IronButt SaddleSore 2008 - 1722 kilometers through Germany in less than 24 hours

Iron Butt Association - The World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders    

Membership number 33786    
This is an IronButt after 1722 kilometers

    SaddleSore 1600k - 1,610 kilometers (1,000 miles) in 24 hours


Riding for a sore butt...
1722 kilometers in less than 24 hours for an honorary title: IronButt

My alarm clock is ringing
It's a Saturday morning. 4 AM. Normally I have the habit of sleeping longer on Saturdays - very much longer than 4 AM. Not today. Today I will do what I have been planning to do for years: to go 1,000 miles in 24 hours with my motor bike. Across through Germany. Several years ago I read in the German bike magazine MOTORRAD about this crazy American organization called the
Iron Butt Association. This organization is only dedicated to safe, long-distance, endurance motorcycle riding. The minimum challenge is to do 1,000 American miles, i.e. 1.610 kilometers, or more in 24 hours or less - the socalled SaddleSore. No racing. No high speed achievement. After that you become an member of the Iron Butt Association and will be awarded the honorary title: I R O N B U T T. When I read about that the first time I thought instinctively: You will also be able to do that, sometime, somewhere... Are you nuts when you not only think about doing this - but also do it ?

Strategy and planning arrangements
Sometime at the end of April I suggested to a colleague of mine that we could go for the IronButt this year. We had been talking about doing the SaddleSore together. If we have anything in common it is motorbike riding and I know that he is as crazy as I am. I suggested a time about Midsummer Night so that we would have a maximum of daylight for the ride. It is more fun doing this kind of freakiness together rather than alone. His answer was: yes, but .... well no, rather not. His bike would not be suitable, two cylinders only, no good wind and weather protection, he was a bit scared of the ongoing blast of wind during such a long ride. Another time, maybe, with another bike would be better.
Well, I really don't want to backbite my colleague and friend because of his bike, but he is riding one of these old-fashioned German bikes (although he rides a updated version) with cylinders still sticking straight out at each side of the main frame, somehow oddly unmotivated and misplaced - as they have been doing since the 20es - 1920es (I won't mention the name). He may be right, though, not to go on such a tough ride with that bike.
I don't have any kind of problems like that with my jolly jumper. It's a Honda PanEuropean STX 1300 with a sensational wind and weather protection, a sofa like saddle where you can stay all day without complaint, an excellent in-line V4 format engine with 1.261cc and 125bhp. Tough. Powerful. Enduring. Reliable. Never ending. Born to go far. For almost 20 years this bike, including the legendary predecessor, the old PanEuropean ST1100, which I also had for some years, has been setting class standards till today. The non-plus-ultra when talking long-distance endurance motorcycle riding - at least in Europe.
Nomen est Omen: PanEuropean ! This just had to be said in time!

Having to go alone I made a quick decision. I would go on Saturday, 10th of May 2008, Saturday before Pentecost. My calculation was that most people going off for a bank holiday would have left on Friday. And: if at all, there would be only very few lorries on the road. Except for vitally important transportation, in Germany lorries are banned from the motorways on weekends. In my imagination I visualize that I will be almost alone on the Autobahn that day. My calculation almost works out perfectly.

In order to document your ride rules have it that you collect and track receipts, mainly from gas stations, to prove location, time and date. There is no doubt that is would be very easy to cheat on this. But participating in this ride, to me it is also a question of honesty and reputation. I want to prove to myself - not to some committee of the Iron Butt Association - that I really did it.
A few days before the ride another colleague told me about tracking with GPS. Though acquainted with portable GPS navigation systems I'm not yet (!) a personal fan of these. I love plain maps made of paper - even if laminted and weather resistant. None the less I got myself a very simple tracker (NaviLock EasyLOGGER NL-456DL).
(Addendum: in 2009 I finally got myself a ZUMO 550 - in spite of my loathing for digital techologies....) Routenplaner The main advantage is, of course, that afterwards anybody can follow the route in detail on GoogleEarth (click here). The digital tracking file will be my definite proof. It incorporates on the spot and within millimeters where and when I have been: date, time, continuous mileage, speed - at any given time every 200 meters or through manual settings.
I have confidence in modern digital technology. More about that later on ...
Using a mapping program (digital technology(!) I work out a route through major parts of Germany: Cologne, Bremen, Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Würzburg, Frankfurt on the Main, Koblenz, Cologne. Actually, I go through 12 of Germany's 16 federal states: North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Berlin, the Free State of Saxony, the Free State of Bavaria, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate - in that order. The calculated mileage is more than the required 1.610 kilometers.

Few minutes after 4 AM I'm sitting on the bike hitting for the first gas station. There is a filling station only few blocks away, but it's closed at this time of day and I want and need an authentic and valid receipt to document the start of the ride. I don't want to be dependent on a filling automat with the possibility of wrong and inadequate entries. Some 20 kilometers down the road the Autobahn has a filling station. Even if there should be mistakes on the receipt there will be staff to document the start of the ride.
Siegburg-Ost, 10.05.2008, 04:37 AM is the official start entry - off we go! Miss Deutsch (translate: German) is petrol attendant on this morning - Nomen est Omen for a ride through most of Germany on one day. The odometer shows 79.859 Km In less than 24 hours I must return to this point - with at least 1610 kilometers more. Back with the bike I start the GPS-tracker 1 minute later than time on the receipt.

After less than 12 kilometers I have to stop again: forgot my earplugs. On these first kilometers I must also realize that only half of the people going for the bank holiday went off on Friday. The other half is up and on the road as early as I am. My visualized 'empty road' is crowded. Instead of an average of 150 km/h which I had hoped for speed on the first 300 kilometers is no more than a maximum of 120 km/h - rather less. Instead of two hours it takes me almost three hours to get to my second filling stop in Bremen. Time is now 7.30 AM, temperature shows 15 degrees C. There was a wonderful sun rising over Teutoburger Wald on my right hand. It will probably be a nice and sunny day, not too hot and rather agreeable for a ride like this. A short break, a sticky bun and a cup of coffee - this moning's breakfast.
Further on to Hamburg on the BAB 1 speed is not rising. Before the junction Hamburg-Süd I even have to encounter my first and only traffic jam this day. I have another filling stop here, even if not necessary. Just to prove the most north eastern corner of the route. Turning of unto the BAB 24 to the east to Berlin my dreams come true: the road is empty - almost empty - from here till the end of the ride.

During my planning I calculated an average speed of 67 km/h over the total distance within 24 hours, actually hoping to be able to do about 120 km/h. This would give me a free time limit of 12 hours for filling gas, making pauses, going for some excursions along the road. Indeed average speed over the total of 24 hours has been about 120 km/h with a maximum speed of 200 km/h over specific distances. For those who want to go for a ride like this in central Europe, specifically in Germany, one must realize that the only way to be able to do this within appropriate time is to use mainly highways - German Autobahn. Urban areas and settlements are so dense and speed limit on German A-Roads is limited 100 km/h - or even less - with many unknown (!) speed cameras. You would never be able to do this within the appropriate time.
At first glance this could sound boring. At a second glance my view is that riding along the Autobahn gives you better chances of really enjoying the beauties of the landscape flying by. You don't have to concentrate on a winding road, where you look on the surface of the road, not at nature around you. And there is some mighty beautiful country along the chosen route: Erzgebirge, Vogtland or Frankenwald, Fichtelgebirge, Fränkischen Schweiz or Spessart. Come to Germany, go to these places and you will see what I mean.

Throttle Rocker Open road
Shortly after passing Hamburg I roll onto a parking lot to attach my throttle rocker. Never heard about that ? It's a plain and simple plastic clip to be attached at the end of the gas throttle. Adjusted correctly it clutches the throttle so that you press it with the heel of your hand. The effect is that you don't need to clasp the throttle strongly with your fingers all the time.Very relaxing ! However, it's only to be recommended on a road like this one: constant and steady speed over a longer distance when there is no need to adjust speed permanently. The point is that I have absolutely no tensions or cramps in the body, notably in my right shoulder, as I often have it riding all the day long on even shorter distances.

Alte Ulme Gülitz To avoid only stupid straight motorway riding I have also chosen 4 main specific destinations off the motorway to go for in between, 3 of them on the second half of the route to ensure that my time management works. Every year I participate in the annual Tourer's Germany Contest, organized by the Bundesverbandes der Motorradfahrer e.V. which I am a an active member of. (My page about the Tourer's Germany Contest is only German, unfortunately, but understandable through many pictures). This year the supervisor of the contest has selected a list of 130 old, big or otherwise interesting trees all around Germany. The task is to go to a maximum as 30 of these trees, which, of course, have different scores.
The first tree comes up after about 600 kilometers, half the distance between Hamburg and Berlin, 1/3 of the total distance. It's the old elm tree on the village green in Gülitz, 10 kilometers off the Autobahn 24. 800 years old, a circumference of almost 10 meters. The tree is not that spectacular but big enough and it's one of the highest scores. Including a cup of coffee the trip into the country costs me one hour.
Back on the BAB 24 after another hour I reach Berlin and follow the BAB 10 into Berlin-Pankow for filling gas - proof of the most eastern point of the tour. At the exit Hellersdorf/Vogelsdorf I select biker's number one restaurant Burger King for another rest of one hour. Here I discover the many hundred dead insects sticking on my windscreen. Until the end it's going to be much more: the bike is clogged all over. Well, I don't get anything on my clothes or helmet behind the windscreen. Super Bike ! (have a close-up look at the picture from top of page)

Off-road in the Spreewald
Eating my burger I also have to study the map in detail now. Within the next kilometers I must turn off for the second tree in Storkow-Spreewald, south-east of Berlin. I'm looking for the "Malerkiefer" - the Painter's Pine. Going into Storkow I pass a curious museum with lots of self-made bicycles, all 200 of stainless steel. Radmuseum Storkow Two enormous bikes outside, one shaped like a guitar, the biggest tandem (6 meters long), the bicycle with the smallest front wheel (2 millimeters across), a sex-bike (whatever that may be) and a bicycle 7.8 meters long with 76 back wheels and 228 gear rings. All of them produced by a well-known German Tour-de-France addict named Didi Senft, also called „El Diablo“.

Malerkiefer Storkow "Follow the field path 200 meters south from behind the soccer field to the Pine" - it says in the supervisor's instruction. The field path gets sandy. Two teams are playing soccer. A woman is sitting at the entry selling tickets. I ask her, if she knows where the pine is exactly. What Pine ? A Painter's Pine ? Never heard of ... Oh, well, she remembers, yes sometime tourist's come here for a pine in the woods, but she has never heard about it as a specific attraction to the region. It turns out that she is the mayor of the village ...

At this point it is worth reminding that a PanEuropean with its 320 kilos (adding my own 100 kilos) is not really designed for off-road riding. I have notable difficulties ploughing my jolly jumper through some 500 meters of sandy country track, but the effort is worth it: when thinking of pines and old trees one mostly imagines big and tall trees. Not this one: A few meters above the ground the branches have split to build a wide overhanging roof, bending down to the ground again. The tree is probably 200 to 350 years old with a circumference of almost 5 meters. I still don't find any explanation at all why it is called The Painter's Pine.

According to the map leaving Storkow I had to cross through the biosphere reserve called Unterspreewald to get to the Autobahn BAB 13 direction Dresden, which is my next objective. Should be about 40 Kilometers and a maximum of 20 minutes drive from Storkow, I thought. Quite evidently I must have hit the wrong curve, although it said the right name of the next village on the signpost. Suddenly the paved road ended and again I found myself fighting the famous sand of the Spreewald in the midst of a beautiful and delicious smelling pine forest. I can't stop. If I stop I will dig myself helplessly into the sand - and nobody in sight or within shouting range. I would be lost... I keep going, wavering, wobbling and fluttering on what looks more like a never ending hiking trail, at a more or less constant speed of 20 to 30 km/h in the 3. gear - hoping not to tumble or get stuck in the sand.
At an unknown point I am lucky to hit a paved field path again which leads me back to the regular road, where I intended to go in the first place. My excursion into deeper German botany cost me a lot of swearing, sweat and almost one hour. But: At this point I have managed nearly exactly half of the total route and there are still 13 hours more to go - less than half the distance ahead of me and more than half of time at my disposal. Schedule is OK !

According to plan
The next tree is located in Kaditz near Dresden. I also have to pick up gas. At the filling station I intended to check time, accumulated kilometers and speed from the GPS tracker. I must admit that I did not really take my time to read through the whole of the manual. Anyway, apparently I hit some wrong buttons. All of a sudden the display was empty. I did read, though, how to set up a new tracking log, which I did, hoping that the log file written until now would not be lost or deleted. If you look into GoogleEarth you can see exactly where I hit the wrong buttons. Confidence in modern digital technology ?

Tausendjährige Linde Kaditz In the supervisor's instruction it says: "Kaditz, oak tree, one thousand years old, in front of the church". It's not difficult to find the church, but the tree is not an oak tree, it's a lime tree. Is that a gimmick ? I know the guys writing the instructions. There could indeed be another tree around somewhere - an oak tree. Well, there are no other trees, so this must be it. A badge on the tree tells the story: it's supposedly only 800 years old, maybe even 1,000 - nobody knows exactly. What is known is that it has survived several deadly fires. Circumference is about 10 meters, the trunk was split in two during a storm and fire in 1818 after it saw the church burning twice, in 1429/30 and in 1637. It also survived the fire storm after the bombing of Dresden in 1945. For those who do not knot what happened in Dresden between 13 February and 15 February 1945 read Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Slaughterhouse Five or The Children’s Crusade.

Alte Tanzlinde Limmersdorf The following section takes me via Chemnitz, Zwickau and Hof almost to Bayreuth. At this point I turn right in the direction of Bamberg und Würzburg - Go West - go home. My last tree for today is located near Kulmbach (famous for its beer). It's a very typical German kind of tree from the late middle ages: a so called dancing tree. In this case the Dancing Lime Tree of Limmersdorf. There still are lots of such trees around Germany. In former days people built regular dancing halls into the branches of trees, where they still are dancing and having local festivity even today. The tree was planted by a farmer in 1648, thanking God that the Thirty Years' War was over. The branches are being held by pillars of sandstone. Circumference is about 4.3 meters. Circumference of the dancing hall with the trunk in the middle is almost 15 meters. Really amazing !

Time is now 7.30 PM. The sun is slowly setting ahead of me. I've still got 500 kilometers to go. The roads are empty as before and with an average speed of 150 km/h I could be home in about 3 ½ hours. Non-stop this would be 11 PM. So: time enough for another first class premium dinner at Burger King's in Würzburg.
After an hour I have Würzbug behind me. All of a sudden the GPS tracker turns off. I had read in the manual that the batteries would make it for approx. 15 hours. That could be correct... Out of the corner of my eye I saw an exit within 1000 meters. I turn off to replace the batteries I had with me for this specific purpose. Nothing happens: no display on the tracker. Bad batteries ? What happens, when the tracker gets turned off because of loss of battery power ? Will the log file be saved ? Is everything lost and gone ? Off the Autobahn there is a filling station. I buy some new and fresh batteries. The display stays black... Even if the tracker has worked well until now, I still have 400 kilometers ahead which I cannot track. Has the whole tracking procedure been in vain ? I can't change it now, I have to go on...
Confidence in modern digital technology ?

The end is approaching
Aschaffenburg and Frankfurt fly past. I have decided to loop around Koblenz to ensure enough mileage. Another gas filling in Wiesbaden - now only 200 kilometer ahead, time on the receipt is 10.18 PM. Crossing the river Mosel at Koblenz, wellknown roadsigns now, through Bonn and back on the Autobahn BAB 3 - this morning's filling station ahead...
Ende The entries on the receipt: Siegburg-Ost, 10.05.2008, 11:51 PM, the odometer shows 81,606 Km - the end. Miss Deutsch (remember ?) is on duty - again or still ? According to the odometer I have done 1,747 kilometers in less than 24 hours. According to the probably more reliable GPS tracker I did 1,721 kilometers, 111 more than required. This would imply an inaccuracy of the odometer of 1.48% which is acceptable. The GPS did in deed work all the time. It kept on recording after the battery change, even if I lost 1 kilometer there.
Confidence in modern digital technology !!!

Half an hour later I'm home and in bed after a beer. I'm satisfied and somewhat amazed that I'm not really exhausted or even tired. Falling asleep I start dreaming about the next step on the IronButt ladder: the BunBurner Gold, i.e. 1,500 miles or 2.500 kilometers in 24 hours. This can only work without excursions into nature ! Softies would go for the BunBurner in 36 hours, skipping the gold. Real tough guys go on a 10-day's ride making the distance I did today - each following day... 10,000 miles in 10 days... They must have real iron in their buns ... I just ride till the butt burns...
Asterix would probably say: those crazy Americans...

... my alarm clock will definitely not be ringing at 4 AM this Sunday morning...

The facts of the ride in summary:
Total distance done: 1722 kilometers (1721 logged)
Riding time over all: 19 h. 14 min.
Time only riding: approx. 15 h.
Stopping time over all: approx. 4 h.
Calculated Average speed over the
minimum distance of 1.610 kilometers:
67 km/h
Average speed done over the ride: 115 km/h
Maximum speed during ride: 200 km/h
Average Fuel Consumption: Total: 125,46 Liter/27.60 gallons
7,29 L/100 Km. - or
13,7 Km/L - or
38.76 miles pr. gallon - or
2.57 gallon pr. 100 miles

On 2. Juli 2008 the ride was certified by the Iron Butt Association, membership nummer 33786.

First Addendum:
In May 2013 I did a 2.500 KM BunBurner: Würzburg, Kopenhagen, Bremen, Magdeburg, Leipzig - 2607 kilometres in 35 Hours - limit ist 36 hours.

Second Addendum:
In June 2013 I did another SaddleSore: The German IBA "16-Bundesländer-Tour - 16/24, i.e. all 16 German Bundesländer in less than 24 hours, 1.792 Kilometer, starting via Saarbrücken, Frankfurt, Würzburg, Leipzig, Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen back to Bonn.

Third Addendum:
In July 2015 I also did the Belgian Beer Ride: Visit 21 Belgian breweries all across Belgium and southern parts of Holland within 24 Hours.
I did it with 991 kilometres in 19 hours - approach and retract included: 1673 kilometres in 34 hours.

Fourth Addendum:
In September 2019 the odometer shows 200.000 kilometres - after 3.864 kilometres French Massif Central

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Updated September 2019