Iron Butt Madness

Think you've got what it takes to be an Iron Butt Mile Eater? Check out their site for more details.
Think you've got what it takes to be an Iron Butt Mile Eater? Check out their site for more details.
Think you’ve got what it takes to be an Iron Butt Mile Eater? Check out their site for more details.

You think the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally is insane? Well, of course it is, actually, and don’t kid yourself otherwise.

But the bi-annual Iron Butt Rally (perhaps it’s a cosmic coincidence that the two rallies run within a couple of weeks of one another every odd year – which itself seems appropriate) takes craziness on two wheels to another level.

Let’s see, 11 days, averaging about 1,000 miles (yes, that’s 1,609 km) every day, and dashing all over North America from Prudhoe Bay to Key West – not kidding, here – looking for bonus points to make things more difficult. Speaking as someone who’s done 1,827 km in 22 hours on an Iron Butt-sanctioned event, I have to say this is well past mad, and definitely in the psychotic range.

I find it irresistibly fascinating to follow the day-by-day commentary of each event. It’s sort of like picking at a scab; it hurts, you know you shouldn’t do it, but you can’t resist. The tales of woe, disaster, screw-ups, and general nut-barness evoke a bizarre fascination.

This year’s winner, his first top-place finish, was a chap named Derek Dickson, who managed 11,799 miles (18,985 km) and 92,524 points on a 2005 Yamaha FJR1300. Second, third, fifth, and sixth also went to FJR13s, which has to say something for that bike’s reliability and short-term/long-term (if you get my drift) livability. Other bikes in the top 10 included two BMW R1200GS’s, a Honda ST1100, a Honda Gold Wing, and a 1994 BMW R1100RSL, the oldest bike to crack the top 10 (there were 99 starters – again, same as the Mad Bastard).

Dickson apparently racked up his miles, points, and victory by taking no chances, riding like hell to hit the maximum bonuses, and of course staying out of trouble. The route this year comprised two loops from Rally Headquarters just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first, if you did it right, took you north through the U.S. to the border at the Sault, then east to PEI, then back to Pittsburgh. So there’s your first four days.

The second loop required you to ride to a checkpoint in Rancho Cordova, California (not far from Sacramento) and back, with bonus checkpoints on the way west ranging from hitting more than 30 checkpoints on the Pony Express Trail, or collecting a photo at the top of Pikes Peak, and on the way back east from north of Calgary to Key West. Two guys did BOTH the Pony Express route AND the Pikes Peak bonus – one of them, Eric Jewell, looked to have a lock on the win until he had a walking-speed tip-over entering Presidio Park in San Francisco and broke an ankle …

Several others made it to Pikes Peak but blew their photo ops, which required a picture of the bike in the parking lot at the top of the mountain. One poor sod, Kevin Lechner, took a picture of his bike at the bottom of the mountain, then rode the cog railway up, about a three-hour trip, to get a picture of the top. Half-way there, he re-read the instructions and realized he needed to have his bike up there …

Perhaps the guy I felt most sorry for was a chap named Brian Bumpas. He’d had a tough first leg and was struggling, but on Day 6 at a gas stop he opened the top box on his Gold Wing and in an instant every paper in it was blowing down the highway, including, of course, his irreplaceable receipts and route sheets. Salud and sayonara, Brian.

Speaking as an Olde Farte, I feel compelled to mention John Frick, who finished 25th with 10,238 miles on his 2009 BMW K1200LT. Why is 25th worth mentioning? John is 70 years old, the oldest chap ever to finish the Iron Butt and perhaps the maddest bastard of all. Well done, John!.

The stories really are incredible. Anyone interested in lots more detail can find it here.

And if any MBSR contestants think they’re Iron Butt material for 2015, the web site will let you know who to have your doctor contact.


  1. You should really talk to Bob Munden of Windsor, to plumb the depths of madness a human being is capable of given enough time on a small bike. 🙂

  2. Sounds fun to try if ya can afford the bills at this point I couldn’t. But sounds like a bast.

  3. I’ve ridden with an know 5 competitors in this years rally. Each and every one of them possess the ability to think beyond the autonomic while extremely fatigued and, are absolute beasts of riders. I’ve done an all Ontario Iron Butt ride (1767km in 19hrs – Sudbury – SSM – Wawa – Timmins – North Bay – Orillia and then back to Sudbury) so I have a frame reference for the following statement.

    Before medical science comes up with a cure for mental illness, they’re going to have to deal with ice-racers and Iron Butt Rally participants first.

  4. What humans will do for a challenge … I would do this event if I could dress up in a stupid costume and make my bike look as ridiculous … okay, maybe not … but there is something vaguely intriguing about this event … okay, maybe not.

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