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The History of the Iron Butt Rides

It’s no secret that I love riding my motorcycle just a notch below the love of my children.  If you ride then you know how intoxicating it can be to just get out on the open road and ride man, ride.  I on the other hand take it to the next level and just hate to stop, so I choose to do rides that most would call insane…which is why the Iron Butt rides are extreme and the reason I’m doing the SS2000 on my birthday.  You can follow updates on my K99 Fan Page on the ride so go “like” the page if you haven’t already.  

Photo by Charley Barnes

The Iron Butt’s motto is “The World is Our Playground” which pretty much sums it up for me.  The fact that most “normal” motorcyclists don’t find anything fun or rewarding about Iron Butt rides is part of what holds the Long Distance community together. The more daunting the challenge, the more delight we take in it. Most riders have friends and family, just like me, who think they are borderline lunatics, or maybe not so borderline, and happy only when they are sitting in a saddle and twisting a throttle.

Mike Rose from “Car & Driver” came up with the idea in 1982 when he wondered if it was possible to ride a motorcycle through all the lower 48 states in just 11 days at 1000 miles a day.  Thus was born the Iron Butt Rally of 11,000 miles in 11 days; so grueling, it would be held only every 2 years.

The principle’s ultimate expression is the Iron Butt Rally
(IBR), an 11-day monster so devastating to body, mind, machine — and even its organizers — that mercifully it is held only once every two years.

The first rally was held in 1984 with only 10 riders of whom four finished the race in the allotted time frame including one woman. Over time, the bar by which these challenges were being measured was raised. Distances once considered heroic were becoming commonplace and the growing list of long distance rides was limited only by the imagination of riders. The SaddleSore 1000, for instance, begat the SaddleSore 2000, 3000 and even 5000, ridden in two, three or five days. Then it was the In-State SaddleSore 1000 rides, which, as the name implies, required riders to log 1000 miles in 24 hours within state lines. And more recently, the Iron Butt Association has even certified thousand-mile adventures within the borders of selected cities including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York and others. Even Dave McQueeney’s 50CC challenge (Coast to Coast in 50 hours or less), once thought to be a lofty goal, has since morphed into an even more extreme ride: a 100CC challenge (Coast to Coast to Coast in less then 100 hours).

So I am going to treat myself on my birthday and take off this Friday morning on the SS2000 which is 2000 miles in 48 hours.  I am leaving about 4AM to beat the traffic and head down to the Grand Canyon on the first day and camp at Lee’s Ferry outside Page AZ then up on day two and skirt Utah up past Salt Lake city and back East into Wyoming then straight South through Meeker, Craig and into Rifle before hitting I-70 and blasting home. Should be just shy of 2100 when all said and done. For a complete history of the Iron Butt Association click here and don’t forget to like my K99 Fan Page if you want to check in for updates.  Until then, I’ll see you on the road…ride safe friends!

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