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.
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.