give me the paper already now and not in one or two days (!!!). Incredible. 50$ customs fees and I finally could leave after more than one hour. The meter in the taxi seemed to be glowing due to overheating 😉 I had to pass by the hotel and grab a tool I had forgotten and finally I was back at the warehouse. The taxi fee was astronomic. Some paperwork later and 80 $ later, they delivered the bike at the gate and I helped to untie it in the crate.
OK, just connect the battery and let’s get back to the hotel. The starter turned, but the motor wouldn’t start! I tried for a couple of minutes, but no success. I felt some panic coming around the corner. What now?? Let’s try a jump start. I pushed the bike up the ramp….and realised that the kill switch was pushed a little bit. Argh! The bike started immediately. How embarrassing!
Back in the hotel I made an arrangement that I could leave the bike for the next week in the parking.
The next morning, I fixed the two prepared bars to the fairing, drilling holes in the fairing…manually!
Heinz had also prepared me for that, making a hand drill.
After less than one hour, the work was finished and I feel relieved now, the fairing should be stable again now.
I picked up the rental car and we Toronto eastwards, heading for Montreal. Straight highways with 100 km/h speed limit…my daily business during the next weeks. We made a quick stop in Kingston, the former capital of Canada with some historical buildings.
In the evening we arrived at our hotel near Montreal and talking to the concierge at the reception I realised that Québecois is different from the French spoken in France. A totally different accent. At the dinner, I was so jet-lagged that I hardly could keep my eyes open. At first sight, this looks very much European than in the Ontario province. Next task: visit Montreal.
The Brit Butt Rally was over, but some preparations still had to be done. Firstly, what had happened during the rally? It was not a bent tubing, but another obstruction in the fuel flow….
I had a presentiment during the Saddle Sore 3000…when I had lost the original fuel tap of the auxiliary tank, I bought a temporary fuel tap made of plastic. Every time I removed the tap, small chunks of plastic were cut off from the fins of the tap and fell into the tank. When I saw this, I thought that this would give me problems later….As a precaution, I had installed a fuel filter that should prevent that these chips would reach the carburator. So far so good.
When I opened the filter, the problem was obvious…the filter worked perfectly and collected all the chunks….and reduced the fuel flow just little bit, but sufficiently to give me problems. It was also logical that the problem was more pronounced when the fuel level in the tank was lower as the hydrostatic pressure was lower compared to a a full tank. And this was the reason I missed my chance to win the rally…Ironic, isn’t it?
During another trip to my home town, I visited Mart!n who exchanged the clutch of the XBR despite the bunch of work he had because he tried to save a couple of motorbikes that had been drowned during the floodings in Bavaria. I had never before seen collector’s bikes that after opening the drain screw first spit out litres of water before any oil. Or those cylinders were completely filled with water. Thanks, Mart!n! No more slipping clutch below 60°C oil temperature.
I had noticed before, that the XBR showed some strage behaviour when rolling slowly. I checked the steering head bearing – and was scared stiff! The bearing showed clearly a notch in the middle position. And yet another moment when disaster strikes…A nightmare! 10 days to go and I have to change the bearing! But it’s not as simple as that…it was a Emil Schwarz bearing that Mr Schwarz had installed two years ago. The particularity is that the bearing is not driven, but glued into the steering head. This is the best you can get for your bike in terms of bearings, but an exchange is not a piece of cake….I had an idea…I called Mr Schwarz the next day and explained the problem. His garage was on the way back home…I must have had some convincing arguments…and in the end he proposed to change the bearing the next day, on a Sunday morning! This was fantastic news! The next moning, after an early departure, I stood in front of his garage and he took immediately care of the XBR. During the next four hours, I had to cope with his bad temper as he hadn’t expected the fairing. It was difficult to work and after ruining a puller, he was pretty angry. I decided to shut up and in the end, Schwarz’ mood had improved and he listened to my plans, grinning and waging his head. Finally the bearing was changed and I could happlily continue my journey back home.
At home, some tasks were still on the list. New tyres, new breaking pads, new air filter. All changed.
Apart from technical issues, more paperwork. An excerpt from a forum post of mine:
Well, the insurance matter is slowly turning into a nightmare….
I had bought an insurance from my shipper who ships the bike from
Europe to Canada. I thought I had fulfilled the requirement of the “500
CSL” policy as it was the highest policy I could get from that company
and it said 250000/500000/100000.
When Kevin raised this point again, I was confused and thanks to Ed
Otto I learned that this policy is not according to the IBR rules that ask
for a 500000/500000/100000 coverage. The problem is that all the
temporary insurances offer a maximum of 250/500/100 and it’s only a
company like Progressive that provides a real 500 CSL coverage.
So far, so good.
When I filled in the online order form of Progressive, I got stuck when I
had to fill in the VIN. My old Honda has a 11 digit VIN that is not
recognised by the system that expects a modern 17 digit number.
Another problem: you need to provide an US address. How can I
provide an address if I’m not a resident?? Well, I managed to use one
of a friend who will have to forward me the papers to sign.
At first, the agent wanted to cancel the talk immediately when I
mentioned that would be less than 30 days in the US. I had to persuade
him that in this case I would stay at least 31 days….
He gave me a price of 290USD, seemed reasonable….but this VIN is
not recognised by the system, so it’s a 640 USD !!!
That was not the end….when he realised that I have a foreign driving
licence, the price went up to $1012!!!
Under different conditions, I would have told him to
, but I had no choice but to accept.
Today was the day of last preparations. I had taken a difficult decision: The lower part of the fairing had to be cut off. A very, very painful decision, but I saw no other choice but to do this. My legs would be burnt and the motor would collapse in the heat. When I rode at 25°C a week ago, my legs were getting very hot. So I took the electrical saw and…..
When I discussed the subject with Mart!n, I argued that it would be a pity to cut the fairing as it is so rare…and his pointed remark was: “there’s a reason why”…hmpf. John commented my action as “I’m glad you’ve done this as I was seriously concerned that your bike would have seized crossing the desert”. Well, I save 2 kg on the front, the XBR should be easier to drive now. Finally I had access to the motor and I could change the spark plug and adjust the valves. And as a last preparation, the bike was cleaned so everything should be prepared for the drop-off.
The positive side: I didn’t expect that, the small XBR left all the big bikes behind. It was a very challenging, but a beautiful ride. Great!
The tragic side: I was about to win the rally, but I decided the end the rally when I still had four hours left because I thought I had a carburettor problem and the XBR would not make it back. Wrong, it was just a bent fuel tubing of the aux tank. I didn’t visit the last bonus point worth a 1000 points. In the end, Rob Roalfe won by 200 points difference….
Detailed report will follow!
Everything is prepared….let’s have dinner, get the rally instructions and then the planning starts!
Tomorrow morning at 6 p.m. we will all start from Castleford. It looks that the weather will be better, what a strong wind and heavy showers today! Will I drive south or to Scotland? I’ll know around midnight….
You can follow my track under https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=69d1519099cd8f565
When I left work on the XBR today, I noticed immediately that something was wrong. I looked at the cockpit and…..was shocked! The holder that connects the upper part of the fairing to the steering head was broken! A nightmare! In other words: Drama! Disaster! My worst-case scenario for the Iron Butt Rally: Remove the fairing, throw it into the ditch and ride on. At a closer look, I realised that the thick steel bolt was neatly broken through:
What could I do? This was the end for the Brit Butt Rally this weekend, wasn’t it? Maybe I could remove the fairing….or try to fix the auxiliary tank to the BMW in a night-shift and leave with more Boxer power? But maybe there was still hope….I would pass by the house of Heinz, the magical mechanic. Maybe he had an idea. He had helped me two days ago to get my baggage rack welded, what a relief! But this would be too delicate to fix….Let’s give it a try. I met Heinz in front of his house, walking his dog. I expressed my frustration and we investigated the problem. The pin was actually a kind of screw that was screwed into the large nut. Heinz is a man who likes challenges and he immediately was looking for a solution. He drilled out the remaining bolt with the thread and looked for a larger screw that he could transform into a bolt. He luckily has a turning machine…and he can do miracles with it!
And this is the final product!!!:
A masterpiece of fine mechanics! I’m so grateful that Heinz could help me out of this mess!
This means that tomorrow I can leave for my third Brit Butt Rally!
I left on Wednesday evening after work and had planned to reach Poitiers after a 750 km (466 mls) ride that night. In my hometown, I had to put petrol and to document the start of the Saddle Sore 3000 with a receipt. But…the machine was out of paper! I rushed to the next station and tried hectically to put another litre of petrol in the tank, this time I received the receipt I needed. Quick, quick, I wanted to get going. Three hours later I passed through Paris, fighting with my new Zumo 350. As it crashed the fourth time, it erased all the data and programmed waypoints. Luckily I had still the Zumo 660. The rules for the IBA rides specify that unlike in rallies, a fuel stop has to be every 500 km at latest. I had programmed a stop after 480 km and when I got off the bike I realised that the bag of the auxiliary tank was open?? And the tap of the tank as well??? Where was the tap? I realised that I had lost it: Normally, I follow a strict routine when putting petrol, but the missing receipt had distracted me. This meant I had ridden with an open tank for about 500 km! Gulp! I found an emergency tap in the shop that should work for the moment. At 23:15 I arrived at the hotel, checked in, had a quick shower and had a sandwich I had purchased at another petrol station before. I had a five-hour sleep and after a quick cookie breakfast I checked out, put my rain suit on and was back on the road at 6:20. The morning was fresh, but dry. Before Bordeaux, I had another fuel stop, as I only had filled the main tank. I passed the famous Pilat Dune, the Landes and Biarritz. I entered the Basque Country and passed San Sebastian and Bilbao. The atlantic climate welcomed me: rain and wind. I passed a truck and a wind blast almost made the bike slip when I rolled over a wet arrow on the tarmac. Woah! I rode along the Cantabrian coast and soon reached Santander, the capital of Asturias. Rain. Soon I had to stop at the planned petrol station before the 500 km limit. When I filled the tanks, I noticed a strong smell of petrol – and noticed a growing puddle under the bike….what the…? Instinctively I closed the fuel tap. What was this? The carburetor overflowing?? I made my planned lunch break and munched a sandwich, the usual riding diet. When I went back to the bike to make an oil check, I noticed that there was again a petrol lake under the XBR. Damn! I had forgotten the second tap of the aux tank! The friendly owner provided me with a funnel for the oil…and looked worried when he saw all the petrol on the floor. I started the engine, but the petrol kept flowing. “your motorbike….” “I know, I know, but I have to leave!” Brooooooom. When riding, the carb was fine, just stopping resulted in a mess under the bike. Rainy Asturias had me back again. I continued to Oviedo and turned southwards towards the mountains and the Pajares Tunnel. It got colder and colder and finally I disappeared in the fog. On the other side of the tunnel, the rain stopped, but it was still pretty cold. I passed León and rode through the high plain of Castilla, still accompanied by some occasional showers. I finally understood what happens sometimes to the Dispatch 1 distribution touch box. When I touch the light switch that triggers the distribution box, the display sometimes would not recognize the box. I have to try another time and to switch on all the devices via the display as the box apparently does some “hard reset” and erases the settings. At least now I know how to handle this.
At the toll booth before Madrid, I had to do some multitasking: close the rear fuel tap, grab the toll ticket, find the credit card, open the front fuel tap a bit, pay the toll and close the tap. An official walked around my bike and seemed to be very curious. Suddenly he pointed to the side: this way! Ooops! I realised that this was a control by the Guardia Civil. And I was listening to music on my iPad and couldn’t hear what the cop was probably telling me. I tried to switch off the music, but I couldn’t manage as I had put the rain cap on the tank bag. Finally I took off the helmet. Not too late, because the cop was apparently already pissed off. “Hooola!! De donde vienes?” (Where are you coming from?) “De Alemania!” “Qué bandera es esa en la matrícula?” (What’s that flag on your number plate?)…[….]..
Oho! So that’s were the wind is blowing! I’m close to Madrid, in the middle of a raid of the Guardia Civil and this guy wants to know what that flag with red and yellow stripes is on my number plate. Sooo, if I tell him the truth that it’s the Senyera, the catalan flag? Although I had placed it upside down, so that it was basically the flag of Barcelona. I had put it there 13 years ago when I lived in Barcelona to make it clear I was not a tourist. Nobody ever complained about it. Hmmmm….so the truth would be like a red rag to a (Spanish) bull. This would mean they would shake me down, for sure. Something I wanted to avoid, as I carried the Valentine One in my cockpit, ehem. Two of his colleagues were already curiously watching my gadgets…..OK, let’s try this… “Es de la Provenza” (It’s from the Provence [it’s actually the same flag]) …”De donde? (Where?)….”de la Provenza”….”Quééé?….”de la Provence“……[…..]…..”Eso está en Alemania?” (That’s in Germany?).
Ouch. At least this conversation had confused him so much that I could go on. What a strange encounter! I chose the M50 that lead around Madrid in a large circle, but at least I avoided the traffic jams in the city. Suddenly I was riding in the sunshine! On the way down to the Valencian coast, the air got warmer and I only had to ride one hour in the dark before I reached the place of my cuñados in Valencia after another fuel stop at 11 p.m. We had to chat a lot and I was served some delicious food, what a change after all the sandwiches. I had some 5 hours of quality sleep and on 6:20 in the next morning I was back on the road again. It was a lovely morning and I was more than one hour ahead of my schedule. I made good progress and at a quarter to ten I made my first fuel stop in Andalusia in the sun. My next stop would have to be in Sevilla for a fuel receipt as it formed the turning point of my ride. At noon I reached the planned petrol station in Sevilla, got my fuel receipt and munched again …a sandwich. I took off my warm underwear for it was hot now. I could feel it in my legs: the heat of the motor was channeled by the fairing and transferred directly to my legs. Hmmm. An interesting experience, I’ll have to find a solution for this problem because the temperatures in the IBR will be higher than this 30°C.
I had reached my turning point and continued north to Extremadura under blue skies. The highway was lined with many of the famous cork oaks, a beautiful sight. The ride was very relaxing, good weather, scenic sights and no traffic. It was still warm, but when I passed the border to the Castillian high plain, the temperature dropped and the air was rather cool now. Past Salamanca, I had to stop and to put some petrol, oil check, drink and ….munch a sandwich. In the morning, I had reserved a hotel at the border in Irun, so I knew that I had to ride 1600 km on that day. My calculations showed me that I was 90 minutes ahead of my planning and that I would reach the hotel already at 9:30 p.m. Without a reservation, I would have continued two hours more, but I still would have enough time on the next day to the Ride to Eat meeting point in time. I passed Valladolid and Burgos and when I entered the Basque Country again, the temperature dropped from cool to cold. The weather was sunny but this was a bit too chilly for my taste now. I was still riding in the same gear as in hot Sevilla, but the temperature had dropped some 25°C. When I missed an exit at Vitoria, I had to take the next one, so I could stop on the secondary road and put on at least a jumper. Before that, I had passed a special force raid. Not just a police control, this was really serious. Equipped heavily with bulletproof vests, big machineguns and determined looks, it was obvious it was better not to make a wrong move. [Apparently some ETA terrorists were captured on that day]. The road down to the Atlantic sea was winding, but very beautiful. Very scenic, this reminded me of Switzerland: densely wooded mountains, deep valleys, picturesque villages. At least it got a bit warmer now. Finally I stopped for another fuel stop and bought my breakfast for the next morning. The booked hotel was not far away from the motorway and after the check-in I took a quick shower and enjoyed the luxury to go down to the restaurant and to have a real dinner. I was well in time, but I better wanted to leave early the next day. The distance to the ride to eat meeting point, the western tip of France, was some 900 km away and I wanted to be there on time at 4 p.m. I got up at 5 a.m. and by 5:45 a.m. I hit the road again. The weather was cool with some occasional short showers and a stiff breeze from the Atlantic sea. After 400 km, I stopped before I had to and warmed up 5 min with a hot coffee. I was still almost two hours ahead of my plan and could enjoy a relaxed pace on that day. When I reached the Bretagne, the speed limit was only 110 km/h, but I was not in a hurry. Some 150 km before Brest, I stopped for another fuel stop and munched the sandwich I had bought the evening before in Spain. Disgusting, there should be some physical punishment for people who produce or sell things like that sandwich. Some kilometers later I realized that the speedometer did not work anymore! Not again! Was it the same problem with the speedometer gear like in South Africa? Luckily, I had still the odometer reading from the GPS. Finally I arrived at 14:30 at the hotel in Brest and left my luggage in the room. It was only here when I realized that I still needed a fuel receipt to document the end of my Saddle Sore 3000! I had 2996 miles so far; this meant that I needed a petrol station between the hotel and the Pointe de Corsen, the meeting point. This was not that easy, but finally I found one in the Sat Nav and a couple of minutes later, after 3005 miles (4835 km) and 71 hours, I had finished this task and had only some 20 minutes to go to the Pointe de Corsen. I arrived some minutes before 4 o’clock and found many people there. We made the obligatory picture, without rain! After the picture, Jo turned up with this new KTM 690 Duke and was about to finish a Bun Burner (1500 miles in 36 hrs). Jo and I did our first Saddle Sore 1000 during the EuRR Rally in 2002 – both on XBRs. So it seems he’s back in business *g*.
We both went back to the fuel station where he could also get a final receipt for his ride and then we changed bike back to the hotel. I knew that the KTM is no ordinary thumper, but this….WOAAH! Amazing! It has a punch like a hot small V2 combined with no weight and excellent shocks. Heidewitzka!
After some quick check, I tried to fix the speedometer gear (I couldn’t) and a shower later we all met for dinner and a lot of petrol talk. Frank’s 1100 GS was losing oil from the rear drive so he was busy to find another mode of transportation to return home the next day (rental car). The next morning, everybody left home and after another 900 km and a lot of traffic jams, I arrived back home. To my surprise, this was an easy trip and I was not tired at all. 7 hours of sleep were very refreshing and I concluded that the fairing and the day-long saddle really change it all. Staying 17 to 18 hours on the bike riding pose no problem at all.
This was exactly what I wanted to know and I’m looking forward to the Brit Butt Rally next week. The only technical problems were the odometer and the overflowing carburetor. In the meantime, I realized that the root cause for the damage speedometer gear was the cable. I have cannibalized the caferacer XBR for the time being and the speedometer is fine again. I have opened the carburetor (seemed to be clean) and I have installed a petrol filter. A new rear tire was installed and a problem was detected: When I removed the auxiliary tank (I wanted to move it a bit to the front), I realized that two bars of the holders were broken.
This means I need some quick welding before next Thursday, because I’ll be leaving for the Brit Butt Rally then.
Conclusion: My confidence in the endurance of the bike and also in mine have increased a lot, if I get enough time for sleep, the pace of the Iron Butt Rally should be no problem.
Tomorrow it’s time for another test ride through Europe. As I will have 72 hrs to the Ride to Eat meet in Brest on Saturday, why not trying a Saddle Sore 3000 (3000 mls in 72 hrs)? It is exactly the pace I’ll have to face in the Iron Butt Rally and it should be a good training of my endurance skills.
The bike has received a fork oil change with more viscous oil (what a difference!) and a last-minute oil change. After 2500 km of error messages, the Zumo 660 stopped showing these messages when I went to the Sat Nav shop this evening. Spooky. I discovered the problem for non-charging of the new Zumo 350: a broken ground (!) cable.
I have received my new headset from AKE: good-bye SRC! Superior quality, a high volume and clear sound will give less problems. I hope.
Another feature I am testing for the first time is the Spotwalla homepage: You can follow my test ride live here:
Let’s go south!
Update Thu 0 a.m.: Greetings from the hotel in poitiers, everything is on schedule. good night.
So it was time to go for a first real long test ride. I had done some minor modifications, trying to fix problems and to do some maintenance. I changed the brake fluid and installed a new chain with new sprockets. The Dispatch 1 gave me same problems – the iPad and the smartphone wouldn’t charge! After a discussion with the manufacturer it turned out that the USB connections supported the USB standard, i.e. 5 V at 0.5 A. However, the iPad requires a 2 A current. So, I had to find another solution: I connected a 2 A USB socket to a 12 V output (normally used for heated garments) – and it works! So this is solved. I had another problem with the new Zumo 350: the cradle wouldn’t work, so I had to change it for a new one – but it didn’t work either.
I was quite worried about the fairing, the upper holders are vibrating a lot and I thought to spot some play in the system. In a short test drive I had to admit that the fairing touched ground way too early and I bent the lower holders to bring the lower fairing closer to the bike. A bit of fairing had to be cut as well. The fairing was slipping downwards and damaged the label with the chassis number. So, would the fairing be stable?
The temperature sensor of the Dispatch 1 that is connected to the oil hose seems to work well and reflects very well the temperature in the oil tank.
So I went on the 3000 km trip to Avignon where the Ride to Eat of the IBA UK was scheduled. I started on Friday afternoon and planned to get to Dijon where I had reserved a hotel. I started in the rain with a full tank and envisaged to avoid a fuel stop. In Luxemburg, heavy rain was bucketing down and I realised that the bike showed some heavy vibrations at 130 km/h?? I continued at 110 to 120 km/h (speed limit in France in the rain: 110 km/h) and tried to forget the nasty rain. After 560 km, I had to stop for the first time: my bladder refused to resist any longer. Anyway, it was the longest stint ever on a motorbike without any stop. In Dijon, I had a problem to leave the motorway: the ticket was wet and I had to call for assistance to be able to pay the toll. Before reaching the hotel, the Zumo 660 started to give me error messages that I still haven’t managed to get rid of (the accessory is not supported). I checked in the hotel and had a small dinner.
The next morning the rain had not stopped. I first had to escape Dijon to ride on the national road through one of the best vineyards of France – Gevrey Chambertin – Vougeot – Nuits St. Georges – Vosne Romanée to Saligny-lès-Beaune where I bagged one location of Grim’s “Motorcycle Museums” ride.
The gate was closed, but I took a picture of the entrance and continued my way to the motorway. Rain, rain, rain. While riding through Lyon, the oil temperature reached only 41°C! I thought I had enough time to stop for lunch in Montelimar, but the situation in the service area was chaotic. The stop took longer than expected so time was running out and I had to push a bit to arrive in time at 4 p.m. in Avignon under the famous bridge. The group was small but we were happy to have reached the destination – not big fun after temperatures around 5°C and all the rain. Michiel made only a stopover and continued to the Pyrenees!
After the obligatory picture the remaining 6 riders went to the hotel where we met for dinner after a refreshing shower. We had a nice evening with the usual “petrol talk”. I received a lot of useful information about the Iron Butt Rally from Gerhard, the IBA Germany president. It was so interesting that I didn’t realize how late it was and how many beers I had. Only the next morning I tried to remember and I concluded that the beers were OK, just the red wine was probably the factor in the equation that shouldn’t have been there. So I decided against the planned early start and gave my stomach a couple of hours more rest. When I finally got up for breakfast, everybody was already gone, of course. It was only after 10 a.m. when I hit the road, direction Côte d’Azur. Of course in light rain. The toll booths with its long congestions were a bit annoying, but a slim XBR can pass quicker than an average car….Finally I was in Italy and went on the nice coast motorway to Genova with its tunnels and nice sea views. And the horrible metal slits in the bends where the bike is drifting a bit, releasing some adrenalin into the bloodstream every couple of seconds, woah! I was surprised when I had to turn the fuel tap only after 690 km (429 mls)!! 20 km later I stopped at a service area, after 710 km (441 mls) with one tankful! Another record. As usual, the cashier was flabbergasted when I had to pay more than 35 L of petrol (“is this correct??”). As I was in Liguria, I had to eat a pasta dish with some real Pesto Genovese. The rain had mostly stopped, but now the motorway was jammed and I had to filter for about 50 km between the cars, urgh! Finally I could turn north, direction Milano. In the Padan plain, I had some tailwind and the XBR wanted to run faster. As the vibrations at 130 km/h were annoying, I decided to go at 150 km/h. Temperatures were rising and finally I was riding in the sunshine. Time to stop and to take off all the excess winter pants, sweater and winter gloves. The bike liked the high speed and I saw the oil temperature raising to 105°C, still a very good value. At 120 km/h, it was immediately down at 90°C (air temperature 20 °C). I passed the Garda Lake and stopped in Kurtinig in the well known Hotel Teutschhaus that I had reserved in the morning. Bueno, bonito, barato, as the Spanish say. Some relaxing 850 km were sufficient on that day. The next day I continued to my hometown in Germany where I had some issues to take care of. My SRC headset again went nuts and refused to work properly. That’s enough. I had returned it 4 times within the last 2 years.
I arranged a short-notice visit to Mart!n’s garage where he exchanged all the wheel bearings – a preventive maintenance action.
I discovered the reason for the vibrations: I had lost a screw that secures the front axle. Ooops. The next day I went north to Belgium, not without visiting Johannes in Fürth, I had to show him the Naughty Little Rascal in personam. The XBR enjoyed the German Autobahn and I went again at 150 km/h, once I even banged at 170 km/h (105 mph). This would be enough to end up in a county jail in the US.
After 3000 km, I returned well and the bike is in an excellent state. I can’t say this of some electric gadgets. The Garmins…annoying, as usual. The SRC…will be replaced by a deluxe headset from AKE. But overall, this first test ride was successful. In three days, the next test is about to start….
I used the Easter holidays to work on the painting of the fairing and the electrical wiring. I installed the Dispatch 1 distribution box under between the battery and the (new) saddle. Lots of cables needed to be attached to the bike. As I didn’t want to cut them, they had to be placed somewhere.
The only place near the frame is under the side covers. Using all the little space there, I crammed the cables under the right cover and the auxiliary fuel line and the CDI box under the left cover. I had to move the CDI box, as the distribution box needs quite some space. I am considering to reduce the box in height, another 3 mm would be good so it is not pressed down by the saddle.
In the last post, I had no picture for the Krista auxiliary LED lights. I did a quick night ride test to take some pictures that demonstrate the massive light output of these flooders. During the ride, a rabbit crossed my way, its eyes were brightly glowing red as I had the Kristas on full power. Probably its retina was melting in this moment…an impressive sight. It gives some piece of mind knowing that I can detect the critters a lot earlier before they jump on the road.
This brings me to the next topic. All the wiring had a purpose, of course. I installed the distribution box of the Dispatch 1 under the saddle and connected the electrical devices to it: The first GPS, the second GPS, the V1, the iPad, the smartphone and a LED lightning for the roadbook holder. They can be swiched on or off individually via the display that is placed in the cockpit. I mounted the holder of the new second GPS today when a small pin of the power supply broke .
The main display shows the time (not needed here, but useful), the temperature (very useful, I have attached the temperature probe to the oil hose to monitor the oil temperatur and hopefully prevents engine breakdown in the soring heat of the desert ) and the battery voltage (veeeeery useful, it gives me valuable iformation about the condition of the battery). The latter is needed to check if the electrical system is in good health. It does not substitute a proper measurement of the charging current that I will do at a later stage to investigate if the alternator produces enough energy for all the electrical appliances, but it is a good indication. Remember, the max. output of the alternator is only 170 W. A 2012 R1200GS Adventure has an output of 720 W, that’s 4 times more! I have connected a lot of additional farkles and heated garments are not possible to use. The additional Krista lights draw most of the power and have to be used wisely. Another advantage of the Display 1 is that I can easily switch off the devices, even during riding. This means I can use all farkles while riding with low beam and switch off the ones with an internal battery when I need full lightning power at night on winding roads. As I said, I need to measure the exact uptakes and their effect on the total power using a clamp meter.
I mounted the auxiliary fuel tank again, together with the little puke tank and the vent tube. The whole system worked very well on my BMW during the last two years and is very reliable.
The fairing…well, er….looked horrible after the wrinkle desaster (see last post). I tried to mend it by grinding the worst bits, add another layer of black paint and two layers of clear varnish. Before the last step, I applied the stickers and lettering. In the end, it looks quite OK 🙂 if one doesn’t look too close at the finish. I mounted the fairing holders and fixed the fairing. A test ride today showed me that I will have to modify the bottom of the fairing, it scratches on the tarmac way too early.
Sooooo….what does the baby look like now?
Looks quite OK 🙂 .There are still some things to fix and some preventive maintenance to be done, but the bike is getting ready for the thousands of kilometers of test rides that I want to do before the start of the Iron Butt Rally on July 1st.
A couple of days ago, the XBR looked like this:
What has happened??? Well, I had decided to start the painting of the fairing. At the same time I needed to change back the bike to a normal state to pass the road test. It is only due in June, but I want to continue to change the bike to ‘rally mode’ and switching back later is too late. So I went to Germany today and passed the test without any problem. On the way back it was snowing! Chilly, chilly.
It was also a test ride with my new Russell seat that has arrived this morning from California. Wow! It not only looks big, it IS enormous. But what a comfort! I only rode 215km today, but this felt very, very comfy. I even didn’t get a comment about the Bol d’Or handlebars I had mounted replacing the original ones. My seating position is more upright and relaxed, not to speak of the new seat. Now I just need to put back the fairing and I’ll be in LD heaven 🙂 . Well, in the meantime I was painting the fairing: grinding, two layers of primer, one layer of black (all applied manually) and then one layer of sprayed black – and then the disaster happened – the freshly applied layer wrinkled within seconds!!! All the hours of work for nothing…I ground the wrinkles after drying, but I have a 3D painting now. Whatever, not everybody has such a unique fairing, ehem …The reason was most likely that the first black layer was not dry enough and/or the two paints were not compatible.
What else? I had received the Krista LED light and mounted them. Unfortunately, I had not taken a picture, but I will post one later. The lights are amazing, night becomes day! This is some serious stuff.
I also tried to squeeze the Dispatch distribution box under the seat, but this is tricky despite the smaller battery. this will be one of the next challenges. I have also changed tyres and I have spare tyres for the next months. I have received the temporary insurance for the bike in June/July.
From now on, the serious preparation on the bike starts…