This is the 5th installment in a series of posts detailing a 6-day Halcyon 250 trip across the US in the footsteps of the first person to cross the continent on a motorized vehicle. To catch the start of the journey check out our earlier posts on this blog.
OVER THE GREAT DESERTS TO THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
On Tuesday, June 27th, I rolled out of my motel bed, fumbled into on my riding gear, and checked out with my helmet on and my pannier bags under my arm. 10 minutes later, I was settling into my second day of the ride with a gorgeous Nevada morning. This second day would take me into Utah, across the Bonneville Salt Flats, over the Wasatch mountain range, and into the rolling hills of Wyoming. I had been concerned that the second day would be worse than the first day, however, after fueling up and the initial discomfort of climbing back into a saddle in which I had just spent 16 hours wore off, the clear early morning air had me exhilarated and ready to settle into the 570 miles I needed to cover to reach our next rendezvous point in Laramie, Wyoming. Little did I know that I would not make it to the to Laramie that day, nor that I would end the day 200 miles short of the rest of the group as a result of a mechanical issue that was entirely my fault!
For the first hour of the morning, I descended roughly 1,000 feet down to the Salt Flats, winding down between slate gray mountains that rose abruptly from the flat, scrub covered valley floor. Just outside of Wendover, the highway crests a ridge as you enter Utah and you are given a magnificent view of the vast expanse that is the Bonneville Salt Flats. From here, the road stretches out in a straight unbroken line for 50 miles across the glaring white of this strange natural phenomenon. Although I almost immediately regretted it, I decided that in the interest of time after filling up in Wendover, to continue straight on rather than taking the North exit for a quick visit to the Bonneville Speedway. It is difficult to imagine the awe with which this vast natural desert, flat as a level and stretching 50 miles across and double that from North to South, must have inspired in early travelers. Even after hearing about the Salt Flats and watching record attempts on the screen, it is impossible to comprehend their immense scale and flatness with the intense bright light, all against the backdrop of spectacular distant mountains. The highway crosses the flats on a slightly elevated berm which must serve to protect it from the yearly flooding that inundates the flats and maintains its level surface. In recent years, record attempts at the Bonneville Salt Flats have been severely reduced or cancelled due to the dwindling size of the appropriate salt for speed attempts. The original course was almost 9 miles long, whereas the current salt only allows for a 2.5 mile track. I was glad of the usually irksome traffic that sped in both directions as it would have been a very lonely 50 miles across that vast expanse.
As I neared the eastern side, a new range of mountains rose to meet me on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Winding around Farnsworth Peak with the lake to my left, I entered the outskirts of that citadel of the Mormons, Salt Lake City. Again, I did not have time for tourism or to visit the Mormon headquarters or temple, but stopped at a convenient gas station to fill up and got back on the road as quickly as possible. Back in the saddle, and heading east on I80, the terrain of the valley immediately gave way to the steep ascent up and over the Wasatch mountain range. These mountains bore considerably more foliage than I had seen for the past day although there were almost no trees to be seen. After gradually climbing 2,000 feet to Summit Park, I began a slight descent into a series of arid, high altitude valleys with herds of cattle grazing on both sides of the highway. I refueled in Coalville and headed on towards the junction with I84 at Echo, Utah.
As I neared Echo, my Sena headset began ringing and I hit the call answer button. It was Tim Masterson calling to see how I was doing. He and Cliff Wall, the ride master, were concerned that my hardtail ride and sprung leather seat might be taking a toll on me. As it happened, they were more right than they knew. As the day progressed I spent most of my time concentrating on not thinking about how uncomfortable I was or how much longer it would be until my next fuel stop. As it was, my fuel stops seemed to be increasing in frequency… Tim said Cliff had an extra AirHawk seat that he would let me borrow. They were quite a few miles behind me, but would try and catch up with me and meet me in the next 100 miles or so. With the promise of a more comfortable ride, I settled into a good pace and let the miles slide by through the dry Utah canyons. I had chosen to invest in a sheepskin seat cover which had proved quite bit more comfortable that the stock leather, however, while the fleece did improve air flow, it did nothing to cushion the seat. The genius of the Airhawk seat is that it uses a series of interconnected air pockets to support circulation and comfort on long rides where the main cause of fatigue is damage to the capillaries, and loss of circulation. Not long after I left Wasatch I crossed my forth state line into Wyoming. I stopped in Evanston, Wyoming for a quick fuel stop and got back on the road as quickly as possible. Around 30 miles outside of Evanston I got another call from Tim—he was not far behind and would probably catch up with me at the next stop, Little America. Half an hour later I pulled off the highway and fueled up at the Little America gas station. A few minutes later Tim and Cliff rode in on their big touring bikes. As I wolfed down a sandwich, Cliff helped my install the Airhawk on the Halcyon seat. The trick was to just barely inflate it so that as you moved it would constantly redistribute your weight and redirect your circulation.
Finally, Tim reiterated the central points of good “ride-craft”. He reminded me that the best way to visualize any long distance ride is not by the total distance, but as a series of individual stages between fuel stops. Because speed is a factor that is limited physically (especially in my case), legally, and by common sense, the best way to make good time on a long distance ride is to limit stops to the absolute safe minimum. Because of the limited size of my fuel tank, I was stopping anywhere from 8 to 12 times a day to refuel. If I spent 15 minutes at each stop, that would add up to 3 hours to my total trip time. Iron Butt riders have figured out ways of systematizing their fuel stops to maximize efficiency and limit time. For starters, the clock begins, not when you arrive at the fuel pump, but when you roll off the throttle. That clock continues to run until you roll back onto the throttle. They laughed as I checked my pockets for all my belongings and went over the bike in preparation for departure. Apparently, I was catching on to the routine of long distance riding! To make the most of Tim’s advise, I wasted no time and headed back onto the interstate. The first thing I noticed, apart from the immediate lessening of posterior pain, was that I sat up considerably higher on the bike. This took a bit to get used to, but I noticed that another benefit of the seat was that it allowed you to easily change your position and relieve cramped muscles, etc. A few miles on, I crossed the Green River and settled into a far more comfortable ride.
But as if to spite my newfound comfort, the remaining portion of my ride was to be very short. Not 60 miles past my meeting with Tim and Cliff, and ten miles past the little town of Rock Springs, I noticed the engine noise suddenly increase. The increase in noise was then accompanied by a sporadic loss of power. Fearing the worst, and cursing my earlier joys, I took the first exit I could find and pulled onto the shoulder. A quick inspection of the bike revealed the cause of the problem: the intake manifold was loose and had blown the gasket between the cylinder and the intake. “No problem”, I thought as I pulled out my tool bag and spare parts. While I had not brought a spare gasket, I figured I could make something work. As I tightened the intake bolts, however, my optimism faded. No matter how much I turned the bolt, nothing seemed to happen. I pulled out the bolt, and sure enough, it appeared that the threaded hole on the cylinder into which the bolt was attached was stripped of its threads. I considered my options. I could try to strap the intake down and continue, or return to Rock Springs and attempt to re-tap the hole. I decided that my best bet was to return to Rock Spring and re-tap the hole. I gave Tim a call and let him know I had an issue. I started the bike up and eased my way back onto the on ramp, but it was not to be. As soon as I applied power, the bike would sputter and cough. I stopped and set to work jury rigging a means of clamping the intake down without a bolt. As Cliff and Tim pulled up and we looked over the bike, I knew right away that I would either need to tap the hole for a larger size bolt, which would be difficult as it was already in a cramped position, or use a helicoil insert to create new threads of the same size. Not longer after this, it started to rain. I was 200 miles short of Laramie, it was raining, and I needed to perform what, even in a shop, would be a tricky operation with no second chances. The optimism that had been my steady companion for the journey thus far looked as if he might just keep on going down I80 without me.
Around this time another set of bright auxiliary lights and a safety yellow Aerostitch suit turned off the highway and stopped to see what was going on. It turned out to be Joe Green. Cliff, Tim, and Joe all offered assistance with the bike, but it was clear that as the designer of the bike, I had a clearer understanding of the issue and the best chance at fixing the problem. Tim offered to run back into town to pick up the required supplies to make the repair on the side of the road. Cliff decided to head on up the road to be able to greet the rest of the group at the rendezvous, but Joe decided to see if he could help me rig up a solution. When Tim returned we discovered that we did not have a drill bit of the appropriate size to open up the hole for the helicoil and that to do so would require the removal of more that just the carburetor. At this point, I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going any further that day. My best bet was to limp back to Rock Spring, find a motel, and go in search of the required tools. Again, Joe generously offered to escort me. I was able to strap down the intake with a hose clamp and get it to the point where it would run. As there was literally nothing else he could do, Tim wished me the best of luck and headed on to the rendezvous. It was reassuring, as I eased the bike along the shoulder back toward Rock Spring, to have Joe’s flashing auxiliary lights behind me. After missing an exit, I eventually found a cheap motel and waved Joe on with many thanks.
The motel I chose was a mile from an Auto Zone, and across the street from a run down Walmart. I asked for a ground floor room and was rewarded with a shabby room on grade with the parking lot. I lost no time in unloading the bike, running to the Auto Zone and picking up a drill bit and gasket paper. I then stopped at the Walmart to pick up a cheap drill and 90-degree chuck to negotiate the cramped space in which I needed to drill. On my return, I took a page out of our Owners Forum, glancing around and quickly rolling my Halcyon through the door and into my room. Once inside, I set about removing the gear from the bike, laying out my tools, and preparing for the task of tapping the hole. At this point I felt fairly confident that I would be able to make something work, but had no idea how long it would take, so I walked across the parking lot to what looked like a great barbecue spot and enjoyed a solid meal and soft drink.
All at once it dawned on me that the bolts were too short and that on top of that, the whole situation was entirely my fault! I had used the wrong bolts when I prepped the bike for the trip!
Back in my room, and just before I was going to start drilling at an almost impossible angle, I went over the whole situation and examined the hardware. As I inspected the hardware and intake manifold, I noticed something odd. The 6mm bolts that held the intake on barely extended long enough through the intake and gasket to have any threads in the cylinder. All at once it dawned on me that the bolts were too short and that on top of that, the whole situation was entirely my fault! I had used the wrong bolts when I prepped the bike! In the weeks prior to shipping the bike, I had decided that I wanted to have the bike as close to stock as possible in order to discover any possible issues and offer the best testing of our current set up. This included a new heat gasket between the intake and the cylinder for emissions compliance. This new gasket was 1/4” thick where previously there had been only a paper gasket that could only be a tiny fraction of that at the most. I had reinstalled the intake with the new gasket using the original hardware that was at least 1/4’ too short! A close inspection of the threading on the intake showed that less than 1/16” of the threads were damaged. It was honestly a miracle that the bolts had held as long as they had!
I pulled two new 6mm bolts of the correct length out of my spare parts bag and they threaded in perfectly. At this point, I didn’t know if I should be relieved or upset… A problem that was entirely my fault, and that could have taken me 5 minutes on the side of the road, had cost me a 200 mile setback and probably any chance of making the finish with the rest of the group. I consoled myself with the thought that I would likely be riding by myself for the majority of the ride anyway and that at least I was back in the game with what added up to a bike without any problem at all! I ended up laughing at myself and deciding to get some sleep.
As I packed up the bike and prepped everything for the next day, a new idea began to form in my head. Was it possible to make up the lost 200 miles? Perhaps. But could I catch up with a bunch of big BMWs and Hondas on a little 250 Janus? As I turned over the idea, I realized that my early stop meant that I could potentially get to bed quite early and try and jump the beginning of the next day's ride by starting in the early hours of the next day. With that possibility, I took the unused tools down the hall to the office and donated them to the rather confused but grateful couple who owned the motel. I prepped everything on the bike, leaving only my riding gear out, and set my alarm for 1:30am.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 LDComfort. LDComfort 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.
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.