Saturday, April 30, 2011

Movin' On


One of the best things I ever did during my motorcycling life was to get involved with the Iron Butt Association. From it, and the people in it, I learned how to ride safely and efficiently, over long distances and short hops. I rode more than 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours just to see if I could do it, and found out I could, which was incredibly empowering.

Lately, though, I'm beginning to think I took it a bit too seriously. For years I've held myself to the IBA ideal of covering lots of miles in a short amount of time, even if it wasn't necessary to do so on a particular ride. In learning how to ride far, I forgot how to ride easy, forgoing rest breaks to stretch my aching knees and shoulders, and pressing on to adhere to a timetable that existed only in my mind.

Age catches up with all of us. Some of you are seeing it in the rear-view mirror as a speck in the distance, slowly gaining on you. I don't need the mirrors to sense its presence, because it's riding pillion with me. Old injuries that never healed are slowing me down, sometimes sapping the joy of riding from even the coffee rides that constitute my afternoon break from the tyranny of the keyboard.

Part of the problem is that lingering feeling that I have a standard to live up to, the responsibility to justify the IBA license-plate backer on my bike that says "World's Toughest Riders." I don't feel very tough lately, at least not without a few ibuprofen coursing through my bloodstream, but I still love riding. So I'm going to try something different.

There was a time when I could ride 400 miles a day, grab a bite to eat, and do another 150 after dark before finding a motel. These days I'm toast after about 200, so I don't plan any days longer than that, and I don't like riding after dark any more, so I make sure I'm off the road by dusk.

During the ride, if I see something interesting, I'll stop and take a closer look. It not only breaks up the monotony of the ride, it gives me a chance to get off the bike and stretch. That means I might not go more than 50 miles at a time between stops, but since I'm going only 200 miles that day, it's no problem.

This strategy, which I call combat moseying, is nothing new to most riders. But it's new to me, and I like it. Today I rode about 100 miles in five hours, stopping to take photos, grab a coffee, and generally goof around. It was grand. In mid-June I'm riding to Seattle for a long-distance rider get-together, a distance of about 400 miles from here one way. I'm taking two days up and back.

All during that trip I'll be using IBA techniques to make the ride as safe and efficient as possible. I'll be using my own techniques, which I'm still sorting out, to make it as much fun as possible. I've finally learned it's not the miles you cover that counts, but how you cover them.

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