Monday, June 8, 2009

IBA Run Playback Part 2 - I've got to get away

Arbitrarily breaking up the ride into phases, I'll call this the 'Escape Phase'.

I intended to get this posted earlier--much earlier--but life and making summer riding plans has been sucking up a lot of time. Here's the next installment of the saga of 1000 miles in 24 hours.

Just as dawn was breaking, 450+ motorcycles were unleashed under local police control to Rte 28 south and then on alone to I-66 east to the I-495 Capitol Beltway to I-95 south, around Richmond on I-295 to I-64 east towards Tidewater. My starting position had maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the riders in front of me when I left Chantilly and getting out to I-66 reminded me why I'm not a fan of riding in large motorcycle groups. Those of you who know me personally and those of you who have read some of my early blog posts know I'm not a motorcyclist for the comrade of riding in large groups. I don't mean to sound anti-social and I enjoy shooting the breeze with motorcyclists of all stripes. But most motorcyclists are weekend riders--not that there's anything wrong with that--and are not experienced in the knowledge of group riding. Even though it's part of the VA motorcycle license test, not riding in a staggered formation for some motorcyclists seems to be akin to driving in the left lane for some motorists. This coupled with the "urge to keep up" and the "sudden slow down" afflicting many newbie riders can make large group rides a hair-raising experience.

Thus, my primary goal was to get away from the crowd of riders as fast as possible. This was easier said than done owing to the sheer number of riders. And, many riders were clearly riding with buddies as there were numerous "sub groups" within larger groups. So, even at super-legal speeds so easily achieved on the interstate roads of the Washington Metro area, I never got away from a group of riders until I exited for fuel for the first time.

The First Stop Wasn't the Planned First Stop
I intended my first gas stop to be at I-64 exit 214. That didn't happen. Instead, I had to get off at exit 31 on I-295 and even then I had been riding on Reserve for some time. My planning for this first stop missed a few important factors:
  • I didn't account for the extra gas consumed at super-legal speeds trying to get away from the crowds. The Valkyrie isn't exactly what you'd call a fuel economy vehicle and with 6 carburetors sucking fuel at prodigious rates at high speed, it is even less so.
  • I didn't account for the gas used to get to the start/stop from my home--I filled up the night before so I wouldn't have to worry about finding a gas station at 4am. But to get from my house to the start point used nearly a gallon of fuel. That's about 20% of the fuel I carry.
  • And, I apparently planned the first stop too close to the ragged edge of how far I can travel on a tank of gas even under more ideal conditions.
All of this conspired to cause me to sweat a bit when I suddenly had to go on Reserve soon after getting on I-295 around Richmond. When I finally got off the interstate, the gas station was several miles away from the exit. Because I was determined to stick to my 20-min rest & stretch at each gas stop, I was off the highway long enough that when I got back on the interstate, I found myself in a "bubble" where most riders were either ahead of me or behind me. I only saw a couple of bikers when I got back to the interstate and no longer had to be hyper-ready for a bike to come into my personal space from the side or suddenly brake from the front or try to kiss my rear tire from the back. My poor planning for the first gas stop had the pleasant side effect of putting me in a place where most riders weren't. The ride started to be fun.

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An item of interest:
According to IBA, nearly 90% of the riders that started this run finished. I find that incredible. Especially considering one couple that passed me while I was zipping down I-95. They were riding a late model Harley, I believe a Dyna series. The small passenger seat was completely obscured by the robust young lady sitting on it. Thinking about her riding on that slightly padded postage stamp for a 1000-miles made me wince. I'm still wincing.

Furthermore, the Dyna owner had replaced the factory ape hanger bars for a set so high that when he turned his head side to side he could discreetly check his underarm body odor. How he could keep his arms in that position for the 20+ hour ride is beyond my comprehension.

This reinforced what I've known for sometime: Harley riders are a tough breed. I think it's reasonable to assume this couple were among the 90% of finishers. My hat's off to them.

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