Across America on a Janus Motorcycle Part 3

Over the Sierras and Across the Great Deserts

On Monday May 26th, I woke up at 5:00am with all but my riding gear packed and ready to go in the panniers. My riding gear consisted of a two-piece armored textile suit, under which I wore my LDComfort base layers. A dual-sport helmet, riding boots, armored gloves, and a Camelback hydration system, with a hi-viz yellow vest completed what I actually carried on me while I rode. 

I left the motel around 6:00am, fueled up, and set my trip meter, and headed east towards Sacramento. The odometer on the bike read 1,402 miles. I noted this and decided, in the interest of time, to head up over the Sierra Nevadas on interstate 80 as all other routes would take too long to allow me to realistically reach our rendezvous point in Wells, Nevada with any time to sleep. The first few miles were familiar to me as I had already covered them on my way into San Francisco, but this time rather than heading across the Bay Bridge, I continued on through Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and on through Vellejo. The early morning sun felt wonderful as the fog lifted off the bay and I began to ride through rolling brown hills with the patchwork of green agricultural fields on my way up to Sacramento. I quickly found that the bike with the modified gearing would just top 60 miles per hour, but that the rpms were smooth and even. Aware that a consistent ride pace would be key to successful long distance “ride craft”, I was happy to maintain these lower rpms, which in turn would mean less vibration and wear on the bike.

Just short of Sacramento, I felt the bike give a sputter and shut off. As I pulled to the side of the highway, I checked my trip meter which showed 90 miles—I had established my fuel range! During our emissions certification process, the EPA assigned the engine and drivetrain on all three Janus models a fuel economy of 77 miles per gallon. Just like all vehicles, this number represents the fuel economy at the most efficient speeds, which in our case range from 45 to 55 miles per hour. Anecdotal evidence from our owners has shown the average operational fuel economy to be around 60 miles per gallon. In my case, with sustained interstate speeds, I averaged around 50 miles per gallon for most of the trip, although that figure did improve as I descended the Rockies toward the Midwest. Comfortable with the knowledge of my spare fuel, I unlocked the Rotopax fuel can, and emptied its one gallon into the main tank which got me down the road to an easily accessible gas station. While I was filling up, Tim Masterson gave me a call to check in and see how I was doing. My Spotwalla tracker was working and he and Cliff, the ride master, were able to see exactly where I was.

Back in the saddle, I headed up out of the Sacramento Valley and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. As I gradually gained elevation, the brown rolling hills grew and the their slopes began to show a covering of trees. The hills gradually became steeper and steeper with the Halcyon sometimes slowing to 50 or even 45 miles per hour on the steepest grades. Luckily, the trucks were having it harder than I was so I had plenty of slow moving traffic to keep me company. When a space would open up I would leap frog past the trucks as we began to wind up the rocky ravines leading to the famous Donner Pass. Easily visible from the road were numerous clear streams of melting snow rushing down over rocks and fallen trees. When George Wyman made his first crossing of the Sierra Nevadas in 1902 the easiest way to cross the mountains was to follow the transcontinental railroad which also summits at the Donner Pass. Because of the deep snow and constant risk of avalanches, the then Central Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific Railroad) used miles of long wooden sheds that covered the tracks leading up and over the pass. Wyman completed the 54-mile climb to the Donner Summit in a day—quite a feat when much of that was walked along the railroad ties!

“Then I struck the snow, and as promptly I hurried for the shelter of the snow sheds, without which there would be no travel across continent by the northern route. The snow lies 10, 15, and 20-feet deep on the mountain sides, and ever and anon the deep boom or muffled thud of tremendous slides of "the beautiful" as it pitches into the dark deep canyons or falls with terrific force upon the sheds conveys the grimmest suggestions. The sheds wind around the mountain sides, their roofs built aslant that the avalanches of snow and rock hurled from above may glide harmlessly into the chasm below. Stations, section houses, and all else pertaining to the railways are, of course, built in the dripping and gloomy, but friendly, shelter of these sheds, where daylight penetrates only at the short breaks where the railway tracks span a deep gulch or ravine.

To ride a motor bicycle through the sheds is impossible. I walked, of course, dragging my machine over the ties for 18 miles by cyclometer measurement. I was 7 hours in the sheds. It was 15 feet under the snow. That night I slept at Summit, 7,015 feet above the sea, having ridden - or walked - 54 miles during the day."

Today, the sheds are still in use, but the original wood has been replaced with concrete. I was able to spot numerous sections of these concrete sheds from the interstate as we wound up towards the summit. At the Donner Summit I pulled over to snap a few pictures. At this point I realized that my USB charging port that we had installed on the bike was not working properly. After a few minutes riding, the phone would stop charging and flash a warning message that read “device not recognized”. This was troublesome, as I needed the ability to charge the phone on the bike, especially running Google maps which tends to drain an iPhone battery very quickly. I tried charging with the engine off, which did work, however, this wouldn’t be the solution to crossing the country!

Wyman's photograph of at the Colfax Depot, near the Donner Summit with his bike leaned against the station.

Wyman's photograph of at the Colfax Depot, near the Donner Summit with his bike leaned against the station.

After reading Wyman’s journal entries of the difficulties of crossing the Sierra Nevadas, I was struck with how much has changed—from internal combustion engines, motorcycles, roads, and the communication that allowed me to instantly send pictures of the bike at the summit to the rest of the Janus crew back in Goshen, Indiana, some 2,000 miles to the east.

At Donner Pass, the summit of my crossing of the Sierra Nevadas

At Donner Pass, the summit of my crossing of the Sierra Nevadas

After what I later would learn was long break (much of which spent charging the phone), I remounted and headed down the much steeper west side of the range towards Donner Lake, Truckee, and the Nevada border. The cool crisp air, gorgeous scenery, and excitement of my first day on the road had me in high spirits. It wasn’t long before I crossed into Nevada and decided to stop for fuel and lunch in Reno. I stopped at a run down gas station with slot machines and ate a sandwich. Back in the saddle, the scenery quickly changed from the green pine-clad mountains I had been surrounded with, to pale browns and reds of the desert that opened up without warning. The previous evening, Tim recommended that I take a slight detour off of I80 at Fernley to the town of Fallon, Nevada. This would afford me some perfect desert riding and a closer route to that of Wyman. I decided to follow Tim’s advice, knowing that this would probably add a considerable about of time to the day’s ride, however, I really wanted to experience riding through the desert, especially on a smaller road.

The Fallon, NV detour.

The Fallon, NV detour.

When I reached Fallon, I stopped at a Walmart and picked up a battery charging pack for the phone. This would allow me to charge the phone up to 4 times which I figured would be enough to get me through a day of riding. Meanwhile with three longer rests and picture breaks, plus numerous fueling stops, it was much later in the day than I realized. I hopped back on the bike to rejoin I80 32 miles to the north. This stretch of road proved to be exactly what I had been looking for. Flat desert, with traces of white that I took to be salt stretching on for miles with distant mountains and not a car in sight. Pulling over at a particularly picturesque spot, I found fellow Wyman rider, Joe Green on his BMW R1200 GS adventure bike.

Halcyon #068 in new surroundings north of Fallon, Nevada.

Halcyon #068 in new surroundings north of Fallon, Nevada.

Joe Green with his trusty BMW at Lotta's Fountain ready to start the 3500-mile trip.

Joe Green with his trusty BMW at Lotta's Fountain ready to start the 3500-mile trip.

Apparently, Joe had missed Tim and Cliff's warning and had attempted one of the harder-to-access waypoints. The road had gone from asphalt to gravel, gravel to dirt, and dirt to sand, and Joe had dropped his bike not once, but 3 times before he had decided to turn around. The last time he went down, the big BMW had caught his leg under one of his aluminum panniers. Joe said that when he looked at his foot it was pointed the wrong way. Overall, not a great thing to discover by yourself in the middle of the desert. After considerable effort, Joe was able to extract his foot to fortunately discover that it had twisted around inside the boot. Apart from some bruises and sore muscles, he would be able to continue the ride. I called into to Tim and let him know that all was well and got back in the saddle. Once on I80 again, I settled back into the long highway miles. Here the highway wound its way through desert valleys with the railroad track never too far distant.

The Huvals getting off the interstate to pick up a Wyman waypoint.

The Huvals getting off the interstate to pick up a Wyman waypoint.

Throughout the day, I was passed several times by John and Nadine Huval, Louisiana-based long distance riders riding two-up on their big Honda Goldwing. A quick wave and they would be gone ahead of me, taking numerous detours and stops in their attempt to collect Wyman waypoints.

Toward the end of the day, I was afforded a spectacular view of distant rain with the foot of a rainbow. This was one of only two times on the trip that I would actually feel any rain, although I needn't have donned my rain gear, as the storm passed as quickly as it had appeared with barely a sprinkle along my route. As the sun went down, I spotted the bright riding lights of a fellow rider behind me. Joe Green decided to keep me company, slowing his pace for the last few hours of the day's ride. It was late when we finally arrived at the Iron Skillet in Wells, Nevada. A quick bite to eat, cover on the bike, and I was showered, packed for the morning, and in bed with my first 600-mile day under my belt.

Rainbow over a Nevada valley.

Rainbow over a Nevada valley.

 

 

Across America on a Janus Motorcycle Part 2

San Francisco

On the morning of May 26th, I arrived at San Francisco Airport after an uneventful flight from Chicago. From there, I took the Bay Area Rapid Transit up through the city and across the bay to El Cerrito where my Halcyon was waiting for me. The train trip was quick and easy. I disembarked from the train and walked about 15 minutes to where we had shipped Halcyon #68. We had shipped the bike to our friend Benji’s moped parts company, Treats, also known as the Independent Republic of Treatland. Benji was on hand to let me in to the warehouse and access the bike which was uncrated, ready, and in perfect condition. 

With Benji in the heart of the Independent Republic of Treatland, the world's largest distributor of vintage moped parts.

With Benji in the heart of the Independent Republic of Treatland, the world's largest distributor of vintage moped parts.

I got a quick tour of their new warehouse which was formerly the El Cerrito Steel Co. and then spent around 2 hours making final adjustments to the bike, adding some extra farkles, and prepping myself for the ride back through Oakland to Hayward, where the Wyman Challenge riders were gathering. Benji recommended that I take an alternate route back to the hotel through the mountains above the bay. After saying my farewells twice (I forgot my spare keys and sunglasses), I headed up into the hills for my first ride in the San Francisco Bay area. The ride turned out to be spectacular with gorgeous views of the bay, San Francisco, and the surrounding country. I had a good deal of fun on the twisting mountain roads, but was careful to take it easy with my only means of returning home!

Looking out over the San Francisco Bay with the city, Treasure Island, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Looking out over the San Francisco Bay with the city, Treasure Island, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

When I arrived at the hotel, the rest of the riders were out at dinner with Marti Wyman Schein, the granddaughter of George Wyman. Marti and her husband run a historic map store in San Francisco with a focus on maps of the city. I decided to grab a bite to eat across the street and get some rest while I could.

Posed in front of Lotta's Fountain in central San Francisco

Posed in front of Lotta's Fountain in central San Francisco

The next morning we set off for Lotta’s Fountain in downtown San Francisco, the official start point for George Wyman’s ride across America. Riding right up onto the sidewalk around the fountain, we took turns posing with our bikes while Tim photographed us, while confused pedestrians wound their way through the collection of motorcycles and riders.

I then decided to make my way to the Golden Gate Bridge and see the view. I laughed as I rode across the bridge because, due to the fog, I could barely see 100 feet above me, much less the bay beneath. However, I did get a glimpse of the bridge from the other side looking back. What had been a warm sunny day on the other side of the bridge turned into cold and fog with a stiff breeze off the Pacific. I rode up the Marin Headlands above the bridge and into the fog where the temperature dropped even further. Not being able to see even the ocean below me, I decided after a couple of miles to turn around and head back into the city. My next stop was the famous winding section of Lombard Street. Just getting up the back of the hill to drive down the street was challenging. The hill was so steep that I could almost picture the front wheel lifting off the ground and the whole bike flipping over backwards. The tall gearing I had installed also made the climb difficult even in first gear. On the way down, the traffic was bumper to bumper with sightseers, but the small size of the Halcyon made it easy for me to stop and snap some pictures among the tourists.

The Halcyon's small size made pulling off Lombard Street and sneaking through the lines of tourists for a picture a breeze.

The Halcyon's small size made pulling off Lombard Street and sneaking through the lines of tourists for a picture a breeze.

After a quick trip back through the city, I decided to head back to the hotel for our afternoon presentation on the history of the George Wyman’s ride, logistics and strategy for making the long stages of the journey, and best of all, the opportunity to see one of only three known 1902 California motorcycles. This specific machine is owned by Dave Scoffone, who purchased it from a well known collector in 2006. Wyman’s original motorcycle was stolen from the Golden Gate Park shortly after his transcontinental ride. This machine turned up in a garage in the 1970’s and, due the the rarity of the bike, could very well be Wyman’s original motorcycle. While more evidence is required to prove its provenance, it is hard not to believe the story and imagine Wyman riding this very machine all the way from San Francisco to New York across rutted, mud-filled roads, and along hundreds of miles of railroad ties.

Janus Motorcycles' Halcyon 250 #68 posed with one of three known examples of the 1902 California--the same motorcycle George Wyman rode across America!

Janus Motorcycles' Halcyon 250 #68 posed with one of three known examples of the 1902 California--the same motorcycle George Wyman rode across America!

After a great presentation on the history of the motorcycle, Tim Masterson and ride master Cliff Wall went over the rules, suggestions, and logistics of the George A. Wyman Memorial Grand Tour, a sanctioned Iron Butt Association ride. As everyone apart from me was a seasoned IBA member, many having more than one Iron Butt Rally to boast of, each rider was planning out how to earn as many points as possible during each leg of the trip. Points are awarded, in typical rally fashion, for visiting (and properly documenting) bonus waypoints along the way. In this case, the bonuses were stops that George Wyman had made along his historic journey. Since I was not a IBA member—indeed never having heard of long distance riding until a few months before—I opted to just complete the ride by getting from Lotta’s Fountain in San Francisco all the way to 1904 Broadway in New York City. As I was to find out all too soon, my top speed would mean that I was only able to make one out of the week's evening meals with the rest of the group. The rest of the time I got into to the rendezvous point hours after the rest of the riders. At the end of the presentation, we had a chance to meet George Wyman’s granddaughter, Marti Wyman Schein.

Last, Cliff and Tim pulled me aside for quick strategy meeting. They went over the basic math of long distance motorcycling: overall average MPH (Ovg) is the total miles ridden, including stops, divided by the total time.  Moving average MPH (Mvg) is total miles divided by total moving time. To illustrate, if I could maintain a moving average speed of 58 MPH (between 55-60 MPH) and plan on 13 hours of total riding time, the math of the first leg would look like this: San Francisco to Wells NV, 13:00 hours total time (6am to 7pm), 600 miles:  600 / 58 mvg = 10:22 hours.  13 hours total time minus 10:22 hours = 2:38 hours stop time for fuel/sightseeing.  Ovg = 600 miles / 13:00 hours = 46.2 MPH Ovg. 

Engine detail of the 1902 California motorcycle, showing the rudimentary lubrication system and belt drive.

Engine detail of the 1902 California motorcycle, showing the rudimentary lubrication system and belt drive.

They reminded me that I did not need to attempt to collect bonus points and that my main goal was just to arrive in New York City in one piece! Tim and the rest of the IBA members have collectively put an extraordinary amount of riding, thought, and knowledge into the study of competitive motorcycle riding. Tim describes the art of long distance motorcycling as ride craft which he defines as "the collection of knowledge, skills, and abilities used by a long distance motorcycle rider to maintain a consistent ride pace, manage risk, and achieve navigational objectives." What sounds way too complicated for most motorcyclists is just the beginning for long distance riders. As I quickly came to find out, every decision, every item of gear you did (or didn't) bring, every minute you spend on a particular action, counts when it comes to logging long miles on a motorcycle. Another popular saying I heard throughout the week was, "plan your ride, ride your plan". In an activity with so many variables, from weather, traffic, fuel range, distance, and exhaustion, obsessive planning is essential.

After the presentations and great advise, I headed outside to make any last preparations to my trusty Halcyon #68, put on its cover, and go through my gear one last time in preparation for my early departure the next morning and the beginning of new adventure. The next day my goal would be to leave the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, cross the Sierras mountain range, transverse the deserts of Utah, and end up in the town of Wells, Nevada, sixty miles short of the Utah border and 600 miles from where I had started in the morning.

Across America on a Janus Motorcycle Part 1

Preparation:

George Wyman setting the standard for long distance riding panache with his famous "Wyman pose".

George Wyman setting the standard for long distance riding panache with his famous "Wyman pose".

Over the past two years we have been visited here at Janus by a strange motorcyclist, fully geared up on his 1200cc Bavarian steed with many upgrades and “farkles” as they are termed in the adventure and sport touring motorcycling world. Farkle is a portmanteau of function and sparkle, and is also claimed to be an acronym for Fancy Accessory, Really Kool, Likely Expensive. We were invariably struck with the fact that he never really took his gear off, even his helmet, and marveled at his FLIR camera mounted on his bike (for spotting animals at night). Tim Masterson was a different breed of motorcyclist than anything we had experienced. Little did I know at the time how much I would be learning about this long distance riding phenomenon and the community of motorcyclists that surround it!

The first time Tim showed up at Janus, he told us the story of George A. Wyman, the first person to cross America on a motorcycle, in fact a motor vehicle of any sort. Apparently, this pioneer of motorcycling had passed right through Goshen, Indiana on his historic ride from San Fransisco to New York City in the early summer of 1903, not a block from where our shop stands. Tim has been working hard along with a couple of other individuals to document and raise awareness of George Wyman and his historic ride, as well as creating and marking waypoints along his route. We were quick to accept his request to post a Wyman waypoint sign on the outside of our shop commemorating this historic feat of motorcycling. This spring, Tim’s visit was to install the waypoint sign in a more visible location at the front of our newly expanded showroom and to install the formal Wyman memorial plaque just below it.

Tim Masterson and yours truly posing with the Wyman waypoint sign and memorial plaque on the front wall of the Janus Motorcycles HQ in Goshen, IN.

Tim Masterson and yours truly posing with the Wyman waypoint sign and memorial plaque on the front wall of the Janus Motorcycles HQ in Goshen, IN.

Simultaneously, the Janus team had been discussing the need to make a longer journey on one of our motorcycles. We were looking for a way not only to prove our motorcycle and engine, but to stress test them with a real world trial across many miles and away from the convenience of our repair bay. Our first idea was to take two bikes and ride out to the Pacific Ocean. We were looking at dates and discussing who would be available for such a ride, when Tim suggested that we enter a Janus in the George A. Wyman Memorial Challenge, an event where a group of riders retraces the George’s route across the country. For more information on the Wyman Memorial Project, please visit their website.

The significance of such an endeavor was not lost on us. Not only was George Wyman the first person to cross the country on a motorized vehicle, he did it on a motorcycle—a 200cc motorcycle at that—exactly 115 years ago. The motorcycle that he rode was a 1902 model built by the California Motorcycle Company, the first production motorcycle brand in United States.

I jumped at the opportunity to pilot one of our own bikes across the country and the idea was quickly approved by the rest of the Janus team. I decided that our Halcyon would be the best option out of our three models both for the long distance riding and as a tip of the cap to George Wyman.

We had just about a month to prepare for the ride and get the bike out to San Fransisco. Once I had confirmed that I was going to make the trip on a Janus, Tim coached me through the basics of what to expect, the gear to bring, and how to manage the long hours in the saddle. Almost all the riders attempting the Wyman Challenge were members of the Iron Butt Association, who describe themselves as “the world’s toughest riders”. The Wyman Challenge is in fact a sanctioned ride by the Iron Butt Association. After a week riding with a group of these riders, I can confirm their self title!

We decided that to learn the most from the trip and offer the best proof of the bike’s durability, we would keep everything on the bike as close to stock as possible. Engine, suspension, exhaust, etc. were all left stock. The one change that we did make was to replace the stock 47-tooth rear drive sprocket for 45-tooth unit to improve performance at highway speed. 

Next, I knew I would need dry storage for clothing, tools, gear, etc. With this in mind, I ordered a set of small removable aluminum panniers and then fabricated a mounting system off the Halcyon’s rear book rack assembly. Due to the Halcyon’s relatively small fuel tank (2 gallons) and the long distances to be traversed, I also knew I was going to need an auxiliary fuel tank of some sort. After considering several options, I decided to use a Rotopax fuel can. The benefit of these fuel cans is the ingenious way they are fastened to the motorcycle and the fact that they can be locked. I mounted the fuel tank behind the seat on the stock book rack. Next up was a set of our highway bars to which I added folding highway footrests to provide an alternate place to stretch out on the long miles ahead. Other upgrades and farkles included a simple tension operated throttle control, fleece seat cover, water bottle holders, USB charging port, and cylinder head temperature gauge. 

For navigation, I used a waterproof Ram Mount box on the handlebars to hold an iphone running Google maps. At Tim’s recommendation, I also used a free service called Spotwalla. Spotwalla was created by a long distance motorcycle rider and uses SPOT GPS tracking to create a map of your ride. You can also send messages and images via the service. I would highly recommend this service even for shorter rides! In addition to the iPhone, I also purchased a Sena bluetooth helmet headset for communication, etc.

The most important thing that Tim stressed to me over the phone was riding with the right base layers. He recommended a product called LDComfortLDComfort is based in Hoquiam, Washington and makes specialty base layers for long distance motorcyclists. I spoke with the owner, Mario Winkelman, a friend of Tim’s, and he explained the technology behind the garments and provided me with a full set of his gear including helmet liners. The benefit of LDComfort gear is that it is constructed out of two very thin layers of material. The inner material instantly transfers moisture away from the body to the outer layer which lets the moisture evaporate and provide cooling. Mario is a real character and a fixture in the long distance riding world. More on the LDComfort gear to follow.

In anticipation of the ride, Tim did a short interview with me Tim, published on the Wyman Project site: https://wymanmemorialproject.blogspot.com/2018/05/across-america-on-janus-motorcycle.html.

IMG_1874 2.JPG

Before I knew it, the ride was a little over a week out and we still hadn’t gotten the bike out to San Fransisco. Rather than ship the bike out via a standard carrier and risk missing the start date, we called a local friend with an RV transport company, Horizon Transport, based about 15 miles from Goshen and were able to have the bike transported in the bed of a pickup truck hauling a camper out to the Bay area of California. The driver, Linda, turned out to be a motorcyclist herself and took extra care with the bike, delivering a day earlier than requested. 

All I had to do now was wait and assemble the last bits of gear that I would be carrying with me on the plane to San Francisco. It was with no small degree of trepidation that I looked ahead to longer miles in a single day than I had ever covered on a motorcycle. Each day on the Wyman ride would be in excess of my longest day in the saddle.

Janus Takes California!

Great news: we've received our California Air Resource Board (CARB) approval. Our motorcycles are now available for registration in California!

The CARB testing process happened concurrently with our EPA testing, but it was a wholly different test. CARB certification is largely interested in limiting evaporative emissions, so any possible outlet for un-combusted gasoline (fuel cap, carburetor, exhaust, etc.) was "sniffed" to ensure compliance. Our California-bound motorcycles will come fitted with a carbon canister that captures any off-gassing from the motorcycle. 

We're very excited for the growth opportunities this affords Janus Motorcycles. From the Redwoods to the Sierras to Highway 1, we can't wait to get some Janus 250's cruising through the Golden State!

 

 

Richard's Cross Country Trip on a Halcyon 250

Richard Worsham, co-founder of Janus Motorcycles, departs Monday, May 28th on a cross country trip from San Francisco to New York City on a Halcyon 250. He, along with a handful of other riders, are duplicating the historic trip that George Wyman, the first person to cross the contiguous US on a motorized vehicle, took in 1903. Wyman completed the trip in 50 days on a 200cc motorized bicycle. Worsham and other riders from the Wyman Memorial Foundation will attempt to complete their trip in 6 days, averaging about 600 miles a day.

Follow Richard's progress on a Halcyon 250 on the map below!

Richard is riding with the Wyman Foundation as they recreate George Wyman's first trip across the lower 48 in 1903. Read more on the Wyman Foundation Blog.

And see Richard walk through the Halcyon he's taking on the trip here: