Directed by Dean Tanji
Abracadabra Presentations, 2008
by Tammy Wanchena
Not every motorcyclist is familiar with the Iron Butt Rally. Those familiar with the event know the riders are a select, competitive, highly sadistic few who truly do “live to ride”. They would think nothing of crossing their home state’s border just to buy a loaf of bread. Billed as the world’s toughest motorcycle competition, the Iron Butt Rally is an 11,000 mile, 11 day scavenger hunt across the United States, by motorcycle. It’s run on odd-numbered years, and approximately 120 riders are selected by either having been given a slot for prior rally performance, hand-picked by the rallymaster, or randomly drawn from the pool of qualified applicants.
The Iron Butt Association, which puts on the event, is run by Michael Kneebone and a number of loyal volunteers. “Hard Miles” follows the 2007 Iron Butt Rally, which happens to be the year that two Minnesota natives finished very well. Marty Leir won first place, and Brett Donahue took third place. In the interest of full disclosure, I personally know both Marty and Brett. Knowing some of the sadistic individuals who were selected to ride that particular event, you can imagine how anxious I was to see this film! I turned it on with an open mind, anxious to see my talented riding friends glorified on the big screen. But, much to my chagrin, and in spite of the fact that many of my friends were interviewed in this film, I felt they were not at all glorified. Quite the contrary. In fact, the film seemed quite convinced that the rally’s second place winner, Jim Owen, was robbed of his win and should have taken first. Beyond that, it was inferred that Marty and Brett had not earned their first and third place wins!
The point of contention surrounds their use of an assistance in their route planning, something that was allowed under the Iron Butt Rally rules. Marty and Brett are two of the toughest riders I have ever met. Having seen them both compete in several long distance riding events, I could not understand the filmmaker’s point of view here. Instead of portraying the different styles of rallying in an equal light, the film was edited to portray especially Marty, as well as Brett, in a negative light.
Also, if I was not already familiar with the Iron Butt Rally, I would have been extremely confused as to what it was all about! To prove this point, I had two non-motorcyclists watch the film and they were both very confused and unable to follow the sequence of events in the rally. There were some funny moments for Minnesotans. I did like when Minnesota native, Donna Lamme came running out at a checkpoint to greet Mike Senty, also from northern Minnesota, and he “lays her down” (not Donna, the bike). Known St. Paul native and trials hooligan, Jim Winterer is amusing when he stumbles through one scene looking dazed and confused.
Even with the large number of Minnesota natives appearing, I still wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone. The slanted editing made it unbearable to watch, especially because I know some of the principals. And the movie is billed as a documentary of the IBR, but failed to explain the rally to anyone except those already initiated to the endurance rally format. While I am a big fan of long distance riding, I am not a fan of what this movie did for the Iron Butt Rally.