Friday, July 31, 2009

Braking distance - a case for using the both brakes

I'm catching up on my backlog of moto mags and came across an interesting article in the May 2009 issue (yeah, I'm that far behind) of Cycle World on Honda's latest motorcycle anti-lock brake system. I won't debate the good and bad of ABS on a motorcycle here, but just say that there's a compelling case for ABS for street riders and especially for novice riders.

More interesting to me was the difference in stopping distances with standard brakes when comparing using front & rear brakes versus rear alone. In general, over 2x the distance is needed when using just the rear brake at 30-mph and over 3x the distance at 60-mph, irrespective of road surface conditions or whether it was wet or dry. In fact, these data underscore another truism: good brakes & good tires allow you to stop in the wet almost as quickly as when it is dry.

Thinking about the number of riders I see using only the rear brake is scary. Those I've asked about it tell me they worry about flipping over the handlebars if they use the front brake. I'd be more worried about flipping over the car you might run into if you don't use the front brake.

Ride safe...

SpeedSurfaceFront & RearRear alone
30 mphdry bumpy38 ft89 ft
60 mphdry bumpy146 ft353 ft
30 mphdry smooth32 ft73 ft
60 mphdry smooth140 ft304 ft
30 mphwet smooth37 ft82 ft
60 mphwet smooth155 ft335 ft

Thursday, July 30, 2009

IBA Run playback part 5 - Final thoughts

The previous post was my last description of the IBA run itself. This post is a collection of my final thoughts about the ride. After this posting, I'm putting the IBA subject to rest.

Future posts, hopefully put up a bit more frequently, will focus on rides taken so far this summer. I've got some video to put up, maintenance woes, and I want to share experiences from an upcoming ride in mid August. Stay tuned please.

The Expectation:

Especially before the IBA run, a typical dialog of a conversation about my participation would go like this:
    Other person: "Why would you want to ride 1000-miles in 24 hours?"

    Me: "To see if I can."

    Other person: "What if you don't make it?"

    Me: "Then I'll know I can't."

    Other person: "What do you get if you do make it?"

    Me: "The knowledge of knowing I overcame physical and mental exhaustion."
    Me: "Oh yeah, I also get a certificate suitable for framing."

    Other person: "I think you might be crazy."

Maybe I am crazy.

I expected the ride to be a physical grueling experience with fatigue being a huge factor towards the end of the 1000-miles. I also expected to be mentally spent possibly unable to coherently decide to turn left or right or whether I was even on the route.

Further, my experience to date suggested I'd be utterly whipped before 1000-miles. My longest 1-day ride was about 600-miles, and I've done numerous 500-mile days. In every case, I couldn't even imagine continuing on to 1000-miles.

And so, my curiosity of how I would react and function under these circumstances drove me to give it a try. I believe a similar mental calculus takes place when I decided to take a ride when the outside temperature is below freezing.

Yeah. Maybe I am crazy.

The Reality:

Here's what happened:
  • I over achieved in route planning. I focused on route details down to predetermining when and where to stop for fuel. Almost the entire route was along interstates. These data were loaded into my GPS unit. A monkey could make this ride.
  • I anticipated nutrition needs; I stayed hydrated. Snacks, sandwiches, energy bars, and water. No hamburgers, french fries, or sodas. No stress to the upper or lower GI tract.
  • The weather was generally cooperative. Cloudy, overcast days are actually the best days for riding because they minimize the energy-sucking effects of the sun. Reasonably moderate temperatures and, for the most part, low humidity also helped greatly. No sweating like a pig.
  • Again, because most of the route was along the interstate, time estimates were grossly conservative and getting ahead schedule by several hours removed any sense of urgency. Mental faculties are less likely to be stressed where there is no need to rush. Flying low is good.
  • Strictly keeping to rest stops on a regular basis ensured staying fresh and alert. Even my butt didn't get sore.
And finally, the rain at the end of the ride forced me to stay hyper-alert. I think even subconsciously, I knew that I couldn't let my guard down for a moment while riding at night in the rain on the interstate highway.

I never got to experience the fatigue and exhaustion I thought I might until after the ride was done. I don't know if I was riding on adrenaline, especially at the end in the rain, or if it was all good planning and execution. I can say without hesitation that regimented stopping at set intervals for 15- to 20-minutes is a key to making long distance rides.

So, was it worth it? Yes.
Will I do it again? No. I've got it all out of my system. I'll stick to 300 or so miles per day for a while.

Thanks for staying with me on this. Post any comments you might have.

Ride safe...

Friday, July 10, 2009

IBA Run Playback Part 4 - or the final post

I've got to finish this up. Anyone that cares about these posts has probably passed away by now. It's been two months since the IBA run and 1 month since my last post. I am ashamed.


Turn around and go home
My last posting was at Waypoint 6 less than 100-miles from the turn around point on I-81 at exit 5 in Bristol. The requirement was to purchase something in Bristol (to have a date/time stamped receipt) and then begin the trek north on I-81 and then east on I-66 back to the start point. I've ridden this route scores of times making the 300+ miles of northbound I-81 a mind numbing experience, notwithstanding the picturesque mountains and grand scenes of the Shenandoah Valley.

So, I pulled into Bristol stopping at Black Wolf Harley Davidson for a soda. I passed on the food--though it sure looked good. Black Wolf and Redwing19 had done a great job of ensuring IBA riders had a nice place to refresh for the return run. Since I was a few hours ahead of schedule, I took more than my 20-min to stretch, look at bikes, talk to a couple of folks, and buy a bandanna for my "Bristol receipt."

A little after 5pm I mounted up to start north, but the sun was out and the humidity was rising noticeably. It was going to rain.

Rain + Dark = Can't be seen
And rain it did. Shortly after the sun set, the bottom fell out. Somewhere just south of Roanoke I entered a wall of water. My visibility went from not-so-great to zero immediately. My first thought was if I can't see, then I probably can't be seen. This was confirmed when a tractor trailer zipped around me because he saw me flashing my brake light at the last minute. Commonsense dictated I get off of the highway.

The next exit was nearing, I got off and pulled into the first gas station I came to. About 6 other riders were already stopped and a few more came in after me. The store front about 50 yards from the gas pumps had an overhanging roofed porch covering rocking chairs ala Cracker Barrel. The riders acquainted themselves with each other and we sat and discussed riding, the rain, the time, where we were from, how often we did crazy things like 1000 miles in 24 hours, and other niceties. Employing my famously known people interaction skills, I was done talking after about 3 minutes. That said, I found I had an affinity with a robust fellow I'll call Sherk because the plugs he wore stuck out a good 2" from his ears. (I never did get his name.)

After a bit, a couple in a car pulled up to the porch. The porch was about 3- to 4-steps high, so it was easy to see down into the car and notice the driver, immediately after stopping, reclined her seat to lay flat back. The movement was so sudden and so fluid that it must have been well practiced. Trading glances with Sherk, it was clear this was something worth discussing. However, before we could open our mouths, the passenger opened his door, got out, and quickly slammed it shut, after all, it was still raining pretty hard. As it turns out, he got the back of his T-shirt caught in the door. Rather than open the door to free it, he gave a couple of tugs and it apparently came loose so he scaled the porch steps to enter the store.

When he passed us, we saw his shirt had not come loose but was unraveling from the back trailing a string of thread back to the car door. Trading glances again, Shrek and I waited until the store door closed and decided we'd talk about him instead. We guessed he would soon be topless and mused over the meaning of his apparent nonchalance of losing his shirt.

I peered inside the store after a bit wondering how Shirtless was doing. But I got sidetracked when I discovered I was peering into a McDonald's--!!--I was expecting a convenience store.

Turning around intending to mention this latest revelation to Shrek, I was distracted by another rider coasting in on a 1970's vintage BMW R bike. What caught my attention was the rider's goggles: they were so utterly fogged that it must have been impossible to for him to see through lenses. He was busily wiping them clear and I realized they must have been prescription goggles as his eye balls were inordinately This guy worried me a bit. magnified and the lenses were very thick--but I only got a glance before the lenses fogged over again. If these goggles were correcting his sight, he clearly couldn't take them off. But they were fogging so badly that he couldn't see with them on either. I glanced over at Shrek and he was slowly shaking his head back and forth. I decided, rain or no, it was time to hit the road.

Wet wet wet all the way home...
The rain eased considerably but never stopped. I got back out on northbound I-81 heading for I-66. The rain and late hour pumped up my adrenaline and after a short time on the road I realized I had been gripping the handlebars as if hanging over a precipice. As much as I tried not to, I remained hypersensitive and alert for the remainder of the ride.

When I got to I-66, the more east I traveled the heavier the rain became. By the time I got back to the finish point, the rain was coming down hard. I rolled into the finish at about 1am. Even with the long wait in the twilight zone, I had about 5 hours to spare.

All done...and glad of it
I turned in my paperwork, got my certificate--suitable for framing by the way--and headed for home. The adrenaline high had passed and fatigue began to roll over me as I approached home. I pulled up in the drive way and actually had some difficulty getting off of the bike I was so tired. I pulled out of my completely rain soaked suit, took a shower, and hit the sack.

I'm really glad I participated in this run. I appreciate all of the work the Redwing19 volunteers did to make this a smooth operation. But I can honestly say I got it all out of my system and I doubt I'll do another. Look me up on the official finishers list: click here.

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