Oregon SaddleSore 1000
By Paul Nelson
I had a successful Ironbutt Saddlesore 1000 ride this fall on my 2013 Yamaha Super Tenere. It was an in-state ride meaning that all 1000 miles were ridden inside Oregon in less than 24 hours. I’ll share some tips with how the bike was setup and how planning for the trip made it a success.
The ride was on September 30. I expected dry weather but the forecasted temperature range was from 40 to 75 degrees. My plan was to head out at 4 AM over Mt. Hood, through Government Camp and out I-84 to eastern Oregon. I used http://weatherunderground.com and their weather graph tables to check on expected temps for each of the cities along my route. I had to prepare for temps in the low 40s from 4 AM to 8 AM. Much of that time would be at speeds of 65+ MPH so I knew I’d be taking my heated gear. I put on my original OEM tires that still had some good miles left in them. I took off my stock OEM short screen that I’d been using all summer and put my 22” Parabellum back on. As a part of routine maintenance on my bike, new rear brake pads were installed along with a new air filter and plugs. One warning on the Ironbutt tips page is to not perform any major work on your bike just before a ride. Good advice but this was all simple stuff and I was more comfortable with the bike properly prepped.
I’ve got a skinny butt and it’s not made of iron so butt pain has always been the #1 limiting comfort factor on longer rides for me. I packed all three of my favorite seat mods, an Air Hawk, an Alaskan sheepskin and a Bead Rider. I planned on using the sheepskin in the morning when it was cooler. It’s comfortable and warm but only good for a few hours of riding and then the Air Hawk would have to come out. The Bead Rider was my standard summer seat mod so it came along just in case I needed to mix things up.
I wondered if leaving my panniers on would hurt my gas mileage but decided to take them so I could bring along an extra, light-weight jacket and my standard road kit with air pump, tire repair, extra water and some extra gloves. I also knew I’d be riding the dark at the beginning and end of the ride and wanted the large reflective tape covered panniers to make me more visible.
Here’s a short list of the mods to the bike and gear that came along:
Synergy heated jacket
Synergy heated insoles
Gerbing G3 heated gloves
Aurora 40 watt LEDs
Alaskan Sheepskin cover
Bead Rider seat cover
Air Hawk seat cover
Oxford Adventure heated grips
And my very old, Marsee magnetic tank bag
Garmin 2595 GPS
Garmin 78c GPS
I would have been great to have electronic cruise control but my $4.25 O-ring did a fantastic job working all day giving me all the cruise I wanted. Just roll it left to cruise and roll it right to turn it off.
Planning the Route:
I had three main considerations. One was a fuel range max of 200 miles. I wanted to minimize the number of times I had to stop for gas so I looked to hit gas stations between 150 and 200 miles apart. I also wanted to avoid rush hour traffic. This led me to leave the Portland Metro area early in the morning and time my return for evening hours, well after rush hour. My last goal was to avoid riding all day on the Interstate freeways and be able to enjoy the back roads through the middle and southern parts of the state. I knew these back roads would be empty in the middle week and expected to still make good time in spite of posted speed limits of 55 MPH.
I did all my route planning using Google’s My Maps, and created a giant loop that was 1011 miles long. It started and ended in my home town of Sandy, OR. Ironbutt rules require you to collect gas receipts for the beginning and ending of your trip as well as every stop during the day and at corners. See the map for the eventual route I used and for leg lengths. A good tip for using Google Maps is that you can use search phrases like gas stations near Pendleton to help you plan your stops. Use street view though to check them out as some stations in rural areas had been closed for some time but still showed up in Google Maps.
Here’s a link to my actual map: https://goo.gl/8f7TDR
In making my map, I created one layer to hold all of the gas stations and also put in rest areas and a few places where I might stop to eat. Once you have locations in a layer, it makes routing to them easy in Google Maps in subsequent layers. I then created a layer for each leg of the ride based on one tank of gas. This made good sense when making the map but out on the ride, it also was a psychological plus to look at a leg and see 194 miles to go instead of 806. I used a spreadsheet to add up the minutes for each leg and then adjusted my start time to leave early enough to miss traffic and get back to town at about 10:30 in the evening. Each leg started and ended at one of the eight gas stops, one stop to fill up in the morning, six out on the road and one at the end of the ride.
I exported the Google Map as a *.kml file and imported it into Basecamp. In Basecamp I created tracks and routes for each leg and exported them to both my Garmin 2595 and Garmin 78. My route was easy enough that I could have found my way without using a GPS but I like to keep track of progress and enjoy the ETA and accurate speed readouts that come with a GPS. I also made a simple cheat sheet with printed mileage info and turns in case everything Garmin went belly up during the ride. The cheat sheet went into my tank bag along with a couple of water bottles and a few power/protein bars.
It was cold and dark, but at least not stormy leaving Sandy at 4 AM. I filled up and stashed away the first of my receipts in my tank bag. I rode from Sandy to Hood River up US 26 to US 35 with my LED lights blazing the way. These babies put out 3,200 lumens each so the darkness didn’t stand a chance. As expected, the roads were empty until I hit I-84 at Hood River. From there I headed for McDonald’s near Pendleton for breakfast. That was my only food stop for the day. Meals for the rest of the day were water, power bars and one 5-Hour energy drink. I thought I might be taking the heated gear off at my first stop but it was still cool and as the elevation climbed out of Pendleton, it stayed plenty cold. I was toasty warm though, right down to my heated toes. I have a dual channel heat-troller that is Velcroed to my tank bag so it’s easy to adjust while riding and if I forget it and step off the bike, nothing breaks.
I rode I-84 to Ontario where I headed off on rural roads to Lakeview, OR, my southernmost point in the trip, and then headed north hitting I-5 in Eugene for the last couple of hours. The heated gear went back on at about 6 PM for the last four hours.
The bike was perfect. The route was pleasant. The scenery was beautiful and it was a wonderful ride. My Bell Star helmet was quiet and comfortable and the Sena Bluetooth headset did a great job of playing my Amazon book through the Kindle app on my smartphone riding along in my tank bag. Listening to books helps the miles go by faster. Music is good too but the books seem to help the hours go by. BTW, an average book will last about 700 miles.
I did stop at three of my pre-identified rest areas. I knew I was on schedule so it was nice to take a few minutes off and not feel hurried. My ride schedule of 4 AM to 10 PM was close to my natural waking and sleeping times so I found that I was not sleepy at all. I had some caffeine with breakfast and an energy drink in the late afternoon. Stopping only once for a meal was a good time saver. Eating power bars during the day meant that I never had to go into a store, wait in line or do any shopping. I’ve had my debit card rejected at some gas stations if it’s used too many times during the day so I had two backup credit cards as well as cash. The card was rejected only once on this trip. One thing that saved time and mental energy was having a routine at gas stops. Do everything the same way every time and you can be sure that when you leave, your wallet is where it’s supposed to be and your tank bag zipped up. The Ironbutt Association focuses on safety and stresses that a steady and safe pace is the best way to cover miles as opposed to speeding. I agree and stayed “within 10” through the whole ride and never felt pressed for time.
The normal way of documenting your ride is to make copies of all your gas and food receipts and mail it all in along with your log form for the ride and application. Then you get to wait 2-3 months. These days you can also turn in everything online via email. I sent in the requested email but rather than attaching a bunch of documents, put them all in a shared Google Drive folder and provided the link for that in the email sent with my application. The turn around time was less than two weeks. After a $46 PayPal payment, I’ll get a certificate in the mail and the coveted Ironbutt license plate holder. How cool is that? <grin>
I had fun but things could have gone south in any number of ways. The Yamaha Super Tenere is a comfortable and reliable touring bike. With good wind protection and heated gear, it’s a great bike for longer rides like these (in Oregon). I make that stipulation because the maximum speed limit in Oregon is 65 MPH on interstate highways. If you stay within 10 MPH, that means that you’ll be running just at or under 4000 RPM and the Tenere is comfortable there and can do that all day long. In other states speed limits are higher and the Tenere’s do-everything personality will hit the limits <pun intended>. For all-day high speed runs, there are bikes better suited like a Honda ST1300 or Yamaha FJR 1300. But I don’t think I want to ride either of those bikes on the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route! The Super Tenere remains, in my mind, an amazing machine for all the things it can do so well.
The time spent planning and the good advice on Ironbutt.com and from other riders (thanks Kevin!) paid off with an uneventful ride. Weather planning was crucial. I didn’t face high winds, rain or hot weather, all of which will fatigue a rider. The heated gear I had meant that I never got cold, even running at 70 MPH in 40 degree temps for a several hours. I avoided back roads during dusk and dawn to minimize my chance at meeting deer and planned the ride to be at least a month ahead of peak deer collision season.
Will I do more long-distance riding?
Yes! I enjoyed the ride and it left me wanting to do more. I’m not sure when but I plan on participating on some of the Ironbutt rallies hosted in other states. It’s a great way to be outdoors and see amazing parts of the country. I see another larger sport touring bike in my future (my last bike before the Tenere was a Honda ST1100). On the other hand, I’m also trolling Craigslist for a DRZ. I better clear out some space in the shop for some more bikes!