Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Preparing for the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge
Ask any Hoka Hey Rider how they prepared for the Challenge and you may get a myriad of answers but they will all tell you they did a number of extensive rides to prepare their body for the grueling event. If you are a casual rider and plan to ride the Challenge without preparing your mental and physical stamina then you are in for a very difficult few days. I say few days because it will be extremely difficult to complete the Challenge without some stringent and extreme preparation. Even if you are a rider who has a number of Iron Butts under your belt there is a significant difference between doing an extensive ride (800 to 1000 miles) in a single day and doing a number of extensive rides day after day for 10 or 12 days. Get some saddle time and push yourself. It has been said any endeavor of this magnitude is 20% stamina and 80% determination. That may be true but do not discount the 20% and do not rely solely on the 80%.
Have a friend create a route for you and ensure your friend gives you no indication of which direction or where the ride will take you. You can give him a target range for miles depending on your availability of time, indicate interstates are not allowed, desire at least a turn every 50 miles or so but also have 5 or 6 turns within 10 miles at some point then sit back and wait for the route. Don’t cheat, do not ask your friend’s spouse to spy for you. The morning of the planned ride, straddle your bike, take the directions from your friend and leave; no GPS allowed. This will give you a taste of what the Challenge will be, but only a small taste. I say that because you and your friend have ridden together a number of times. Chances are the route created includes a number of roads you are familiar with and you know, beforehand, exactly where that next turn is, and what is around that turn, long before you get there… not so with the Challenge.
DO NOT rely on energy drinks to get you through the day (and night). If you are tired and feel yourself nodding off do not think a chugged cup of coffee or a quick energy drink will get you through. Stop, get some sleep and re-energize yourself for the next day. You are not Superman or Wonder Woman, your body requires (emphasis on requires) sleep, food and water. I am not a Doctor or a Nutritionist, in fact I’m not really that smart at all, but I believe it best to eat small portions several times a day rather than large meals 3 times a day like you may be used to. Drink plenty of water. I usually go through about 20 to 30 ounces of water for each tank of gas. You are going to encounter every form of weather pattern; heat, rain, sand, high wind, cold (possibly including sleet, snow and hail) and some of these you will encounter from one extreme to the other in a single day. It is hard for your body to adjust to these extreme changes and therefore takes its toll on your strength and cognitive ability. Here is a major mistake many succumb to. You are tired, hungry and thirsty but figure you will “man-up” and ignore it and, rather than stop and take care of these needs, you continue and log miles thinking you are making progress. Big mistake. Your body and mind needs these things to operate efficiently. Without them you lose cognitive ability which opens the door for you to make the wrong turn, miss a turn or have an accident because your reaction time has been affected. Rather than waste 4 hours going 200 miles out of your way, use the 4 hours to sleep. I tell you this from experience.
There is no reason a prepared rider cannot average 800 miles a day and still get in 4 to 6 hours of sleep, and sustenance needed to efficiently sustain themselves. Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare?
Determine what to pack and not to pack. The worst thing you can do is over pack, but I think everyone pretty much does it. But there are extremes you must avoid. Each rider is different but for me packing consists of protection from the environmental; rain and light, but wind resistant protection. As far as clothing is concerned, again personal preference, so for me it is more of a socks, underwear and T-Shirt thing; I do not take large numbers of pants and shirts; in fact I pack only one pair of pants for a change sometime during the ride and either wear or pack only one long sleeve shirt. If you’re looking to make a fashion statement during your ride then maybe the Challenge is not your forte. It will not matter how or what you pack; ultimately there are going to be items you will never use and there will be items you wished you had. That’s just the way it is. Ideally, the item you need but do not have will be an item easily acquired somewhere along the road.
Make sure you have ready access to a fuel booster. There will be times you will need fuel but the highest octane at the only gas station within 100 miles is 83; that fuel booster will come in handy. Not to insult anyone’s intelligence but most bottles of fuel booster has enough for a 20 gallon tank. A full bottle in you tank might make your bike run really great for a time, but I suspect that “time” may be short lived—and expensive.
Take some windshield cleaner. You’ll need it. Take bug spray; you’ll need that too. A rain proof poncho will come in handy when sleeping at the corner of No Street and Where Avenue. Sleeping bags, air mattress, tents… all personal preferences. Experience taught me the 1st night of the 2013 Challenge that setting up a tent is not worth your time.
It is best to leave the house with new tires. If your tires have 10-15K on them and you ride 2000 miles to get to the starting line to start the Challenge then, depending on your brand of tire, you may want to budget a purchase of tires at one of the Checkpoints. A soft tire is best. It will wear quicker, but it holds the road better. The only thing between you and road rash are those two 3X5 inch patches of rubber on the road; soft wears quicker but is sticky, durable lasts longer but slides quicker. Sticky is good, sliding is bad. Of course your bike should be freshly serviced and you should expect to get a service perhaps somewhere along mid-point.
Take a camera. Take the time to use the camera, use it not and you will regret it. If you stopped very hour for 2 minutes to take a picture then not only will you have a bunch of really cool pictures, but you have given your body 2 minutes every hour to improve some circulation. That 2 minute break every hour will pay big dividends when you hit that 18 hour mark. A Go-Pro or Contour video camera is a great thing to have to capture those instantaneous events. Of course, experience has shown me, I seldom had them running when an “instantaneous event” popped up, but sometimes they were. Get some good mounts to secure them to your ride. Not to sanction any specific brand, but I find Ram Mounts are among the best. Easy to install and very sturdy.
One last thing (even though I could go on and on). When I rode the 2013 Challenge I did the research, I prepared myself, I prepared my bike, I packed and unpacked, packed again then again and again and… well, you get the idea. I was 100% prepared for every inevitability; or so I thought.
At 5:30AM the morning of the start of the 2013 Challenge I was very proud of myself for my intellectual approach and unsurpassed accomplishments thus far. Then I looked at the other bikes and realized I had not once thought of a way to hold the directions for easy reading at a glance while tooling down the road. I had nothing. I was screwed.
I said all that to say this. Regardless of how much you prepare, there is going to be something you missed. Don’t let it get you down; it’s all part of the Challenge.
The Challenge is hard and can be risky. Intentionally adding risk makes it harder and WILL increase the likelihood of accident. Chancing another 100 miles for the day when you have been in the saddle for 18 hours already may seem like a good idea at the time, but may end badly for you and your family. That extra 100 miles is not worth it.
Hoka Hey! And good luck.