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SaddleSore 1000 Shakedown: Mission Abort

"If I'm honest, that's not gone well, has it?" - Jeremy Clarkson

I’ve been pondering a SaddleSore 1,000, but had insufficient data to attempt it. This past Sunday I took a shakedown cruise to remedy that. I learned a great deal, but it didn’t end as planned.

Three years ago this week I was exploring Cape Breton Island, NS and the Cabot Trail, but I haven’t ridden any significant distance since then. For that reason alone, a shakedown cruise for a shorter distance was in order to make sure the bike and I were up for the task. Additionally, I’ve never done particularly long stretches of highway riding, since I prefer scenic back roads and twisties. Would my PC800 be the next best thing to a Goldwing for gobbling up highway miles? Or would I cramp up and go numb after a couple of hours in the saddle? Finally, as RWT‘s Kate Murphy pointed out, I didn’t know my maximum possible fuel range, so I didn’t know how far I could stretch it between gas pumps. So I planned a trip to answer all of these questions. It would also end up answering a few questions I hadn’t yet asked.

Shakedown loop
I meant to do that.

Having taken care of what I needed to do in the morning, I planned an almost exclusively highway loop to try and simulate the conditions I’d be running under for a SaddleSore 1,000 – basically, long highway stints. The first part of the trip is actually the same route I’d take for the real thing – after a fuel stop to top the tank, I-190 to I-290 to I-90. But rather than follow I-90 all the way to the town of North East, PA, I’d hit I-91 north out of Chicopee, MA, and follow it all the way to White River Junction, VT. I’d then turn south on I-89, merge into I-93 in Concord, NH, and take back roads home from Nashua. At 305 miles it’s less than a third the distance of a SaddleSore 1,000, but it would give me the information I needed. I’ve done over 300 miles in a day before, so this would tell me if I still had it in me.

The Thrill Of Victory

My first stop was just a couple of miles from home, the gas station by the highway. I topped off the tank on the bike, as well as my secret weapon – a two gallon gas can that fit perfectly in one side of my trunk. With an extra two gallons on board, I could safely ride until the motor stopped running, find my maximum range, dump in a couple more gallons, and keep on going. Based on the averages I’d seen on Fuelly, I estimated I’d get around 44mpg, which would get me about 180 miles on a 4.2 gallon tank. I’d “run out of gas” near White River Junction, a very quiet portion of highway where I could pull over and refuel safely.

I put in my earplugs (it’s amazing how much they reduce fatigue on long superslab slogs), got underway, followed I-190 to Worcester, I-290 through Worcester, and hopped on I-90 west. Being a Sunday afternoon during July 4 weekend, traffic was minimal, which was part of the reason I was doing this when I did. My strategy was simple – maintain a steady 70mph when I could and make constant progress rather than top speed. I could squeeze the throttle a bit more to pass – I wasn’t hypermiling, but I wasn’t in heavy fast moving traffic on my way to work either. A relaxed steady riding style would be the key to eventually keeping the pace for 1,000 miles.

As I followed this strategy on my way to western Massachusetts, my mind kept wandering back to just how darn boring this was. Not even 100 miles in I was tired of this kind of riding. Do I really need to do a SaddleSore 1,000? What do I have to prove? Do I really need to prove myself to be among “the world’s toughest riders?” It all seemed like a waste of time. But, Kate’s point remained true about knowing my fuel range being an important data point, so for that, and for the sake of completing what I started, I pressed on.

3 Comments

  1. First, BIG SCARY BIKER RAAARRR, even if you’re in textiles on a Honda. 😉

    B, yeah; you’ve kind of reached the same conclusion I have. I rode from home to Shelton CT and back on Saturday, all told about 400 miles, and it was pretty goddamn boring, and I didn’t have my throttle rocker so my right arm was trash for a coupla days afterwards. But I got to visit family so there’s that.

    iii: Hm, usually it’s rear tires that get flat from road debris (the front tire fluffs up all the sharp stuff and sends it into the back), so I’d be out there with soapy water watching for bubbles around the valve stem. Good luck!

    1. First, you meet the nicest people on a Honda. 😉

      B: I’d do a long highway slog to get to somewhere with awesome roads quickly (or some other useful purpose, like yours), but I don’t see the appeal of long highway slogs for their own sake, other than bragging rights.

      iii: The valve stem is popping out of the rim, exactly like what happened to my rear tire two years ago. Not coincidentally, both were installed by the same shop that neither of us like anymore, because apparently they don’t know how to install a valve stem correctly. The good news is the tire seems OK and has plenty of tread left, so I don’t think I’ll need to replace it.

  2. I think it’d be more fun if the ride was split up with a destination in the middle? Like maybe a good restaurant or a waterfall or something? At least then you’d have that mental carrot in front of you and not just going on a boring ride? That kind of trips up the idea of 1000 miles in a day, but does I think lend itself to that idea of a practice run of say a 600 or so mile day better.

    Oh and FWIW, I also get about 180 miles to a tank (furthest I’ve pushed it) so sounds like our bikes would be well matched. Mine’s all black (as is my gear) so I can play the menacing biker role haha.

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