Jeff Earls talks about how he planned the route for the 2017 Iron Butt Rally
2017 Iron Butt Rally winner Jim Owen talks about his epic ride.
John Doughty talks about his quest to join the 100,000 mile club.
Peter Hogan, aka OX-34, tells us about his 9 day lap of Australia
Hopeless Class entrant Tim Hayosh talks about plans to participate in the Iron Butt Rally as part of a three person team.
Consumer Reports ranked motorcycle companies for overall reliability based on a survey of of over 11,000 riders.
I have to say, I agree with their rankings:
Curious what I'm doing to get ready for the Iron Butt Rally? In this episode, I'll talk about what I'm doing to get ready.
T-Minus 2.5 Months.
For all intents and purposes the bike is ready, save the seat. More on that later. Unless something really isn't working, the bike won't be changing much until the start of the rally. Here's what has changed since the last update:
- Bark Buster Storm S7: I live in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps you've heard, but it rains quite a bit around here. One of the things that I really liked about my R1200GS the handlebar guards which did a pretty good job of keeping the rain off my gloves, though I never really thought about it. That is, until I first rode the FJR in the rain. I quickly discovered that I'd taken the handguards for granted and they really did a lot to keep my hands dry. Unfortunately, adding handguards to the FJR isn't the easiest thing in the world. The typical solution you see to solve this problem is to add V-Strom handguards. Not sure if I didn't order the right parts or what, but I didn't find the V-Strom handguards fit my Gen3 FJR at all.
The problem is there just isn't much area at all to attach a handguard to the handlebar on the FJR. After a lot more Googling, I came across the S7 Barkbusters which only attach to the bar ends. These worked wonderfully, and I think they look good too.
This will likely ensure that there is no rain whatsoever during the IBR. (knock on wood...)
- Mirror Extenders: The mirrors on the FJR provide a wonderful view of the rider's shoulders. There is about a 2 inch square section on the upper outside edge of the mirror that was actually usable for seeing what is behind you. Then when you add handguards, the problem gets worse. Luckily Twisted Throttle mades a kit that moves the mirror up out just enough to make the mirror usable. The bad news is the kit is freaking $80 for two pieces of hard plastic and some mounting hardware. As far as I could find, no one else makes a similar kit. The other bad thing is that installing it involves removing the front plastic dash again. Each time I do this I manage to break off at least one of the plastic clips, and this time was no different. However, now I can see what's behind me!
- Front End Wobble: This appears to be all about air pressure. I noticed the problem was getting worse and checked the air pressure. It wasn't all that low, but it was a bit below spec. I bumped it up a bit above spec and the problem is pretty much gone.
- Raw Fuel Smell: My worry here was that I had a leak where I'd drilled the main tank. I pulled the tank and checked it and to my great relief, no leak. Now this made me feel better, but more confused. Where the hell was this smell coming from?? I checked the aux tank for any tell tail signs of a leak and could not locate anything. As I was poking around, I was very near the fuel line and WOW. There's where the smell was coming from. I sent an email to Mike Langford to ask if it was possible for the smell to be coming through the line itself. He thought this was unlikely and thought it might be a hairline fracture in a weld. Now, however, I had something new to research. I couldn't find anything useful about smell coming through fuel lines, but I did find a lot about cleaning up fuel spills and getting ride of gas smell. The prevailing wisdom for the smell problem was to use vinegar. I didn't have anything to lose, so I put some vinegar on a paper towel and used it on the line running from the aux tank to the main tank. Fast forward to the next morning, and the gas smell was almost entirely gone. Here's my theory of what happened. When I was installing the tank and testing the quick release on the fuel line, I spilled some gas which ran down the fuel line. I didn't think much of it, but that was what was causing the smell. I can't believe that little quantity of fuel would cause that bad of a smell, but apparently it did.
- Seat Saga: This is the one area of preparation that is causing me a lot of consternation. While the custom seat is better than it was, it's still by no means good. I decided to order a Sargent seat, like I had on the GS. In some ways it was better, in some ways worse. In the end, the worse was greater than the better, and I ended up returning it. It was better in that the way it positioned me on the bike was significantly better. The worse? It was so thin that I felt like I could feel every bump on the road. Crap.
In the end, I've ordered a new stock seat and made an appointment at Russell for a ride in fitting mid-April. If nothing else, I'll have a nice comparison between four different seats on an FJR.
- Passport: My passport was going to expire at the end of June 2017. This may have presented a problem given that the rally is starting 4.5 hours from the Canadian border.
- Canadian Park Pass: This wasn't exactly a requirement, but hey, they're free this year to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Canada. I'll stand on guard for that.
- Transportation & Lodging: I have now done my part to help ensure the profitability of the Marriott corporation by booking all my hotel stays for the beginning and end of the rally as well as the two checkpoints.
- Insurance: After a quick reminder of reading comprehension, I updated my liability insurance to 500 CSL.
- R1200GS sold: This was a big weight off my shoulders, while at the same time being very sad. I didn't get what I wanted for the bike, but quite frankly, who does. What I got was fair and it's done. It killed me to sell it, but I wasn't riding it and now it will be ridden. It was interesting seeing the differences between the FJR and the GS after riding the FJR for 6 months. The GS felt like driving a truck. I never really realized how smooth the FJR was compared to the GS. Granted, they are set up for completely different types of motorcycling. I think the FJR will suit me a little better for my style.
- Bike Luggage Inventory: On the GS I had a lot of extra room. A lot. As a result, I really didn't have to think about what I was carrying too much. Extra tools? Throw 'em in! Now, I need to be a little more judicious. I cut out a LOT of stuff and got my tool kit down to the bare necessities. I also removed a lot of the "nice to haves." Time will tell.
- Tankbag power: As part of my effort to cut down what I'm carrying, I had an idea. Pretty much everything I have that needs to be charged lives in my tank bag on 12 volt or 5volt USB power. When I bring those items into a hotel at night, now I'm on 120 volt power and if I have to plug in something, I need a new charger. To help alleviate the need to carry around a bunch of adapters, I bought a 12 volt transformer and put a 2 prong SAE connector on the 12 volt side. Now I can plug the transformer into the wall and power my tank bag off 120 volt power. Not sure if I'm going to bring it on the IBR, but it has already proved useful.
At about 2,000 miles on the odometer, I decelerated from 60 coming into a town. I took this opportunity to stretch a little bit and took one hand off the bars, loosely gripping the bar with my other hand. As I my speed decreased through about 40 mph, the handlebars started shaking back and forth. As soon as I placed my other hand back on the bar, it stopped being as violent, but I quickly found a place to pull over. I was sure that I had a flat tire.
Upon inspection, however, there was nothing wrong with the tire. Hoping back on the road, i began to experiment, and discovered that while decelerating through about 40 mph with a light touch on the bars would cause a violent front end wobble. As soon as the speed was below about 35, it would go a way. It also didn't happen during accelleration.
Once home, I asked my father-in-law about this, and he (along with many other people on the internet who have had this problem) thought it was due to loose front steering bearing. I also talked with fellow FJR rider Bill Lynes and found he also had this problem. His theory was that it was the stock tires on the FJR. As soon as he switched to Michelin PR4s, the problem went away.
Another theory I read was that the problem was caused by the stock Bridgestones in combined with low air pressure. I checked my air pressures and they were down slightly, but only like a pound or two. Nothing major. Since I was getting a small amount of cupping on the rear wheel, I decided to increase the air pressure on both wheels and took it for a ride.
Changing the air pressure COMPLETELY solved this problem. I was amazed and a little releaved that I didn't have to disassemble the front end to deal with the bearing!
Peter Green gives us his perspective on his impending ride with Paul Tong in the 2017 Iron Butt Rally.
(Apologies in advance for the truck horn that was picked up during the recording. It happened a the precise moment when we were discussing some details of the IBR checkpoints which haven't been made public yet.)