Bob L's
August 2009
IRONBUTT RALLY
DETAILS

This page will be for assorted details about the trip. Mileages, costs, things that really don't belong anywhere else and would interest few people. This is sort of my own personal record keeping.

It ain't pretty, but it ain't supposed to be.

2009-05-20 - Pre-Pre-Rally

-Still have a lot to do to prep the bike, myself, my gear.


2009-08-17

IBR DETAILS

I have been asked to provide much more detail on bike preparations and choices. Although I feel this is too much detail for a story or trip report, for a BLOG it is probably OK since it is easy for the reader to scan a post and delete it if it is too much info. I had already set up a web page just for IBR details, so these posts will end up there. So, for the next few posts, scan away and delete as much as you like. If you like this kind of thing, let me know. You can comment on my BLOG (journal).

All of these posts will be written before I leave home, and some will be scheduled to go out after the IBR starts, so don't think I am sitting in a hotel writing these posts instead of riding.


TIRES

I changed both of my tires about four thousand miles ago. Then, a few days before leaving, changed the rear again. The stock Harley rear tires (Dunlop D402) last about 13,000 miles, sometimes less. Not enough to safely do the rally, much less the entire trip. I have been using Dunlop Touring Elite 2 tires (K491) which last around 17,000 miles, enough to do the entire trip. I recently switched to the Dunlop Elite 3, which is supposed to last at least as long as the Elite 2's but with better handling. I will say, I like the tire, but I have not used them long enough to be sure they will last long enough. I suspect, though, that they will last at least enough to finish the rally. I may just have to change them when I get home.


RADAR DETECTOR

I used to have a radio shack basic detector. This worked well enough, and was cheap. It was also loud enough to hear while riding. After a number of years of use, it finally succumbed to the ravages of weather (it drowned). That was three or more years ago. Until now, I never replaced it. For the most part, a radar detector will do nothing more than let you know you are getting a ticket. In most areas, the police use radar/laser in such a way that you do not get much of an early detection. Your best course of action is normally to just stay with traffic, and keep your eyes open. Never be the fastest one on the road. The problem comes in when you are travelling around the country. There are many places where the police set up radar specifically as revenue enhancement. A good example would be a ticket I got out west a number of years ago. All the roads had 60 MPH speed limits, on road that would be safe enough at 75. Then, for no reason that I could find, the speed went down to 45. There was only one sign with no warning. If you missed that sign, you would not know what the speed limit was. This was only for a stretch of maybe 10 miles, in the middle of nowhere. This was where a police officer was, radar on. Had I had a radar detector with me, I would probably not have gotten that ticket. I spoke with some locals at the next town. They knew the cop and the radar trap. Everyone there had been tagged at one point or another, and no one was happy. There are many other instances where a radar detector has helped me avoid these bogus traps.

For this rally, I chose to get a Valentine One radar/laser detector. This is one of the most popular detectors for Long Distance Riders. I found it loud enough, barely. There is no easy and cheap way to bump up the volume, unfortunately. Arrows on the detector tell you which way the signal is coming from, and how many there are. Various information helps the rider decide if the warning is real or a false alarm. The company has very good customer service. Time will tell if this was a good idea or not.


FUEL CELL

One of the biggest time eaters in a rally is fuel stops. The more fuel you have, the fewer stops that are required. More fuel also allows for more exploration before worrying about fuel. Since much of the riding is done in the wee hours of the night, this lessens the worry about finding gas. The rules allow up to 11.5 gallons of fuel. Fuel tanks must be properly attached to the bike, and of an approved type. I chose a 5 gallon plastic fuel cell made by JAZ for auto racing. This I plumbed into the main fuel tank by tapping into the front cross over tube with a brass "T". Since this is going into the main tank, I did not have to add a fuel filter, but I did add an in-line shut off valve so that I can choose where the fuel will be. The main tank vent is hooked to the cell vent. This prevents the tank from overflowing if I forget and leave the valve on. The cell is vented off the back of the bike, behind the wheel. The cell has special foam inside to prevent sloshing. This is only necessary because of a goofy rule the IBA has. The tank sits on the back seat. Metal brackets specifically designed for the cell surround it. To this are attached ratcheting nylon web style tie down straps. These are the kind you would use to tie down a motorcycle in the back of a truck. Rather than simple hooks, I modified the way these attach to the bike and to the cell. Because of where the trunk was located, the cell was right at my back. Great for when I wanted to lean back, but I had to be sitting pretty damned upright if I wanted to NOT lean against it. I searched for the best way to move my trunk back a couple of inches and came across a manufacturer in Moline, IL called George Anderson, Do'er of Things. George is not on the Internet. He does not accept credit cards. He does have a cell phone though. I called him late on a Thursday. He was on vacation but said his daughter would send it out on Friday. I sent the check out on Saturday. I had it on Monday. Yes, he sends out the product before he even gets your check. He has trust in people.. He makes a wonderfully machined piece that allows the trunk to be moved to a couple of different positions. This allows the fuel cell to be moved back a couple of inches, giving me a little breathing space. I can adjust it to the best position, or put in a pad if I like.


CREDIT CARDS CALLED

Traveling in the IBR puts you in many different states in a relatively short amount of time. Gas purchases in 3 different states 400 miles away from each other in one day plus the occasional $.25 gas purchase when a fuel purchase is needed for a bonus can send a red flag to the security office of your credit cards. Although this is a good thing, there is nothing like getting your card turned off when trying to make time. A call to the credit card company is never a quick and painless experience. Before any trip like this, I call the credit card companies and the bank where my ATM is from. Trying to explain to someone that you are going to be traveling to ALL of the continental US and Canada is never smooth. Then, you have to explain that there are, indeed 49 NOT 48 continental US states. Yes, Alaska IS on this continent. At least I have noticed that the folks on the phone in the daytime sound like English is their native language. I am not sure why that matters to me, but it does.


GPS

It is almost impossible to be competitive in the IBR without a Global Positioning System (GPS) these days. This year more than ever, since bonus locations will be provided on a flash memory for your computer, so that you can download them to the GPS. No detailed directions to the boni will be provided. What that means is that not only do you need a GPS, but it would be a good idea to bring a backup GPS. I already had a Garmin 2610 loaded with all the maps that would be needed. I got this one a while back as a refurbished unit for less than $200. My latest GPS, a Garmin 2820, will become my primary one, with my 2610 sitting in the saddle bag as backup. This GPS also cost me about $200 but it was new and has a LOT more capabilities. Unfortunately, I will make no use of most of the added capability. The 2820 has Blue Tooth capability to use with my phone. My phone does not have Blue Tooth though. It also can display weather. But only if you subscribe to a service, and I am too cheap for that. And it plays music through your headphones, which I don't have. Etc. I will be using it as a barebones device. Both these products will perform for me about the same, with the 2820 having a slightly better display. This is mounted to my handlebars in an easy on/off cradle that allows me to take it in my room with me, assuming I get a room.

In the last IBR I was in, I had my first GPS. It was a StreetPilot. This one did NO routing, had minimal maps and minimal memory. I found it pretty useful for basic info such as average speed, and a rough estimate of distance left. It only gave distance in straight lines unless you wanted to spend an hour to program it. I would just pick a couple of major points on the map and use my head correct its estimate of time. This worked pretty good, but the two new Garmin GPS's do complete routing. You tell it where you want to go, as many stops as you want, and it tells you where to go in a pleasant female voice. THIS, I think, is why I refuse to get headphones. Nothing like being told to go left repeatedly at 3 in the morning when you know you want to go straight. Some of the routing is rather amusing. A good example of this would be ANY place in Vermont or rural New Hampshire. Even with the device programmed not to go on dirt roads, I have traveled for miles on dirt roads only to end up at the end of the road facing the door to a barn listening to the Garmin Bitc.... err, woman, telling me to go straight for 5 miles. One of my favorite examples was just after I got the first new GPS, on one cold (sub freezing) day when my girlfriend and I were riding in rural NH. We were heading to a restaurant she liked, but we were just wandering around nice backroads until we ran out of time. I was using the GPS to calculate how long it would take to get to the restaurant. I told my GF to tell me she was going to be cold BEFORE she was cold. This worked well. Unfortunately, when I followed the instructions from the Garmin B****, I ended up going down goat paths. I don't mind dirt roads, but really, these were bad. The maps on the GPS were clear, we were going to get to where we wanted to go quickly. Then we came upon a *T* in the road. To the left was a driveway. To the right was a field. Straight ahead was trees. 30 year old trees. Then I saw it. A pattern. To each side of these 30 year old trees in front of me was 40 ! year old trees. I suppose there once was a road of some kind here. Fortunately we were able to backtrack to where my GF first told me she was going to be cold. By the time we got to the restaurant, I had to pry her off the seat. I was lucky though, they had hot alcoholic drinks to bribe her with. The meal and the ride home was pleasant.


Garmin Street Pilot 2820




Garmin Street Pilot 2610




COMPUTERS

Obviously, computers are pretty important for planning in the IBR. There are many programs available, although I use the one that comes with the GPS. It is not a bad program, but it is a little clunky. I like it because I did not have to pay for it.

My Dell B130 laptop with the 30 GB hard drive would have been great for the rally. It is a little large and heavy to carry, but I have lots of room. It has a large screen and has served me well over the years. The only real problem is that the battery was crap. Even new, it did not last long before needing a recharge. A year or more ago, the battery died. The computer does not even recognize that it is there. I tried cheap, Chinese replacements, but they did not last more than a couple of charges before failing and were returned. A new Dell battery would have cost a fortune plus the reviews of these were not very good either. There is something about the way this model uses batteries that causes battery reliability issues. A computer failure could really put a cramp in my ride, and battery life is a serious consideration for mid ride replanning. I looked at the options and decided that a small travel computer would be my best bet. There are a number of so-called Netbooks on the market. These are small laptop computers with no CD/DVD drives, small screens, small keyboards and generally limited functionality. Compared to my old laptop, except for screen and keyboard size these Netbooks are FAR more powerful. They will let you hook up to wireless Internet when available, or wired when offered in your hotel room. Battery life is very good and the room these take up is minimal. The real plus, for me, is the price. This one, an ASUS PC with a 10" screen was $250 including M$ Window$. Slap on Openoffice.Org office software package and life is good. My eyes are now such that I have trouble seeing a computer screen at the normal distances. If I move the computer screen far away from me, I can see the screen while wearing my glasses. If I put the screen close to my face, I can see it without my glasses. Since my arms are only so long, I opt for CLOSE when using a laptop. This works great with a netbook so the small screen is not much of an issue. The other advantage is that if this one craps out while on the road I can find one of these cheap as the price has come down since I bought mine. A couple hundred bucks and only a few minutes setup and I would be good to go. Of course, if I need one at 3am on a Sunday morning in Backwater Mississippi, I might be out of luck.


My New ASUS Netbook on top of my old Dell computer. Saving space is a good thing.




CELL PHONES

Some riders have their cell phones hooked into their helmet, sometimes via the GPS, so that they can make calls, text message, scan the internet and order a pizza while on the road. There are all kinds of options for this. Fancy things with keyboards. Blue Tooth. Internet access. You name it. Some of them even make calls. My choice? You guessed it, the cheapest I could find. I am using Tracfone, a pay as you go phone. I bought a bunch of minutes, I think I still have 1,000 minutes. I buy months in such a way that it costs me $4.95/month with no minutes. The minutes I bought at $.10/minute. This phone was an old style when I got it. It is nice and big, so it is easy to hold. It has a retractable antenna. At least it does not come in a big bag with a 4" wide shoulder strap. NO, it is not military surplus and there is no crank handle on it. Although I would like that, as I would not have to recharge batteries. What I like best about it, is the times I have used it to help someone who's phone was getting no coverage, and I had almost a full set of bars. It has great reception.

I use it a lot though. I average 11 minutes a month or so.


My BIG phone next to a normal, modern phone.




CAMERAS

I purchased a number of different cameras for the IBR. And quickly returned them. The ideal camera for me would be small, light, run on AA batteries, waterproof, take the most common memory cards, take GREAT pics, especially in low light and most of all, be cheap. Many of the cameras that I tried were high end, some were waterproof. I tried a couple of Olympus cameras, but the only criteria they fit were that they were small and waterproof. They were expensive, took crappy pics in anything but ideal conditions, used oddball memory cards, and basically made me unhappy. I tried a number of others. The only one, besides my final choice, that ALMOST suited me was a Vivitar waterproof camera. IT was small, light, used AA batteries etc. The only real requirement it did not fulfill was that it took crappy pictures. I mean, really noisy and bad. OK, anything I would do on the IBR it was fine, except maybe night shots without a flash, but that is rare. The picture quality was good enough for 90% of the photos I take, but it is the other 10% of the pictures that I like the best. Since I do not like to bring 2 cameras on normal trips, I could not bring myself to spend money on a camera that would probably only be used for this one trip. Had I really thought about it, I might have kept the camera and given it to a kid or something after I got back.

So, my choices were many. I could buy a camera that was acceptable for the IBR for probably $50. Maybe less. The pics have to be taken in VGA. This is about as low a resolution as most cameras go, and some do not go that far down.

My final choice for the IBR was the camera I have already had for a couple of years. This is a Canon Powershot A610. This camera takes awesome pics and is pretty durable. I will use this camera for every day carry and for when durability is more important that exotic shots (such as the IBR). I bought a new Canon Powershot SX110IS camera to replace the old Canon for trips/events where I *really* want great pics. This camera takes truly wonderful pics and has all the features I ever want on a camera. This will be the camera I take when I truly want the best pics. This camera does not, necessarily, take better pics than the old one, but it is easier to get some of the oddball shots I like, and quicker to get some of the more normal shots. For the IBR, I will use this for the non-boni pics. Of course, since you will be seeing the pics on the web, few of them will really show how great a camera this is. But *I* will be happy, and that is all that matters.


Canon Powershot SX110IS




Canon Powershot SX110IS




Canon Powershot SX110IS




Canon Powershot SX110IS




RIDING SUIT

I have tried a number of suits and have settled on an Aerostich Roadcrafter two piece suit. This suit looks a little like a snow suit, but is actually pretty cool. There are vents all over the place that can be opened up in different combinations to keep cool, or warm depending on the weather. There is no insulation to it, so if it is hot, it won't make you hotter (unless you are sitting in traffic). It also will not keep you warm. Just closing all the vents can keep you comfortable to a point, but at some point you must put something underneath. Most of the time on a rally like this I wear what is effectively spandex underwear under my suit. There are various brands such as UnderArmor, but being the cheap guy I am, mine are not name brands. When it gets cooler I either put on fleece or heated gear. Heated gear will be discussed later.

For rainy weather, which we have gotten a lot of lately, this suit is a little inadequate. The material is pretty much water proof, but the zippers and neck let a ton of water in. It is good for a short bit, but the water quickly finds it's way in. Enough to get you pretty wet eventually. I have a rain suit top I can put on if it is going to rain for a long time, but I seldom use it. Aerostich does make a suit that this does not happen with, as much, but it does not offer the crash protection I like. This is the best compromise of all that I have tried so far. I am on a quest for a better option. One of the biggest problems is that I am a tall guy. Getting a suit that fits me, even with custom alterations, is tough. If the arms fit, the body is too large. If the body is right, the arms are too short and too small of a diameter. Aerostich has so many off the rack sizes that it almost custom makes each one, and you can have them alter it as they make it. The roadcrafter suits are made in America for American sizes.

I don't really like the fact that this suit really needs to be zipped together to work. This makes it almost a one piece suit. Aerostich does not make a suit that offers the protection I am looking for in a true two piece.

The suit I own is 6 years old, which is very old considering the amount of miles I put on each year. I really need a new one.


SEAT

I am using the stock Harley Seat with almost 100,000 miles on it. It is not a bad seat, although it is not flat enough. This can be a little uncomfortable. For men, anyway. To help with this, I added a Bead Rider seat cover. This is made out of wooden beads, strung together on cord. It looks like it belongs in a taxi cab. This raises the rider up, while shaping the seat a little better. It is especially good in the rain, as it prevents water from collecting at the crotch area of the suit. On top of this is a thick, black sheepskin. Nothing fitted, just a big piece cut to fit, more or less, the seat shape. Having the fuel cell behind the seat also helps by allowing the rider (me) to lean back against it. Where I originally had the tank, I was comfortable when leaning against it, and was comfortable when sitting straight up, but was a bit uncomfortable when I wanted to slouch a little. I was also forced to sit an inch or two farther forward than normal. Now, with the relocation of the trunk I am comfortable no matter what.


Bead Rider Seat Cover




LIGHTING

Most riders have all kinds of expensive add on lighting. The theory is to be able to see as far down the road as possible. I don't like this, as it can blind people, me included. Too much light in front of me and when I turn off the high beams for an oncoming car, I can't see anything. I like just a little bit of enhanced lighting. My bike comes with spot lights, which are now halogen. The main headlight bulb was replaced with a SilverStar bulb (or equivalent), which is just a little brighter and whiter than stock. The only real change I made is to wire the spot lights so that they go on with the high beam. I will be packing an extra headlight, along with some extra tail and signal bulbs. Replacing a bulb on the road is no big deal. Finding one is another story.


Simply lights, nothing fancy




BIKE

The bike I am riding is a 2004 Harley Davidson FLHT Electra Glide Standard. I added the trunk, lower fairings and cruise control. Other than that, it is pretty much stock, with nothing much to say about it. This bike suits me in many ways. I am happy with it, for the most part. There are things that I would change about it, but not enough to want another bike.


BOOTS

I like my black, Timberline work boots. They don't make this model in black anymore, but I have a new pair I bought just before they became unobtainable. Some day, I suppose I will need to buy motorcycle boots. But not yet.


HEATED GEAR

Some of the most indispensable pieces of gear that I have are my heated clothing. These have wires inside that are similar to the wires in an electric blanket. The clothing is hooked up to the battery, usually through a variable heat controller. I am currently using Gerbing Brand. For the Rally I will bring my heated gloves, which are old and pretty holy. I will also bring my heated jacket liner. I packed my heated socks, but it is pretty unlikely that I will use these. By bringing this gear, a lot of cold weather gear can be left home. I HATE being cold. When riding all night long, even if the temperatures are not all that cold, a body can lose a lot of heat. Even if the rider does not feel especially cold, a lot of energy is lost. Losing energy on a ride like this is a bad thing. Since the gear can be turned off, or lower, it provides a lot more flexibility without having to change gear. For example, towards evening, if you know it is going to be getting cooler, you can put the jacket liner in, but don't turn it on, and keep the riding suit vents open. This way you will be plenty cool enough. Later, as it gets cooler, you close the vents. Eventually you turn on the heated gear. The cycle reverses as it gets warmer towards morning. In this way, you can adjust to the environment without having to stop the bike and re-dress.


Auxiliary Fuel Tank

September 9, 2009

The question keeps coming up ďdo you run an Aux tank and how is it mounted?Ē.

Yes, I use a 5 gallon Jaz Cell from Summit. This cell is (was) mounted on the back seat and plumbed into the fuel line that crosses at the front of the main fuel tank using a brass ďTĒ. This crossover tube is not on the 6 gallon tanks of later models. The fuel comes out of the cell on the left side of the bike. I used a plastic fuel shutoff valve from John Deere to cut off the flow. The main fuel tank normally has two vents. One is in the fuel cap, and only allows air in. The other is a vent line at the top of the tank and only allows fuel and vapor out of the tank. I plumbed this vent, without a check valve, into the vent on the fuel cell. This keeps me from spilling gasoline all over the ground if I forget to turn the cell off. The only problem this causes is if it gets fuel in it, it creates somewhat of a vapor lock. No vapor will go in either direction. If this happens and you have your cell off, then turn it on when you have, say, a half tank in your main cell, it will stay at a half tank until all the fuel is out of the cell. There is no easy way to stop this other than eliminating the fuel in this vent line. This often clears itself if you stop, as pressure builds up in the main tank, blowing the gas out of the vent line into the cell. If this is confusing, donít worry about it, it is not important. The fuel cell itself is vented out to the ground behind the rear wheel. I used a small check valve that easily allows air in, but I ďdamagedĒ it just enough to also allow vapor out, but slowly. In this way, the cell will not build up pressure, but it will also not splash gas out every time I accelerate. It will still allow pressure to push fuel out if you over fill and just leave the bike there, so careful.

As far as mounting, for my application I first had to remove the passenger grab rail. I put on a Tour Pak (trunk) relocation mount to move the Pak back a little so that I have more room. This is not necessary, but without it you will be leaning back against the tank a lot. You may like this, I donít know. Iíve run it with and without moving the pak, and having more room is a nice option. I used the steel band mounts that wrap around the cell. These can be purchased with the cell. Instead of bolts, I used screw eyes from the hardware store to secure them. I used four ratchet tie downs. The pin on the end of the ratchet that normally has a strap with a hook was removed. I then used a hitch pin through the hole and the screw eye. For the front ratchet I used a length of strapping around the engine guard and to the ratchet, putting both ends through the ratchet device. For the back ratchets, I just used a shortened length of the tie down with a hook on the end which I attached to the lower part of the tour pack mount. If you donít have the permanent version of the tour pack mount, something else will need to be put here. This all worked very well, but it is very close to the saddle bags. If you are concerned about damaging the saddlebag lids, you will want to modify the mount somehow. I suppose if you put a bar along the side of the cell then using screw eyes out at the end of this to move the location of the mounts. If I did a lot of rallying, I would come up with a more permanent mount, or just make the main tank much bigger. A real plus here would be to have a two piece seat. With a one piece seat the cell must be removed to get at the battery or any of the electronics down there. It comes off easy, but is still a PITA to do.

The IBR rules require the filler neck to be grounded. I just grounded this with a wire and a connector to the ground of the bike. If I were to do this again, I think I would pick a different style filler, one that is high up and would allow me to add a little more fuel. I would get one with a vented cap or I would vent this fill extension. The way the bike is set up now, to get maximum fuel into the bike, the bike needs to be standing. This is easy enough for the main tank because you can do it while you are sitting on the bike, but for the cell, it is a b**ch. You have to stand next to the bike, holding it steady. I usually stand on the side stand for added stability, but in the end found a 2◊4 and put that under the sidestand before I got off the bike. The difference between having the bike standing up and having the bike on itís sidestand is a quart of fuel. That may not be much, but every little bit helps. That is 10 more miles before empty. Donít forget about the foam. The rules require the special foam in the tank to prevent sloshing. I had thrown mine out as it uses up a decent amount of fuel and was unnecessary. I ended up having to purchase some.

I hope I explained this well enough. I do not have any detailed pics of the mounting. Feel free to ask questions if something is not clear.


Last Edit 2009-09-09 ~10pm