Shakedown Rides: Training for a 12 Hour Rally

If you have read my earlier posts, you know that I bought a 250 Ninja that I love (Finally, a motorcycle just for me) and made some significant changes to make it more rideable (Farkles for the Ninjette). In addition, I made a crazy decision to enter a 12-hour rally, which resulted in some needed gear modifications (Body Farkles: Damn, 12 Hours is a Long Time).

For someone who rides as infrequently as I, the thought of riding for 12-hours straight is more than a little daunting. Fortunately, I had the sense to train by doing a series of shakedown rides. These were actually mini-rallies that very closely simulated the requirements I would be faced with on the actual rally. For each ride, Rich developed a list of bonus opportunities and gave me a time-frame. I went through the full exercise of reviewing the bonus list, weeding out the red herrings, routing a doable ride, and executing the plan.

I ended up doing three of these shakedown rides in the two months leading up to the event.

#1: Can I Even Do This?

Rich and I both used this ride to test our computer routing skills. We had the same bonus list and independently plotted our own routes. We would leave our home in Petaluma at the same time and meet for dinner at the Pacifico Restaurant in Calistoga 5 hours later. My route resulted in a beautiful tour of the Sonoma County coastal hills through Sebastopol and Graton, then up to the Alexander and Knights Valley wine regions, then over two sets of mountains into Lake County, and back to Calistoga. I have no idea what Rich did, but I’m pretty sure he got lost because he had been at the restaurant for over an hour by the time I got there.

Important take-aways from Shakedown Ride #1:

  • My new helmet needed some more break-in time. I developed an unpleasant jaw pain on the left side of my face. It finally subsided, but I was concerned.
  • My StreetPilot needed a sun visor (a common issue)
  • I definitely need a throttle lock
  • The changes we had made to my seat and riding position were perfect

#2: Riding in the Rain

I deliberately picked a very rainy day for the second ride. Rain is always a possibility in Utah and I needed to boost my riding confidence and test my gear. For this 3-hour ride, I went directly out to the coast (Tomales), headed south on Hwy 1 to Marin County, then came home on the freeway. I still had my bonus list to deal with, which meant managing cameras, Sharpies and paperwork in the rain.

Important take-aways from Shakedown Ride #2:

  • I needed a better plan for managing my paperwork than stuffing it into the chest pocket of my jacket. By the time I got to the first bonus question, it was a soggy unusable mess.
  • The time to put your over-gloves on is at the first hint of rain, not after your regular gloves are already soaked through.
  • My jacket and pants needed to be doused with Scotch-Guard
  • Hwy 1 sucks in the rain, not because of the wetness, but because of the mud, gravel, and eucalyptus droppings.
  • Riding in the rain isn’t as scary as it seems, as long as you stay away from the paint on the pavement (crosswalks, arrows, letters)

#3: Getting Serious About Distance

Rich had entered the Cal 24 Rally, which ended with a banquet at a hotel in San Jose. We thought it would be fun to have my final shakedown ride end there so I could join the participants for dinner. This was an 8-hour plan – first to San Francisco, then down the coast all the way to Castroville, over to 101, up 580 to Pleasanton, then back to the hotel in San Jose. This was the first ride that would require me to refuel (both the bike and my body), which adds the elements of fuel planning and time management. It was also going to entail a greater temperature variation than I had encountered before, which was going to put my riding gear to the test. It was chilly at 6am when I left home, but rose to the 80s mid-day in the valley.

Important take-aways from Shakedown Ride #3:

  • It isn’t as easy to average 45 mph when you have to stop for necessities in addition to bonus questions
  • The helmet problem identified on Ride #1 had disappeared – break-in was complete
  • The LDComfort top and tights worked as advertised – I never felt the need to add or shed any clothing
  • I survived 8 hours with a reasonable average speed, which made me pretty confident I could do 12.
  • That evening, I learned to manage the wind, as I found myself in an evil gusty cross-wind for most of the ride home.

With those three rides under my belt, my training was complete. All that was left to do was get to Utah and run the rally.

Next up: 2011 Utah 1088, Part I: Final Preparations

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