How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less - BMW Luxury Touring Community
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post #1 of 12 Old Jan 17th, 2015, 12:01 pm Thread Starter
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How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

I thought it might be good to start a discussion about what it takes to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less. So here's a writeup that I've done for other motorcycle sites that has proved to be popular.

As many of you know, I've ridden more than one hundred different thousand-mile days, and dozens of 1,300-1,500+ mile days over the last decade, often stringing them together for a week or more, so I have garnered some experience with such things. So fair warning here: while my advice is sound, it does tend to the extreme end of the bell curve. But the basics still apply to "shorter" day rides.

For an example of "extreme", here's a little ride I did that covered 22,000 miles in 30 days through 40 states:



So here's my standard spiel for anyone interesting in doing a SaddleSore ride (1,000 miles in 24 hours):

First off, you can do it on almost any bike. Many guys have done 1,000-in-24 rides on 125cc bikes, and one guy did 1,600 miles in 36 hours on a 49cc bike . . .

Doing 1,000 miles at interstate speeds means you can easily complete it in 16-17 hours or less, even with reasonable stops for fuel, food, and hydration. Whether you decide to push on through, or stop and sleep in the middle for a bit is up to you. I've done it both ways.

The main trick is to remain aware of your current condition, and stay safe. Better to stop and sleep, and maybe miss the goal, than to push too hard and have Bad Things happen. You can always take what you've learned, and try again later.

I will note that running 1,500 miles in 24 hours is monumentally more difficult, as there's basically almost no free time at all. You pretty much have to keep moving at a decent pace for the entire 24 hours, which is much harder . . .

The two biggest things to worry about on any Long Distance ride are fatigue and delays.

Let's go with fatigue first.

Our bodies have natural rhythms that affect our sleep/wake cycles. These are also affected by daylight/darkness patterns. So you need to be aware of that and plan accordingly.

Some riders find it easier to stick closer to their normal schedules in order to minimize the sleep disruption. Most folks can stay awake 16 or more hours in a row without too much difficulty, and that's plenty of time to complete a SS1000 if you choose a good route.

So if you're an early riser, then stick to that schedule. Or maybe get up an hour or two earlier to maximize your daylight riding, and to get done before it gets into the wee small hours.

The natural sleep cycle puts us into a lull or slump around 2-4 p.m. (ever get back from lunch and just get wiped out for the afternoon?). There's also a strong sleep urge between roughly 2-5 a.m. Obviously, that varies between people and circumstances, but usually, a sunrise will refresh you quite nicely as your body reacts to the light and says "it must be time to be awake now."

Comfort issues can also have a major effect on fatigue. These can be ergonomic (bad seats, poor posture, excessive wind blast) or external (extreme heat or cold, bad storms, difficult road conditions). Basically, anything that takes energy or effort to overcome is sapping the energy you need to be awake and aware and able to control the bike.

You can minimize the ergonomic issues with better seats, windshields, foot peg extenders and handlebar risers, etc. And good riding gear goes a long way to extending your comfort over a much wider temperature range. I always have my heated gear with me, even in summer (mountains/darkness can still get quite cool), and my main jacket is waterproof and vented for extreme weather, plus I carry a gallon or two of water on the bike at all times. That has easily carried me from a low of 18F to a high of 123F in relative comfort. I had one ride that went from 30F to 110F, which is a 80F temp swing in roughly a 12-hour-period. All I did was open/close vents, add/remove my heated jacket liner, and drink a lot of water to stay comfortable.

Note that I have also used a CamelBak bladder system to stay hydrated with good results. You just have to fill it up more often. And I carry granola bars or energy bars in a tank bag that I can get to while riding if need be, although I've also pre-made several sandwiches so I can just grab one at a fuel stop and thus avoid the whole fast-food or mini-mart delays.

Paying close attention to your mental and physical state on a ride like this (or really, on any ride) is crucial. Riding a motorcycle is a full time job that obviously requires all of your concentration, but even more so when you're pushing your own personal boundaries.

As for delays, they can usually be categorized as things that you have control over, and things that you don't.

One thing you can control is your own schedule. You obviously will need several fuel stops. If you start with a full tank and consider a conservative 200-220 miles per tank, then that's four fuel stops "on the clock". If it takes you half an hour to find a station, get the bike filled, pay, go to the bathroom, maybe grab a quick snack, and then walk around and stretch, then you've taken 2 hours off your total allowed time. And that might be OK, as 1,000 miles divided by 24 hours is only a 42 mph average. But it also means that you're two hours further past your potential stopping time, meaning it might push you into that "tired" zone in the wee small hours when you will find it harder to concentrate. And if your normal fuel range is less, then add another fuel stop or two to that.

So those are the things that you generally can control. Things you can't control are weather (see above), accidents (hopefully other vehicles, not you), construction delays and sometimes road closures (checking the web for road conditions/delays before you leave can be very valuable), and of course, traffic congestion (obviously worse around major cities). A good route will take all these into consideration and minimize any problems.

Another concern is either a mechanical failure (not much can be done about that except to keep your bike in good repair), or a flat tire. I carry a sticky-string patch kit and an onboard 12V compressor. So if I do get a flat, I can have it patched and filled and be back on the road in maybe 20 minutes. If I'm lucky.

Sometimes, things happen. If it's minor and you can muddle through, then do it. After all, this isn't supposed to be "easy". But if it becomes major or serious, then you may have to make a decision. Should I re-route to avoid the traffic or weather? Should I stop and get a short nap so that I can continue on more safely? Or should I scrap the ride and try it again later when things are more suitable?

All of those are your call, but remember, it's only a ride and not worth doing permanent damage to yourself or your bike. Especially to you.

There's lots more great info on the Iron Butt website and the IBA Archive of Wisdom, along with information on how to get your ride certified, if that's what you want to do. Note that certification isn't necessary, but you do get a nice frameable Certificate of Achievement to hang on your wall, and an official Iron Butt number.

Many riders do one SaddleSore and call it a day, rightly proud of their accomplishment. Some will find exhilaration, and chase larger challenges. And some of us get drawn to it, almost to the point of obsession, always planning the Next Big Ride and constantly checking maps and weather forecasts.

But above all, remember to be safe. And have fun.
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All lower 48 states plus Alaska on the K13GT in two weeks . . .

Some people see the gas tank as half empty. Some see it as half full. All I care is that I know where the next tankful is coming from...
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post #2 of 12 Old Jan 17th, 2015, 12:03 pm Thread Starter
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How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

We talked about minimizing delays, both stopped and while moving. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of the timing you can expect.

I have done several dozen thousand-mile days up and back on I-5 (I have a client in Oregon and often take the bike from SoCal). I can do this known trip in 14 hours moving time, at a 72 mph average. It's I-5, so you set the cruise, avoid the trucks, and just keep moving.

I know what my range is, and where all the gas stops are. So I will choose a station that I can see from the freeway with a quick off-on, pull in, gas up, get my receipt at the pump, check the time and write down my mileage, and can be back moving in 5-10 minutes max. Add in a "leisurely" 1/2 hour break somewhere mid-way to get a quick bite of fast food, and I've spent maybe an hour off the bike total. It got to where I could plan that whenever I left, I would consistently be at my destination 15 hours later.

Note that the first time I did a thousand-mile day down I-5, it did take me a bit longer. I was up early that morning to wrap-up a final work meeting, and got on the road around noon. I got to just north of the Grapevine around 1 a.m., with just over 800 miles completed. But I was simply too tired to continue, so I stopped and got a motel and slept four hours, even though I only had about 3 hours riding time left on my route. That put me into L.A. rush hour traffic for the completion of my ride, instead of the empty freeways I had planned for. But at that point, the morning traffic was better than continuing on exhausted and quite possibly nodding off on an empty freeway. And despite the sleep stop, I was still able to safely complete the ride within the prescribed 24 hours and get my first Iron Butt certificate.

I've also done an SS1000 using only the tightest, twistiest back roads that San Diego County has to offer:



A friend arranged the ride for his birthday, and about a dozen of us set out using his pre-determined route. It was really hard. So hard, in fact, that only half of us who'd started were able to finish on time. The others simply cut the route short, got in late, or pulled off somewhere along the way to sleep. Knowing when to push on is important, but knowing when to call it a day and trade in that goal for safety is even more critical. There's always another day for another ride . . .

The key to finishing was to simply keep moving. The roads didn't allow for normal highway speeds, so every minute counted. I had an aux fuel cell which gave me a 400-450 mile range and thus cut my stops in half. But still, I kept them as close to 5 minutes as possible. I rode as well as I could to keep up my average speed, but that took a lot of concentration. (Ever ride up a huge mountain in the total darkness? Then ride right back down it again? It's not easy.) I pushed on until maybe 4 a.m. (right in the middle of the nightly sleep dip we talked about earlier) when I was just too tired to continue safely. So I grabbed a 40-minute nap in a quiet corner of a 24-hour McDonalds, then got a quick breakfast and was on my way.

I finished the ride with maybe 15 minutes to spare, and I was totally exhausted. But I did it, and even allowed myself to stop for some "safe" time when it was needed. And it remains one of my toughest, and proudest, rides to this day.

On that note, let's talk about speed for a moment. Obviously, higher speeds mean covering the miles quicker. But that quickly gets into diminishing returns as higher speeds use more fuel, meaning more stops. Also, higher speeds take more concentration, as you're constantly scanning the road ahead for problems, traffic, animals, and cops. That means more fatigue as the miles roll on.

Still, maintaining a steady pace will make the ride go much smoother, and allow you to finish in a reasonable time. That's why most thousand-mile days are done on interstates or larger restricted-access roads. It's easier to maintain 65-75 mph (depending on local speed limits) if everyone else around you is running that speed as well.

"But that just sounds boring," you say? Secondary roads can be more fun, but will slow you down, and require a higher level of concentration from driveways, cross traffic, kids, animals, intersections, and curves. Remember, this isn't a normal fun Sunday afternoon ride with friends. This is a ride specifically designed to push yourself, and to see what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. So always keep the larger goal in mind here.

And on another related tangent, you have to decide if this is a solo ride, or if your friends are just as crazy and driven as you are. Solo rides have the advantage of you setting your own pace and schedule, and having no-one but yourself to answer to. But that can be a long time to be alone with your own thoughts . . .

A group SaddleSore can be done successfully, for very small, focused groups, if all of the group is in the right mindset. That means knowing each other's fuel range, agreeing on the number and duration of stops, and riding at a similar pace. Or you could just set up a specific start point, end point, and fuel stops, and just run a similar course at everyone's own individual pace. And if you do decide to ride together, decide up front if the ride takes precedence over the group. That is, if some major (but not serious) delay happens to a rider, like a flat, or breakdown, or someone just gets tired, do you all agree to split up and ride on, or does the whole group scrap the ride and stay with that rider? Either way works just fine, but you need to be in agreement before the wheels start turning.
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All lower 48 states plus Alaska on the K13GT in two weeks . . .

Some people see the gas tank as half empty. Some see it as half full. All I care is that I know where the next tankful is coming from...
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post #3 of 12 Old Jan 17th, 2015, 4:47 pm
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

I've run into a few issues on my long rides:
1 - joint stiffness, especially on the first day or two
2 - hands aching, usually after a week of daily 8hr+ days

Did you experience anything like that early on when you started LD riding?


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post #4 of 12 Old Jan 17th, 2015, 8:37 pm Thread Starter
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

Much of this is dependent on the individual, of course, but there are some general rules that seem to help.

First is bike setup. Are you sitting in a comfortable, ergonomically correct position? Pretty much all of my bikes have had custom seats, and most of them have had some changes to the bars and pegs so that I'm absolutely comfortable when seated. In fact, my bike is more comfortable than my office chair at home, and much more comfortable than my wife's car.

I also like to have larger grips for my large hands, most easily accomplished using slip-on foam grip covers. These will still pass warmth from the heated grips, and tend to damp some of the road vibrations.

But age comes at all of us, although it sure beats the alternative.

Note the following is general advice, and not to be taken above the advice of your regular doctor. As with any medication, over the counter or otherwise, be sure to read the labels and understand the medication's effectiveness, limitations, and side effects.

What I've found is that small doses of Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol or Excedrin) can help with general muscle soreness and joint stiffness. You don't want to overdo it, of course, but it can help. And since Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen work in different ways, you can take both without worry of interaction. So if I'm having a particularly rough day, I may switch off between the two every few hours. Just be sure to watch total dosage of both, and don't go over the given recommendations.

Now if you find yourself relying on those dual doses on every ride, then perhaps you need to reconsider your ergonomics, or diet, or off-bike exercise regime, or even talk to a doctor. It's much better to resolve the root cause then to keep masking it with band-aids.

I tend to stay away from Aspirin while riding as it can cause blood thinning, which can be very bad if you do go down and start to bleed. It can also cause stomach irritation, just as Naproxen (Aleve) can.

I also spent a lot of hours and many miles on the bike, getting my body used to the bike, finding out what hurt or bothered me the most, fixing that, then going on to the next thing. Eventually, the bike became my ultimate comfort place.

Again, no one's gonna run a marathon cold. But if you put in the focused effort starting in small stages, and improve one thing on every run/ride, you're gonna get there eventually.

Ken
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All lower 48 states plus Alaska on the K13GT in two weeks . . .

Some people see the gas tank as half empty. Some see it as half full. All I care is that I know where the next tankful is coming from...
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post #5 of 12 Old Jan 18th, 2015, 11:26 am
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

This is really helpful info Ken. Thanks for taking the time to put it together and share some of your expertise for those of us considering trying one of these rides.

In your opinion - is it better to try an out and back route along the same roads or a circular route to keep it interesting?

I realize the main drawback to the circular route might be additional fuel stops to document the route. ( but I'd think minimizing delays at a couple of extra stops wouldn't seem to hurt too much with a 24 hr window to cover the 1000 miles. Just fuel and go, no getting off and stretching at the corners of the route).

Ride Safe,

Bob
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post #6 of 12 Old Jan 18th, 2015, 5:45 pm
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

Great post

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post #7 of 12 Old Jan 19th, 2015, 6:57 am
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

Should have called it, "Everything you need to know about long distance Riding."

I did my 1,000 mile circular ride around Florida as a whim, and found that it was as much mental as physical. I kept to my normal routine, started at around 6:00 AM, stopped every 150-200 miles for gas, pee, hydrate and a snack, no more than 15 minutes (9 times) and easily finished around 8:30 PM. I was up for it mentally and prepared to make a rest stop at anytime.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the "beginners Iron Butt, or riding 1,000 mile in less than 24 hours, I just don't ever plan to do it again. I like knowing that I can though.

The K1600GTL is designed for long rides and was a pleasure. I'm more though into enjoying the scenery and the ride as opposed to just making time. It was Fun and Unique to just do it one time to see what it was like. Don't hesitate to do it, thinking that you can't. There is plenty of time to do 1,000 miles with lots of stops..
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post #8 of 12 Old Jan 19th, 2015, 6:25 pm
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Smile Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

When I did my Bun Burner Gold (2500km in 24 hours) on my LT, I Google Earthed every gas stop. I put them into my GPS and had a printout of exactly how the entrance's and exit's were so there were no surprises. I called most of them to make sure they were open when I expected to get there, else I find another one open. My shortest gas stop was 6 minutes from off the highway to back on and my longest was about 8 minutes as I needed to use the wash room. Over all, planning worked out very well and I had no problem doing the BB Gold.

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post #9 of 12 Old Jan 20th, 2015, 7:19 am
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

When you say that you used google earth did you simply scroll through your route or is there some sort of search tool there for gas stations, rest areas, restaurants etc?

Ride Safe,

Bob
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post #10 of 12 Old Jan 20th, 2015, 9:30 am Thread Starter
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

Either out and back or circular routes work just fine. Depends on what's most interesting to you.

Just be sure to document any corners to show that there were no shortcuts taken. You should be able to put each stop into Google maps or Basecamp and get a reasonably accurate total time & mileage.

At a 60 mph moving average (easy enough to do on big roads), you're looking at under 17 hours to complete the ride. That gives you more than 7 hours of stopped time to complete the ride, but means that you're on this ride for the whole 24 hours. That alone can be fatiguing, unless you actually stopped and slept somewhere along the way.

So minimizing stopped time is just to minimize the entire ride time. Most people can stay awake for 18 hours or so if needed. Staying awake for the full 24 hours is a bit tougher.

So go ahead and take the time that you need at each stop. Be efficient, but don't feel rushed. A 10-15 minute stop is OK, if you realize that it extends the entire ride by that amount of time. What you don't want is to take 30-45 minutes at every single stop, then take an hour or more for a sit-down meal. Sure, you could do that and still complete the ride, but that means that you're also pushing into the wee small hours at the end of the ride, when you're most likely to be tired and easily distracted. That's what you want to avoid.

The main trick here is to listen to your body. If you need to stop and stretch, then go ahead and do that. You have to remain relatively comfortable or else the ride will just suck. Remember, this is a challenge, not a punishment . . .

That being said, a BBG1500 is much tougher, if only because there's much less free time to waste. If you can maintain a 70 mph moving average (that is all interstates, with no delays for traffic, construction, cops, or weather) then you've already used up almost 22 hours, plus whatever stops you need to make. Drop that average to even 65 mph, and you have less than an hour's cushion to cover all of our stops. It can be done, but again, it's much harder . . .

Ken
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All lower 48 states plus Alaska on the K13GT in two weeks . . .

Some people see the gas tank as half empty. Some see it as half full. All I care is that I know where the next tankful is coming from...
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post #11 of 12 Old Jan 20th, 2015, 9:35 am Thread Starter
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDiver View Post
Should have called it, "Everything you need to know about long distance Riding."
Trust me Dan, that's far from everything I know about LD riding . . .

I do agree that once you get the basic mechanics down, it's definitely a mental game. That's a lot of time to be alone with yourself on the bike . . .

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDiver View Post
It's not that I didn't enjoy the "beginners Iron Butt, or riding 1,000 mile in less than 24 hours, I just don't ever plan to do it again. I like knowing that I can though.
And for many people, that's exactly it. Once you've done it, there's less need to do it again.

But there are those special few of us who just don't know when to quit . . .

As my wife says, "I think y'all are nuts." I don't disagree with her.

Ken
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'02 Mauve Metallic K12LTC, 106K miles and sold
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All lower 48 states plus Alaska on the K13GT in two weeks . . .

Some people see the gas tank as half empty. Some see it as half full. All I care is that I know where the next tankful is coming from...
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post #12 of 12 Old Jan 20th, 2015, 11:58 am
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Re: How to safely and successfully ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less

Maybe it should have been: "Everything (I) need to know about Long Distance Riding." :-)

Dano
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