Preparing Your Harley-Davidson for Iron Butt Rides

Are you considering Iron Butt, dubbed the “world’s toughest motorcycle rally”? If the idea of riding 11,000 miles in 11 days seems like a fun challenge, you first need to get your bike in shape.

What Is Iron Butt?

The Iron Butt Rally was first run in 1984, a brutal 11,000-mile ride around the perimeter of the United States in 11 days. It was held every year at first but organizers have had to change that to every two years.

Not only do competitors face a grueling ride, but routes run through extreme climates like blistering deserts and freezing mountain tops. Riders can gain bonus points by visiting certain landmarks along the trip. The more difficult the landmark, the more points a rider earns. Stops in Hawaii and Alaska add lots of points but also lots of miles.

If the rally seems overwhelming, the Iron Butt Association sanctions smaller events such as the 50CC (from one US coast to the other in 50 hours) and the Saddlesore 1000 (1000 miles in 24 hours).

Iron Butt isn’t just about long-distance riding; it’s about safe long-distance riding. Organizers recommend against stimulants, even coffee, to increase riding time. Routes are set up so riders can drive the speed limit and still have plenty of time to stop and rest along the route.

Getting Your Bike Ready

Perform routine maintenance before your trip. Stopping to replace tires or oil along the way wastes time and will probably cost more than at home. Worse, you might get stuck on bad tires with no replacements available nearby.

Don’t install cool new Harley parts right before your trip. This kind of grueling trek isn’t the time to test out new equipment.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add custom Harley parts. New headlights or replacement motorcycle tanks or, of course, a comfortable seat can make the trip easier. Install them well before the trip to have time to test them. Do you really want to break in a new seat on an 11,000-mile ride?

Not only do new Harley parts need break-in time, but you want to be sure they are installed correctly. No matter how experienced the mechanic, people make mistakes and a forgotten screw could spell disaster on a highway in the Mojave forty miles from town.

One of the most important new Harley parts you can get is a tool kit. Buy high quality tools to last a lifetime rather than a junky kit for cheap. Again, you are often going to be far from help and you need to be able to fix problems yourself.

Finally, take care of anything about your bike that irritates you. An annoyance on a 300-mile trip is infuriating on a 3000-mile one. This distracts you from the road and brings on fatigue much faster. Fix that funny rattle in the engine or that vibration against your thigh and you will find the ride more pleasant.

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