1600 Miles, 33 Hours, 49cc
by Bob Munden – Windsor, Ontario
The idea for an Iron Butt Association Certified Ride on a small bike has been with me for quite some time. A Honda NS50F water cooled two stroke of a grand capacity of 49cc size became available, so I adopted it. 49cc for the uninitiated is somewhat larger than a weed whacker but smaller than a lawn mower. With some modifications and easily breakable parts replaced, it was to be a 70mph screamer. My neighbours went from calling it the “Barbie Bike” to calling it the “Barbie Bike from Hell” A.K.A. the BB from H. We decided to try for the 1500 mile in under 36 hour “Bun Burner” ride.
After a failed attempt out west more modifications were necessary. The next ride was to be a complete non-adventure. Thus, another year of Wednesday nights at the Arrow Racing workshop. Here I have the luxury of a complete machine shop and the advice of folks who currently hold several world records at Bonnieville on a streamliner motorcycle. We just couldn’t get high speeds out of the BB from H. It would go 60 mph at 3/4 throttle and only 52 at full throttle, surging as you backed it off. After various ideas were tried, we still weren’t getting the higher maximum speeds. We decided 60 mph would be sufficient as only a 41+ mph average is required for 1500 miles in 36 hours. This speed however does not allow for stops. Higher speeds would be achieved in a “racing crouch”. This turned out to be a painful option as the BB from H and I got better acquainted.
We would use the flat area in the midwest U.S.A. Starting and finishing at the Detroit/Windsor border crossing. It has several advantages. First, I can ride to the start location, as it is close. Second, it is relatively flat and, thirdly, the states involved, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, have low speed limits on their freeways. The BB from H really doesn’t like hills. Mainly any route has to have available fuel and be able to be documented at the turning points. We scrapped an off-freeway route as being too slow. Driving fast is one thing – averaging a high speed is something entirely different and much more difficult. On a freeway you can just drone out the miles which really helps to up the average. We also factored in some locations for short naps at the “Iron Butt Motel”. Also known as a picnic table. A 300 mile test ride was undertaken with complete success at an average speed of about 50+mph. The BB from H ran smooth [sic] and strong so long as only 3/4 throttle was used.
The route was planned to obtain the necessary minimum of 1500 miles in 36 hours with an interim 1000 mile cut off just in case we needed to bail out on the longer ride. A 1000 miles in 24 hours wouldn’t be such a disgrace as even that would be a rare accomplishment on a 49cc bike. We were after bigger fish however.
The next week showed a two day window of clear weather and light winds between two weather systems. The BB from H just doesn’t have much in reserve and loves a tail wind. So far I’ve made reference to “We” which quite often refers to myself and the bike. In this case however I had the good fortune to entice a friend along. Fortunately Charles isn’t just any rider. He rides an elderly BMW 1000 with over 300,000 miles on it with stickers from all over North America and Europe. I did not envy him having to “coast” along at my proposed leisurely speed. For what would to me seem a frenzied, crouched down, race against time, would be a long boring ride on his bike.
At about 5:15 am on July 1st, 2008 we got signed out by start witnesses. I met Charles at the Canadian side of the bridge, and off we went across the Detroit River to the U.S.A. The U.S. Customs officer shook his head in disbelief but said “OK, go ahead” with a look of “I don’t really want to know” on his face. Quick receipt from the Bridge Toll Booth, enter it in the logbook . We’re now “on the Clock”.
It was just getting light, a beautiful day, the BB from H was buzzing like a kitten on steroids and I’m not tired or sore yet. Ahead lay 1500+ miles of open road and who knew what adventures before we finished.
One thing about riding the BB from H on a freeway is that you are always trying to go faster. You will never get a speeding ticket. You fiddle with the throttle setting, crouch down to minimise wind resistance, and try drafting any faster vehicles for a little lift. The turn south of Toledo onto the I-80/90 toll road went fine with no receipt necessary as we would get a toll road receipt showing on and off at Cleveland. No further incidents and only stopping for receipts and log book entries took us to Mansfield Ohio. Even the trucks on the infamous I-75 seemed to give us a wide berth.
The road to/from Mansfield was found to be slower. It turns out the BB from H goes faster in traffic as the surrounding vehicles create a slight “fake tailwind” effect. Buzzing our way west towards Fort Wayne, however, our times were still well within, or even better than planned.
The only slow-downs seemed to be for refuelling. The normal 6 minute fuel stops encompassing the fuel cell and the main tank on a regular bike couldn’t be achieved. The problem is having to mix oil with the gas for the two stroke engine. Unfortunately you have to do this for both the main tank and the fuel cell. Thus gas stops were slow. Fortunately it gave Charles some well needed stimulation and rest from the boring task of “cruising along” behind me.
We expected traffic delays along the ring highway (I-465) around Indianapolis but luck was with us. The oncoming traffic was backed up great distances but our side was heavy but fast with no slow-downs. The remainder of the ride to the west and the turnaround in Bloomington was without trouble. The BB from H was still running well. I however was beginning to feel the effects of being on it with no respite. Exercise would be a continuing regimen for the rest of the ride.
By now it was getting dark and time for lights on. The new HID light worked superbly. It lit up the area in front just like bright white sunlight. Charles’ headlight seemed like a weak yellow candle in comparison. Shortly afterward the aux. instrument panel started going crazy. Random numbers and finally just one small meaningless number down in the corner. Oh well, I could use the GPS for the details such as speed. Soon the GPS started pulsing in brightness and then went off. At this time everything went dark. No headlight, HID or otherwise. This really caught our attention. Charles immediately came up beside me and I was able to continue by the light of the big BMW. It sure looked a darn sight better than weak candle light now. I turned off everything electrical and tried the headlight again – it came on but only for a minute before again flicking off. HID lights don’t dim, they just shut down…all or nothing. At the next rest area, after a 15 minute nap, we decided to just continue and drive by his headlight when necessary and to switch off mine during areas with other lighting. This worked out well, as I could shut everything off for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Soon I had enough reserve built up in the battery to use the HID headlight whenever necessary.
We continued on our way back across night-time Indiana, through Indy again, and on to Dayton where we turned around at the junction of I-70 and I-75. While here, we got a witness and receipt for a 1000 mile in under 24 hours certificate. This milestone buoyed our spirits a lot and we realized we were several hours ahead of plans.
From here on out it was do or die for the BB from H. Once again we went through Indianapolis and then on to Gary, IN. At dawn we took another 15 minute nap in a rest area. Even the concrete sidewalk felt like a feather bed by this time. Here Charles exclaimed “I don’t know how you guys do it”. Referring to the longer more extreme Iron Butt rides. It is hard to just drone along at a vastly reduced pace for hour after hour on a big bike. Charles’ ride was just as difficult in my opinion.
The sun came up and along with it, a tail wind. As often happens later in a long ride, the miles and hours seem to fly by. Soon I was hesitantly allowing myself to think we might make it. Finally up came exit 81 at Elmore OH. The turn around gave us the receipt covering entrance and exit to the toll road. 1500+ miles were now complete. We immediately returned back westbound and then north toward Detroit.
It was now the home stretch, 65 miles to the Detroit/Windsor Ambassador bridge and the final receipt. It looked like the 2 years of planning and work were paying off. Getting the actual receipt at the bridge toll booth was somewhat anticlimactic. Several months later the verification process was completed and the ride was officially certified by the Iron Butt Association as being 1605 miles in 33 hours 3 minutes. I know the BB from H could shave off those three minutes, but not with me!
Ride results at: http://www.ironbutt.com/ridecerts/
Full write up of this ride at: http://bobmunden.blogspot.com/2008/07/1600-miles-33-hours-49-cubic.html