Big Miles and World Records:
Tales from the Minnesota 1000
By Adam Wolkoff, Rally Master
OK, so I have this crazy motorcycling obsession. I like to knock down miles. I like people who like to knock down miles. What better place for me than the Minnesota 1000?
This here’s my Rally Journal. OK, so I’m doing the whole thing after the fact, but if you can’t stand that bit of artistic license, then you’d better leave now. Its sure not going to get any easier for you.
So lets get started already. I’m not going to take you through the whole process of planning and executing the MN1K. For one, explaining the mysterious process by which Eddie James, the mastermind of the MN1K and the AMA’s Director of Road Riding, turns cities, towns and assorted oddness into bonuses would take too long to write about, and I just don’t have that kind of time. For two, its all secret process anyway, so if I told you, I’d have to kill you. Like I said, I’m too busy for that. So, instead, I’ll offer you some highlights from the seventh running of the best twenty-four hour endurance ride of which we know, the Minnesota 1000.
We handily break the World Record. This year’s Minnesota 1000 offered an added twist: the opportunity to set a new world record. In order to become a member of the Ironbutt Association, a rider must ride a minimum of 1000 miles in twenty-four hours or less over a verified course. This ride is known as a “Saddlesore 1000.” The Ironbutt Association also recognizes group completion of the Saddlesore ride. The record for a group Saddlesore was first set in this country by the Cognoscenti Group out of Nevada, with 64 riders. Earlier this year, an organization in Texas had over eighty riders complete a group Saddlesore.
None of this was any concern to TeamStrange, since we had long ago decided to trounce any existing achievement and set a new Group Saddlesore record during this year’s event. We are pleased to announce that our predictions of success came true with a vengeance. Of the 231 riders entered in the event, 143 completed the Group Saddlesore Course in twenty-four hours or less. Chants of “We’re Number One” and “We Still Hate Eddie” rang late into the night as riders celebrated the new World Record.
Some riders were so inspired by breaking the world record that they went on to complete the Ironbutt Association’s prestigious Bun Burner Gold ride (1500 miles in 24 hours). TeamStrange member Brent Bruns not only earned his Bun Burner, but shattered the previous course record by running over 1700 miles during the rally. Congratulations to Brent, who should be ready to sit down again sometime in late October.
How many people here cannot read English? Everyone always laughs when I ask that question at the Liar’s Banquet. I guess you’d be surprised at the vast number of people who can’t or won’t read the stuff we give them. Happily, though, our years of pleading, prodding and proselytizing appear to be paying off: people are starting to figure out the secret of doing well on this event.
The key to successful endurance riding is not motorcycling ability. Hell, all you need to ride a motorcycle is the money to buy one. No, the secret to a successful Minnesota 1000 can be summed up in two words: reading comprehension. The whole rally turns on successfully completing various bonus requirements, all set forth in writing Lesson number one: Read everything carefully, and read it more than once. The points you save may be your own.
Our crack scoring team was saddened to find that opportunities for point shaving were fewer this year than on previous events. Veteran scorer Jon Diaz leapt out from behind the scoring table to lead rookie rider Al Angen to the anticipated point slaughter. Minutes later, Diaz sat dejected and Angen cracked a wide grin. Not a single point taken away. All it took was a bit of reading.
You will see this material again.
Endurance: a multifaceted term. As a veteran Minnesota 1000 rider, I know this is a tough event, even on a rally-prepped ST1100. Imagine running the rally on a chopper! After two unsuccessful attempts, Keith Efron rode his chopped Triumph across the finish line, to the loud cheers and applause of the assembled riders and spectators. I ran into Keith at the Ma’s Cycle bonus, where he was busy changing a broken speedo cable. He promised me he’d finish with over 1000 miles, and he was as good as his word.
When considering rally results, there is an understandable tendency to focus on the hardware–who took home what trophy. I’m going to suggest that the real story of the Minnesota 1000 isn’t necessarily told by something as crass as total points. What makes this rally great is that it provides any rider willing to enter the opportunity to think a little bit harder, ride a little bit farther, and to expand and explore personal limits. In this context, every rider savors his own achievements; no other reward is needed or sought. I’m taking my helmet off to every rider who has set a new personal best, or beaten some previously insurmountable obstacle during the event.
Time for a Group Hug. Every year, at the end of the rally, we swear that this is the last MN1K we’re going to do. Every following year, we find ourselves saying the same thing. We keep coming back because the riders keep coming back. Without this great group of riders, there is no Minnesota 1000. We remain extremely grateful for your support and encouragement. As the man says, “Until that time…”
By Kevin Kocur, Rider #176
Team Strange puts on an annual event called the Minnesota 1000. Think of it as a big scavenger hunt, set in 24 hour format with the idea that you’ll visit as many of the places listed on the bonus sheet you’re given, and collect a specific number of points per bonus. Oh, did I mention you have a fixed time frame to do this in and many bonuses may not be in Minnesota?
This year was going to be a little different since, in addition to the MN1K, Team Strange was also looking to bring the Group Saddlesore 1000 record to Minnesota. To beat the previous record, Team Strange would need at least 81 riders to complete a pre-set 1000 mile route, collecting gas receipts from towns along the way to prove you rode the whole thing. So why not take Triumph’s new Bonneville and put some miles in the saddle? I was lucky enough to do just that as Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly allowed me to take the new retro-standard on the 1000+ mile ride in June.
Part I: Boy Meets Bonneville
OK, so back to the bike. I was concerned about actually riding the event, since my own bike was having problems; the big $$$ kind. Senior Editor Victor Wanchena rolls in and the following conversation ensues:
Victor: “So, didja find a bike yet? MMM has a bike you can use, if you’re interested.”
Me: “Really?! What is it?”
Victor: “A 2001 Triumph Bonneville.”
It took a couple of seconds for my brain to process this. I have been lusting after this bike since the first pictures I’d seen on the internet. I smiled, graciously thanked Victor and made mental notes of all I’d have to do to “prep” the bike. Turns out the Bonnie was already equipped with a Triumph sport windshield and a pair of Triumph saddlebags (more on those later.) This would be one hell of a test ride! After a short lesson on where everything on the bike was, I fired up the twin and headed for home. This is a bike that’s rider friendly and I had the hang of it in no time. When I reached my garage, I immediately went to work on the bike’s potential shortcomings as an LD machine:
1) Bench seat: Face it, nobody rides with stock seats anymore, let alone a bench! But what if I add a couple of inches of foam under the sheepskin cover that I’m going to use anyway? Now to get the seat off of the bike… where the hell is that tool kit anyway!? I finally give up looking for one and undo the two 5mm allen bolts holding the seat on. OK – sheepskin + two inches of foam equals long distance seat!
2) Luggage: The Triumph bags are more of a lesson in style than one of functional capacity. They fit the lines of the bike well, but the trade-off is the bag openings are only a little bigger than a pack of cigarettes. I can still fit a tool roll, a quart of oil and a long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt into both bags. There aren’t any rain covers, so everything goes into plastic bags first.
3) Team Strange requires a clock or watch at all times so in addition to the trusty Timex on my wrist, I duct tape an extra watch to the handlebar clamp for easy viewing.
4) I always run a tank bag since it gives you quick access to things you, well, need to get at quickly. Tank bags are also a great map platform ñ duh! Neither of my bags fit the Triumph, so along the way, I found an inexpensive magnetic tankbag that did the trick. Then it was off to Lakeville for the odo check.
As I motored down I-35, I had a chance to check out the bike’s strengths (and weaknesses) as a long distance mount. The 800cc vertical twin hummed along nicely at an indicated 70 mph. Running it up to 80, things started getting a little busy and a brief run up to 90 brought a lot of vibration to the handlebars. I could really feel it in the grips, and glancing at the mirrors all I got was a blurry image that I hoped wasn’t a State Patrol car.
I got on the brakes pretty hard a couple of times, mostly on side streets, and felt both discs were more than up to the task. By the time I got to Lakeville I was confident that “Bonnie” would handle almost anything I would throw at her over the next 24+ hours.
Part II: The Liar’s Banquet
Got checked in, helped out at the registration table, ate some great food and socialized with the other riders. When showing off my recently-acquired mount, the comments ranged from “YOU’RE riding THAT?” to “Man, that is soooo cool.” Yeah, I thought so too, and I was liking the Bonneville more and more.
Rallymasters Eddie and Adam give the opening speeches and passed out envelopes containing lists of bonuses. Many riders scamper off to try and figure out a route. I chuckle, knowing there will be another envelope tomorrow with even more bonuses. Time to hook up with fellow riders Sheldon and Michelle Moe, and Michelle’s father Dennis Gonyier.
I eventually left the Banquet and headed home to put the finishing touches on the bike. I checked the oil level and the condition of the chain, and gave the bike a once-over. Damn, that is one attractive motorcycle! Adding a fanny pack around the budget tank bag gave me a little more storage room for little stuff. Some duct tape (in fashionable black!) on the tank to prevent any unwanted scuffing, and we’re good to go. Last thing to figure out is how to adapt my electric vest for use on the Bonnie. In June the temps can really drop off at night, especially in the plains. With minimal wind protection you can get cold pretty fast.
Part III: And They’re Off!
6 a.m. arrives way too early. Dennis had crashed at my house and was already up and packing his bike. As I was waking up, I got an idea on how to wire the electric vest up to the Bonnie without having to remove the BMW adapter from the cord. Let’s just say it involved an old two-prong extension cord, an inline fuse and more duct tape. Function before beauty. Dennis and I finally split for the start at Bob’s Java Hut.
A couple blocks from Bob’s I stop to fill the bike and discover my first LD bike snafu: there is no center stand so filling the gas tank completely full is going to be somewhat of a challenge. Fortunately the filler is on the high side of the bike. That works OK, but the opening for the filler is too small and gas comes gushing out, prompting much cursing as I search for paper towels to wipe everything down. So much for quickie gas stops…
We arrive at Bob’s, check in, park the bikes and find Sheldon and Michelle. We all agree to run the route together, the only concern being the Bonnie’s unknown fuel range. Michelle says she stops for gas at the 150 mile mark, which I figure will be close enough.
9:30 rolls around and it’s time for the Rider’s Meeting, after which we all get a second envelope containing the route sheet and fuel log for the GSS1K. We also get, as I predicted, more bonuses. Up until now I hadn’t even considered going for any points; I just wanted to put in my 1000 miles and bring that record to Minnesota. But looky here, I can get 8000+ points just for riding the GSS1K route! And another 1000 or so for keeping all of my gas receipts. I start looking to see what else I can pick up when OHMYGOD it’s 10:00 already! Bikes start rolling out from in front of Bob’s and I’m scrambling to get my Aerostich suit on so the other three don’t have to wait for me.
The first checkpoint will be Ma’s Cycle in West Fargo, which means a straight blast up I-94. This would be a good test of Bonnie’s LD capabilities since Interstate runs are inevitable when you’re on the clock and need to get from point A to point B and. It’s also some of the most (for me anyhow) boring riding; even more so if you can’t get comfortable on the bike. Fortunately the seat ends up not being the bun buster I originally envisioned (the foam/sheepskin combo helps) and I’m able to easily move my feet from the front pegs to the passenger pegs, allowing me to stretch and get comfortable a bit.
I’m into the throttle a little more then the bike would prefer, but I’m staying with the two Oilhead Beemers and a Honda ST1100 with plenty of motor left. Without a tach I have no idea how many rpms she’s turning, but it feels like a lot. We’re over 135 miles from the start when I see hand signals indicating we’re going to make a fuel stop, which is great since I haven’t yet hit reserve. We gas up, I figure the mileage to be about 42, then it’s off to Ma’s.
When we arrive at Ma’s Cycle, I pull the Bonnie around and park it next to a row of vintage Triumphs on display. Yeah, I think they got it right since the ’01 Bonneville looks right at home next to it’s predecessors. I grab some chow, B.S. with some more riders and run inside to get my 800 point bonus. I start talking with Bob, the owner, and tell him about the bike. He’s pretty interested in hearing how everything’s working with it and I tell him everything’s great so far, although we barely a quarter of the way into the rally. I thank him and his crew for the great job they’re doing for the rally, and we’re off again.
Part IV: Through the Dakotas.
We head west, and another bike comes screaming up along side me. I look over and recognize Bob Waitz on another ST1100. Apparently Bob felt that the rally needed a little fashion, which he provided by completely covering his helmet with long white fake fur. So the now five of us continue along at a brisk pace through North Dakota, and finally cross into South Dakota. The temperature is rising and I’m really enjoying the lack of a fairing right now. The little Triumph sport shield does a great job, although if it does direct a lot of turbulence at my helmet.
Gas stops are usually at the 125 mile mark. We roll farther south into the town of Miller, S.D., one of the required stops, so we all find a station. While filling the Bonnie, I chat with Wisconsin Senator Dave Zien who is riding the rally on his 498,000 mile (you read that right) Harley. I think he likes to ride…
Since we’re over a third into the rally, I figure it’s time to check the oil again. Without a centerstand, this proves to be a pain in the ass if you’re alone. Luckily, I have help, so one guy holds the bike upright while I kneel down and check the sight glass. Uh-oh! We’re down a bit. I also discover you need a special tool to get the oil filler cap off (maybe it’s in the mythical tool kit.) Fortunately, Bob has something on his keychain that works.
We’re back on the road and in a pretty desolate area so the front of our group decides it’s time to stretch their legs and open it up a bit. We make it to the best part of the ride: the Missouri River with it’s beautiful valley, dams and reservoirs. It’s very picturesque but we’re on a schedule and rapidly approaching our next checkpoint, Chamberlain, S.D.
We roll into the rest area in Chamberlain, and proceed to find the teepee structure that will provide the answer to the question “What did (Explorers) Lewis & Clark kill for food?” The answer is a bison and a magpie. I check the oil again and end up finishing off the quart. I don’t think we’ve even hit the 500 mile mark yet, so I’m a little concerned. We head east out of Chamberlain and the front of the group is already onto I-90 by the time I hit the ramp and their taillights are fading fast when the bike starts stumbling. I switch to reserve on the manual petcock, but by this time no one’s noticed how far back I am. I check the trip odometer and I’ve only gone 90 miles since the last gas stop, so that fast stint out in the plains put a big dent in my fuel range. I back it down and, not knowing exactly how much gas is in the reserve, end up pulling into a station 20 miles later.
As I’m gassing up, a few people come by and check out the Triumph, until Bob rolls in and everyone’s attention focuses on his helmet. Still, I’m pretty glad to see him as it’s getting dark and my oil check shows the bike’s low again. This time I discover oil streaks on the exhaust from a small case leak, so I figure that high speed leg taxed the motor fairly hard. I also figure out the gas mileage to be 28 mpg. We also invite a guy on a Yamaha FZ600, who’d been following us for a ways, to ride along with us.
Back on the road, Bob suggests I take the lead since I’m a little worried about the bike. Plus, if I need to make another gas stop, he won’t have to double back. Out in front I discover another chink in the Bonneville’s potential LD armor: the high beam just flat out sucks. I rode mostly with the low beam on, which lights the road well; just not far enough for my liking.
We stop for gas in Buffalo Ridge, SD; Jackson, MN and again in Blue Earth, MN; collecting our final gas receipt. As I’m fueling, Sheldon, Michelle and Dennis roll into the station. We had gotten to Blue Earth before them because they had stopped to enjoy dinner. Sheldon leads us up US 169 towards the Twin Cities and the finish at Trackstar Motorsports. I roll across the GSS1K finish at 3:50 a.m. with a little over 1039 miles.
Everyone else is going to get some sleep but I figure I can hit a few local bonuses, including my 3-hour sleep bonus at home, and get back by 10:00 am, so that’s what I do. I officially finish the rally with 1110 miles in 23 hours and 50 minutes. And, I actually felt better than some of the events I’ve finished on my KRS BMW. Hmmm.
Nothing left to do now but chat with other riders, grab some great chow, and wait for the awards ceremony. As I figured, I wasn’t anywhere near the top 5 finishers in the Expert Class, but I took satisfaction in knowing that I had helped bring the Group Saddlesore 1000 record to Minnesota.
Many thanks go out to Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly, Team Strange, all of their volunteers and sponsors, and to all of the other Group Saddlesore participants who shared the roads with me that weekend. Ride Safe, and often!