Adam John Bell



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2005 MinuteMan1000 SaddleSore1000 ride

During the dodgy months of January and February, Adam and Rupert decided to take part in the Minuteman 1000. This is an annual event presented by the North East LD Riders and the Yankee Beemers club, and sponsored by Max BMW Motorcycles, offering an Iron Butt Association Certified Saddle Sore 1000 route in addition to the typical 24-hour competitive rally.

We decided to ride the SS1000 route, which we thought would be an experience and a memorable day. Having ridden an undocumented 1000 mile route on a return from North Carolina via Interstate roads, Rupert was expecting a difficult but achievable ride. Adam had never turned in a 1000 mile day and was looking forward to it.

Rupert rode his 1999 Triumph Sprint ST. Adam rode his 2005 Triumph Tiger. This is Adam's post-ride write-up.

Suggested route


Adam's route

PRE-RIDE: HOME TO GREENFIELD MA

I am feeling pretty fan-fucking-tastic as I leave home for the meet with Rupert at Moto Market. Half an hour later I realize I'd forgotten any shoes but the Sidi boots I was wearing, and stop at EMS in Acton for a pair of flip-flops. When I get to Moto Market, I find Rupert who'd already lost 20lbs by lane-splitting his way out of the city in eighties heat. We decide to have a lemonade and bugger off pronto.

It's in blazing heat and humidity that we ride out of Moto Market for Greenfield on Friday evening, by way of Route 2 which is stacked to the nuts with traffic and threatening to make us late for the 6pm registration deadline and fuck the whole weekend into a cocked hat. From the tall vantage point of standing up on the pegs of the Tiger, all I see is a line of cars stretched out into the distance. In Leominster we decide to bail out of Route 2 and find an alternative route, only to find the offramp backed up too. Then, as if by magic, the cars on Route 2 start to move along at a fair clip. Fucker! Aborting the offramp by means of a U-turn over a three quarter foot median (much to the chagrin of the bellypan on Rupert's ST, which apparently was not designed with curb-hopping in mind) we return to 2 and hoof it out to Greenfield with five minutes to spare. The IBA dudes are already wagging their fingers. What fucking amateurs to arrive so close to the deadline, they say, we've been here for hours polishing our GPS screens and sharpening up the tubes on our catheters!

On our empty-tanked arrival at the Greenfield Inn at the intersection of 2 and 91, we are sent off on an 18-mile loop to check the calibration of our odometers. Fortunately we have just enough fuel left, so this is largely a dull and uneventful affair, although perhaps I freak out a guy on a cruiser that we pass going into an offramp corner by slipping out my back tire a bit under braking. I don't see him arrive at the Stop sign behind us so hopefully he didn't wig out and bin it.

After a quick shower and unloading the bikes, we check in and arrive late to the dinner to find 50 or so other riders there, most of whom seem to be long-distance rally veterans and some of whom appear to be quite seriously socially-impaired. After a bite, the Rallymaster geezer takes the stand and gives us the full monty about the score for the rally, then everyone turns in a disclaimer and collects a package containing a rally flag (used to verify objectives with a Polaroid camera by the competitive riders) and objectives and routes. At this point we begin to form an impression which would be reinforced later, that the big boys of the IBA get a certain kick out of enforcing the rules, documentation, and ride logging components of competitive rallying. More on that later.

Afterwards we go to check out the bikes the hardcore endurance guys are on. Many BMWs in evidence, along with a couple of FJRs, a couple of Honda STs, some Wings, a bunch of Harley dressers, an English bloke on a Z-Rex 1100 and a small mob of café-style lads including the bloke on the Thunderbird Sport who some of you will have seen at Moto Market on Thursday nights. So in a nutshell, lots of armchair rigs with massive screens, lots of auxiliary fuel cells, lots of GPS kit and digital music. Apart from one bike with confusing plumbing running down the side of it, no evidence thus far of catheterization being performed which is a good sign that everyone will be leaving at the end of the weekend with one untarnished japseye apiece.

After that, it becomes clear that the rally die-hards who will be going for points on Saturday are destined to be spending the night in their rooms poring over maps, laptops, and MapSource software. There is a very minimal social component to these meetings, it would appear. We decide to fuck off for a few beers at Applebees, and get chatting with one of the rally staff who is a nice if slightly dull ex-Navy bloke and an experienced long-distance rider with five or six retired 100-200k mile Gold Wings in his resume. At close to midnight we manage to get away from him and go back to the hotel to crank up the A/C and crash out.

MM1K: GREENFIELD MA TO SWANTON VT (207 miles)

At 4:30am when we wake up, it is quite pleasantly warm and we load up our bikes to get into the cordoned-off start area for the 5:30 rider's meeting. The Rallymaster gives it one last announcement on the topic of late-breaking changes and safety, and at 6am we all get the green light. The good news is that the farm in Swanton, which is the first objective for Rupert and I, will be open from 9am instead of 11. Thank Christ for that - there is no fucking way we can spend five hours getting a couple hundred miles up I-91.

We have our odometers checked one more time for good measure and then we are out of there, with Rupert and I straight onto I-91 heading 207 miles North to a farm in Vermont where we'd be buying some maple syrup and bagging the receipt as our first checkpoint.

Not far from Swanton and around the Burlington area, I get the impression we've overtaken everyone who left ahead of us and are making good time at a steady 80/90 with only some minor problems related to fog getting in our way so far. We need a fuel stop before getting into the sticks, spend 15 minutes trying to locate the onramp to rejoin 91 afterwards, and are rocking and rolling.

At the Carmen Brook Farm in Swanton, just a short distance from the Highgate Springs border post and down a dirt road only a few miles off Route 91, we arrive to buy maple syrup and collect a receipt as evidence that we were there. We don't stay long because we are looking forward to the backroad route across Vermont - unfortunately these two sausage dogs at the farm have got Rupert thinking breakfast, so we'll have to make another stop before long.

MM1K: SWANTON VT TO BANGOR ME (359 back road miles)

We ride for about half an hour before breakfast at a diner stops our progress, but that proves to be enough time for Rupert to impress one of the BMW LDriders that's following us with a quite earnest kneedragging attempt on a sharp left-hander. The bloke comes up to us the next day and tells us how much he liked it, so it clearly leaves an impression.

Breakfast, at a place called Leon's café, is the dog's bollocks and they even know how to cook eggs properly. Unfortunately it is already heating up to be a fucking scorcher and we are both sweating our plums off in full leathers when we arrive. It doesn't take us too long to eat brekkie, and we only manage to amuse one or two locals with our colorful language before Rupert makes the first of several unsuccessful and frustrating attempts at taking a dump, and we get back on the bikes to get some more miles in.

It is now somewhere between ten and eleven o'clock, and it is really quite fucking hot and sticky already. Nevertheless, soon we are well into the groove on a route across Vermont modified using roads from the Northern segment of the Camp Meade loop. It is really good to be back up there and I am remembering last year's ride in a great group led by Ken Mitchell as we pass through Jay.


Hazens Notch Road provides us with five or ten miles of dirt road and proves to be a great opportunity for two surprising things to happen:
  • For me to find that, because my tire pressures are to the fucking moon, the Tiger is all over the shop.
  • For Rupert to be appointed chairman of the Sprint ST Motorcross Association after his 60mph attack on loose gravel track. Later a lot of the cruiser guys tell us they shat themselves when they started down that road, but Rupert really fucking owned it.

A couple of towns later we are making a stop for some fuel, and for Rupert to begin a gradual downward spiral thanks to a combination of unperforated full leathers and the heat. In perfs, I am doing relatively well by comparison, although at any stop I am sweating up a fucking storm. Anyway, he decides to have an ice lolly in an attempt to lower his core temperature. I suggest he shoves it up his bum for some short-term air conditioning but, perhaps as a result of having thus far missed his morning constitutional, he apparently thinks this is a total non-starter of an idea.

Back on it, I'm leading and in the extreme heat wondering how long Rupert's got until a terminal plot loss event. We pass through Canaan and are generally making decent time, with population and digits-per-household numbers dropping away as we enter very sparse territory and some pissing rain that makes the roads as slick as all buggery. We both get a few moments of rear wheel excitement over the tar snakes here and there, and visibility is generally shite thanks to the light misting of helmet that needs wiping away every ten seconds. Although the rain is refreshing, we're stuffed behind a line of cars and there are no decent overtaking opportunities to be had based on the available traction. I have a brief pop at it and break grip crossing the centerline, so pull back in and think again while performing a quick underpants inventory.

Eventually the rain clear and it's all going well again. Rupert seems to have reached the point of exhilaration that precedes extreme heat exhaustion and is going for it like he’s on amphetamines, reporting the achievement of an (indicated) 140mph personal best in the process by the time I catch him up. Soon we hit Farmington and the heavens open, it's raining cats dogs and the rest of the zoo, and the whole thing upshifts to thunder and lightning mode all around us. I decide to stop at a gas station because we need the fuel and neither of us respond well to high voltages, particularly with Rupert's pacemaker being out of warranty. As I get on the brakes a huge clap of thunder rings out, making me think for a second that he's failed to see my brake lights, thrown on the anchors too hard, and binned it on the brakes. Turns out not of course, and one pants evaluation later all is well with the World and we're under cover filling up the Triumphs.

Thunderstorm continues so we go to a gaff across the road for fish and chips and coffee, both of which are generally contrary to the long-distance rider wisdom, but a lot more fun than granola bars and Gatorade.

Back on the bikes after lunch, which takes far too long, and it's already five something, we're just beginning to suspect we're getting a bit shagged for time. We need to get up to I-95 pronto and get a receipt from the gas station beyond Bangor ME, because it's still a decent way off and will still only be the halfway point of the ride.

We do our best on the average roads that remain, and hit I-95 North at 90mph. The temperature is superb now because it's early evening and the rain has helped clear the air, but we have the feeling that the easy stretch is over and life is going to get worse before it gets better.

MM1K: BANGOR ME TO WYOMING RI (329 miles)

At the gas station in Bangor, we sit down and look at the way we stand. It's about 7pm and we have both had a long 500 mile day that started at 4:30am and included 360 miles of backroading. We are mentally about ready to wind down. In a nutshell we're fucking knackered, and even if we were just going home now it would have been a long day out.

Unfortunately there is the small matter of five hundred and twenty or so miles of New England that we have to ride before we can do so. We knew it was a 24 hour ride, but we had been assuming we could nail it in 18 or so. Which can be done, but not with 3-400 miles of backroading through Vermont thrown in. We're now looking at finishing around 2am if we are lucky. We talk casually about whether we should actually finish this thing at all, and decide to postpone the decision until the Boston area. We're charging down I-95 anyway so we have plenty of time to think about it. It seems like we don't have any option but to get it done - the gas station attendant in Bangor asked us why most people were riding BMWs and we weren't, which reinforced the need not to let the side down.

As we go South, we're managing a steady 80-90 but I keep seeing signs that remind me we're fucking miles away. Eventually we reach Portland and I start thinking that in spite of the fact that we're killing more bugs than Raid and are back into the chilly wet fog, we must be doing well now, because it's only two hours out of Boston. We stop for 5 minutes at a toll booth to clear our visors, because we're practically blind thanks to the forty thousand bugs that we've nailed in the last two hours. Shortly afterwards we need gas again, because we've done a full tank's worth since Bangor, so we hit the roadside services. We discuss whether or not to go for it or to abandon the plan of completing the 1000 or so miles. Rupert says he feels good, so we decide to go for it.

More time and more road passes and we start seeing familiar signs, passing I-495 and realizing we are now on our own turf. It's now been dark for a couple of hours, and around Topsfield, I start becoming aware that my eyes are really having a hard time of it, because when I shift focus between two objects, they take a while to catch up with my brain. For all I know it might be the other way around, but the net result is that I am having a fucking hard time staying focused.

Rupert is now going for it around 128, which means we will be taking on the lunatic traffic circling Boston in Combat Mode. I'm not sure whether he has really lost the thread or whether he's just determined, but it doesn't really matter because we both know we have to finish the job.

So, we're setting phasers to kill and maintaining a steady 85 on 128 South. It occurs to me briefly at the Route 30 exit that what really sucks is passing the exit for the town you live in, because you know you're fifteen minutes from bed, and bed is where I want very badly to be.

I'm not sure entirely what happened after 128, but before I know it we are in Providence RI. I don't know it very well but it seems very busy, especially considering that it's got to be something like one in the morning. I think the pubs must be turning out. Fortunately I don't really know how the exit numbering works and I've stopped looking at my GPS, so I'm just hoping that every exit will prove to be the one for the gas station we need a receipt from. Eventually it is, and we're at something like 870 miles and in Wyoming, RI.

MM1K: WYOMING RI TO MILFORD CT (80 miles)

I do not find it hard at all to believe we've covered 350 miles since Bangor, because I was mildly fatigued when we left Moose country, and now I feel like I have been headfucked by one. We might have done 850 odd miles, but we still have over 200 to cover and things are getting distinctly questionable from a safety standpoint.

Physically I seem to be doing alright, the pain in my shoulders that I woke up with hasn't got a great deal worse, the Tiger has about three ways of using the seat and bars that enable you to switch things up to avoid developing strains in any particular place, but my eyes hurt and they don't work properly and I am certain that my reaction times and judgement have both gone completely tits up. The only good news is that Rupert seems to be having exactly the same problems, and has taken to hanging his feet off the pegs most of the time to stretch his legs and help stay awake.

The good news is we meet another late rider who's on a tiny little Shadow 750 cruiser. He's riding solo, only getting 110 to a tank, only cruising at 65, but he's been doing that same pace all day long, seems happy, and he thinks he can do it.

Either way though it doesn't matter now, we are committed, and hip-hip-hurrah for us because after a coffee and a bit of cake I am leading us off to Milford CT.

MM1K: MILFORD CT TO GREENFIELD MA (109 miles)

In Milford not much happens that didn't happen at Wyoming, except Rupert walks across the road to a truck stop to have his second dump of the day because there was no paper at the gas station we stopped at. We're now around three in the morning or so, and trying very very hard to stay awake. I've been opening my jacket and pulling my t-shirt down to let more cold air in, and talking to myself, which seem to help a bit although it's a bit pathetic.

I have another piece of cake and some coffee, fuck the Iron Butt people and their talk of hydration levels and caffeine, and fuck everyone in the whole world. It's still the best part of a tank of gas back to Greenfield and I haven't got a clue how we will make it, but we don't have much option so we're going to have to.

I also have half a can of Red Bull which Rupert doesn't want. It is just as well he doesn't drink it, because he later decides that the half a can that he did drink made him hallucinate.

We see the Shadow 750 bloke again because we've spent long enough trying to get our shit together that he's caught up. He's on his last legs too but coping really well. He's on a tarty bike and he's way out of shape but he's got a windscreen the size of Jupiter, he's optimistic, and he's tooling along like a champion.

Before we leave, I knock off another couple of smokes while sending a text to the wife because we've been in the saddle constantly and I haven't been able to talk to her as I said I would. I tap in some stuff about how I love her and I'll see her in the morning. Partly because I am shit at texting and partly because I know it would be stupid to do so, I neglect to text her the message "This is an otherworldly experience, a totally fucked up rollercoaster, and I'm sure I might buy the farm by daybreak so if that happens look after the rabbits and don't ever remarry because we're all fucking idiots."

To cut a long story short, the remaining one hundred and whatever miles to Greenfield are a total fucking blur. Rupert is convinced he is seeing things that are not there, because it's getting difficult to discern vehicles from non-vehicles. I keep having brief episodes of thinking "What's that in front of me. It's Rupert. On his motorcycle. Wow!" Which can't mean anything good. We make one stop for the man to have a slash and oddly enough Shadow 750 chap pops off at exactly the same exit because he also needs a jimmy. I ask Rupert if the rendez-vous was planned and would they like to be alone for five minutes? He says not.

I knock off another couple of cancer sticks, and we do another half hour of oblivious semi-autopilot riding until we reach the hotel.


The rally checkpoint is now open because it's five in the morning. Everyone should finish by six. We are done and it's been 23 hours and 1100 odd miles, and we really want to get to fucking bed pronto. Even though I seem to have entered a fugue state, I observe that two interesting things happen:
  • Sitting down at a table to get checked out, Rupert explains his ride documentation to the IBA bloke and tells him he used a trick they explained to us beforehand, which involves getting an ATM statement as proof of visiting a checkpoint, because he couldn't get one from the gas pump. Having enlightened one of the uninitiated to the thrills of gathering documentary evidence to verify your ride, the guy clearly has a serious wobbly and is so excited that he spontaneously comes in his knickers.
  • I have a quite loud set-to with the rally official who tries to give me a hard time about not completing my odometer readings at each checkpoint. I am really trying to tell him that I don't give a fuck about points and I don't give a fuck about competition, I have done my 1100 odd miles which is all I set out to do, and now I seriously need to fucking sleep. I am trying to explain it without using the word "fuck". As it turns out, this is something I am not capable of in my present condition.

I unload my bike and go back to the hotel room, where Rupert is already renting a room in the land of nod. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow for four blissful hours before we have to wake up for the breakfast and post-ride meeting nonsense.

I did not realize until the next morning that Rupert had inexplicably lubed his chain before going to bed. After 23 hours and over 1000 miles, there was no way I was lubing fucking anything.

POST-RIDE: GREENFIELD MA TO HOME

After the post-ride brekkie which is really good, we find we both had the Saddlesore 1000 in the can in spite of the IBA bloke's pissing and moaning, which is good stuff. Seems a few people called in to say they were dropping out, and a few more people were disqualified on technicalities, which must really suck since they did the miles.

Seems a few of the rally blokes knocked out 1300 miles which shows what can be done if you plan your time properly.

We all get a fleece from Max BMW, whose stock continues to go through the roof in my opinion. They support riders, care, provide fantastic service, and are massive enthusiasts. It is enough to make you turn double agent, get a second mortgage, and buy Bavarian just to thumb your nose at the Triumph dealers for making you feel like they're doing you a favor by taking your money.

We head out via a NeDoD meet in Lancaster where Rupert wants to say hello to some people, and via Moto Market. It's very very hot but all good at this point because we're going home.


Key learning experiences:
  • Our bikes performed flawlessly through a wide range of conditions and never gave us a moment of doubt. At several stops, Rupert felt the need to reiterate how much he loves his Sprint ST, and that it's the best bike in the World. Which may be true. He fully exploits everything the ST is capable of, and it is difficult to imagine him making more out of anything else. I enjoyed the ride on the Tiger. It is a totally capable sport touring bike. The riding position is superb. Could do with better wind protection and stronger anchors on the front.
  • The guys who do this stuff a lot do not succeed because they hammer it. They keep a solid pace but they focus on seat time versus stop time. This is why they are so into fuel cells. There is no way you can exceed their pace enough to make up for an extra five minutes at a gas stop doing zero MPH. They will always make better time than you.
  • Just because we did not witness catheters in use, does not mean they do not use them. This was a short ride compared with the Iron Butt Rally or the 10/10ths for example.
  • We did not realize how much difference 360 miles of back roads would make. The organizers has said that the hardest part about doing a SS1000 in New England was crossing West-to-East in Vermont and Maine. They were right.
  • Rupert had prior experience of knocking off an undocumented Saddlesore 1000 by riding back home from North Carolina in 18 hours. This turned out to be a different experience, and he found it was mentally easier riding towards home and doing the thousand on Interstate roads. The incentive to get home is much stronger than the incentive to complete an arbitrary route and end up at a hotel that's nowhere near home.
  • Passing near home after seventeen hours of riding, and with 250 miles left, is not an easy thing to accomplish and quite demoralizing.
  • There are a bunch of oddballs associated with the Iron Butt Association, and there is a certain level of anal government worker obsessiveness with rules and documentation, which they really toss their cookies over. In spite of that, you have to be totally impressed with these people as riders, they get together and knock out 1500 miles each and everybody comes back tired but safe, having experienced all the weather and road conditions that North America has to throw at them. You don't want to become one, but there is a lot to learn from these blokes, they have it down to a science.
  • Using a hydration tool like a Camelbak or tank bag reservoir is critical in any hot weather riding. You need to stay hydrated or you will lose focus and kill yourself. You also need to do it gradually, because consuming a liter of water at every gas stop is just going to have you wanting a piss a quarter of an hour later.
  • Red Bull can pump you up and make you pretty aggressive. However, according to Rupert, it may also cause hallucination. Well maybe not, but it's nearly given me a heart attack once or twice and should be approached with caution.