The ‘Iron Butt’ Ride: Saddle Sore 1600k - 1650 Kilometers in 19.5 Hours!
31-July-2011 : 2:55 AM to 10:35 PM - 1650 Kilometers - 19.5 Hours!
Good things always come at a price, and at its own pace. And i got my price by buying a *Pre Worshipped* Kawasaki Ninja 250R, which helped me successfully complete the Saddle Sore ride. There is some thing called Riding, and also something known as Endurance Riding. I was induced to the term “World’s Toughest Motorcycle Riders” some 5 years back while browsing ADV Rider forum. I was not a fan of endurance riding and always thought riding was for fun and should not be burdened.
Fast forward to 2011, I can say I’m more of a tourer, the little biker in me sometimes aggravates and tries to show off. After buying the Ninja 250R, I wanted to start up the riding season in a better, bigger and unusual way. I was a Ninja newbie, Don't know how the electrical’s work, where the radiator is located, nor the simple DIY to diagnose issues with the bike. It was one fine Saturday morning, I was at work seeing video’s on Facebook (that’s what ever one does at work is it not?) I chanced upon a video of a guy explaining what a KLR 650 is capable of & why he rides and mentioned “Ride Safe. Travel Far. Do it Soon” The riding fantasy stuck me badly. I have not had a bigger trip on the Ninja yet (in the first week of owning it) - I had an off next day (Sunday), but had to be back on Monday for work. A quick search on recent travelogues in the forum had a new fashion called “Saddlesore” - So many senior (serious) tourers have accomplished or wanted to accomplish the feat. I browsed through few logs, and i asked myself “Why not a SaddleSore?”
The hour was spent reading the Iron Butt Association’s website, the ground rules and downloaded the forms. I asked my colleague working that night to be ready to be a witness and left home for a early dinner.Just like any other ride, the day before you dont get to sleep. And for a bigger ride like this - Sleep is what you ideally need for a better riding day. I was sleep deprived for sometime but eventually slept for some 4 hours. I got up at 2 AM, the whole world seems to sleeping, and at the tiniest of the noise my mom wakes up checking what i am up-to. I asked her to make some coffee and i goto take a bath. 2:30 AM, I was all set for the ride. Now, what do i tell my parents where i am going? i didn’t tell them anything specific - My dad too woke up in the Clatter, wishing me a safe ride. I just murmured “I’m going out for a ride, Will be home for Dinner!”
I started the bike, let it idle for some time to get the engine running in optimum temperature. I fondly touched the tank and said - ‘Boy, its gonna be a tough day - hope you would not let me down’. Waving bye to my parents, i started off from home. 2:45 AM - I reached Chennai Airport, hoping to fill up in the usual BP pump, but they wont accept credit cards nor give a receipt at this time. Rolled on to couple other nearby pumps - same result - but thankfully the fourth pump agreed to give a receipt upon making a cash payment - The receipt showed 2:54 AM / 31-July-2011 - Ran to the nearby ATM to get another receipt, just to be on the safer side. I calmly plugged in my headphones, wiped off the visor and started the ride by 3:05 AM.
“2:55 AM, Chennai Airport - Starting Point - Fuel - Odometer Reading 14844”
It started drizzling as soon as i hit the highway, ‘Enna Sodhanada Idhu’ I told myself (Tamil for what a setback already) - It was some how a relief once i was out of the city, the temperature is cool and rain did not really bother much. The Riding posture somehow got onto me, as though i had ridden the bike all my life. The rain stopped in a while, and with hardly any traffic i was keeping at a sedate 120 Kmph. I rode on and on, without a thought of stopping. When you ride, some 1000 thoughts crisscross your mind. One such was Praveen’s mention of fuel range of the Ninja was around 250 Kilometers only. Since this was the first time i was riding the Ninja for a longer time - I was in two minds whether to go till Trichy for fuel stop or to figure out some fuel pump mid way. I had covered 230 Kilometers already in 2.5 hours. I was around Thozhudoor - I decided to stop. The bunk will accept card, but will not give a printed receipt. I stopped, so did not want to waste time - filled up fuel, got the printed receipt (from the card swipe) attached with the manual written bill and got it signed by the pump attendant. “5:25 AM, Thozhudur Fuel Stop - Odometer Reading 15076”
I wanted to stop for tea, but did not want to waste time in the middle of nowhere - Trichy it was i told myself. I rode another 50 Kilometers, the traffic started increasing and it must be the outskirts of Trichy. I stopped by the river Cauvery for few sun rise pictures. Spotted a huge BP Petrol pump just before entering Trichy. Filled up the tank again, just to get some more receipts as proof. “Around 6 AM, Near Trichy Fuel Stop - Odometer Reading 15125”
Rolling on, dodging some early morning traffic in City, I took the flyover to Madurai. The next 150 kilometers was as smooth a road could be. Absolute fun to ride, nice and fast - with hardly any traffic. I was almost near Madurai, With the thought of reaching the first leg sooner than the planned time - There was this kid cycling in the middle of the road, in a weird zigzag pattern. To avoid him, i honked hard & took the left lane and rode at the edge of lane to avoid any contact. My bad luck, the kid without any thought came barging onto the left. I missed hitting him by a whisker! Thanks to the super reliable brakes, I could slow down to single digit speeds to avoid any contact with the bicycler. I rode on, the highway took me onto Madurai bypass - so took a U turn to get onto the town. Stopped to drink some water, took few snaps and rode into the town. I had covered about 450 Kilometers in the first 4.5 hours. The next twenty minutes was *wasted* in searching for an ATM. The first 7 ATM’s i checked into were either not working or not giving out printed receipts. A local told me there are only two more in the other side of the town, It took me a while to finally get a ATM receipt mentioning “Madurai”. “7:51 AM, Madurai - ATM Stop - Odometer Reading 15290”
It was Hot and Humid and i started sweating out badly and most importantly i started dehydrating in the excess heat. Another 10 minutes, i got back onto the saddle looking for a way out of the town. With the whole town staring at you for wearing clothes like an alien (Riding Gear), i moved on & eventually reached the highway. Stopped by a dhabha for breakfast. I wasted a lot of time in Madurai, almost an hour getting in & out of the town, ATM and now for food. It was close to 9 AM when i finished my meal & tanked up. “8:47 AM, Madurai - Ghar Ka Dhabha - Odometer Reading 15301”
The return was no brainer. Similar roads, similar traffic but more & more heat - I covered the super fast Madurai highway in no time, without my senses telling me i overshot Trichy and realised i need to get a receipt as a proof. I stopped just after Trichy in a place called Siruganur. The petrol pump attendant was so happy to see the bike and know about the ride. Gave me a printed bill, his mobile number etc and promised to be of any help whenever required. “9:58 AM, Trichy - Siruganur Fuel Stop - Odometer Reading 15448”
The little breakfast i had in Madurai was enough for me to feel sleepy. The long straight highway, A R Rahman hits soothing through the headphones made it look like i was floating on the GQ. I rode another 250 kilometers non stop. As soon as i was near the outskirts of Chennai, the traffic was piling up huge and took a lot of time wading across the trucks moving inch by inch. Stopped by Vandalur, on the outskirts of Chennai for a fuel top-up. “12:47 PM, Chennai - Vandalur Fuel Stop - Odometer Reading 15717”
I took the Chennai Bypass. I was still on two minds, should i visit Bangalore or goto Salem instead. By time i was about to decide the other thought came in - should i go home for Lunch or stop on the highway instead. I stopped by the Chennai Bypass toll booth, and the traffic going into the city was immense. Though my home was just 3 Kilometers i did not want to waste time getting struck in mad traffic. I wanted to head to the other end of the highway soon, but as fate would have it - i was stuck in two major exits - Porur & Poonamalee. A nightmare for every one passing by. Took a receipt from an ATM in Porur for proof of passing through Chennai. “1:36 PM, Chennai - Porur ATM - Odometer Reading 15744”
Going through all the traffic, in the hot and humid Chennai climate almost made me forget about having food. I was feeling dehydrated and my throat was dry. Stopped by somewhere near Vellore for a drink. “2:47 PM, Vellore ATM - Odometer Reading 15858” Few ice creams, cool drinks and some glucose water is what i could afford for a lunch stop. I took the open highway and finally started to feel the fatigue. I knew the Ninja had bad seats, i had to constantly move the seating position and posture to keep the ride comfortable. i reached krishnagiri, stopped for a quick pee. A couple of guys riding a brand new thunderbird stopped for a chatter, and they were disappointed when i said it was only a 250cc and their 350cc was bought for 1L only and goes even more faster. I really did not have energy to argue nor reply, i simply smiled and left off. Topped up Fuel once again in Krishnagiri - I could feel the pinch as my bank balance was dwindling with every fuel stop. “4:21 PM, Krishnagiri- Fuel Stop - Odometer Reading 15945”
I took a deep breathe, things are no more fun to be frank. I was tired, shoulders and butt was paining and i was hungry. I was sort of lacking motivation, for i did not do the homework properly. Bangalore was about 95 Kilometers and Salem was around 130. The mind math told me i will be completing only 1600 Kilometers if i go to Bangalore and i needed some more kilometers to the arsenal. Salem it was, and took the left turn at Krishnagiri. A group of Pulsars zoomed past me, i was tired so did not really speed and maintained only 110 - 120, the other gang thought i was racing - just to avoid any chatter i opened up the throttle and maintained around 140’s and for a change the scenery was really soothing to the eye. The green paddy fields and lush agricultural lands, i so wanted to stop and take photographs. But if i stop i would lose out on time. Every now and then i had to adjust the way i sit on the bike, the portion of contact with the seat would become sore & numb, Exactly the reason they call it a Saddlesore! The wide open roads, utter minimal traffic ensured i reach Salem well on time. After running around for ATM’s for 10 minutes, found one in the mid city and with a big queue.As always, I’m poor in spotting things while riding. “5:43 PM, Salem - ATM Stop - Odometer Reading 16090”
Time to ride back. I’m heading Home! About 400 odd kilometers and the final leg of the trip. I was on the saddle for 14 hours now - having covered 1200 Kilometers approximately, the remaining 400 in 10 hours may look a cake walk. But this is the most toughest part of the journey. Its not about how you start, Its all about how you Complete. I was determined to complete it and there was a voice within me which said i cannot do a Saddlesore all these while. May be it was time i do things myself to clear it out. No doubt it was Ninja which outperforms the whole ride, but the lame duck sitting on the bike matters too! I was so hungry, the glucose water is emptied in Salem itself. I needed to stop and buy some water or stop for food once in for all before reaching home. The Sun went down and the twilight was never my cup of tea to ride in. The traffic was accumulating fast and i did not want to stop anywhere. There were a series of diversions in the first part of the highway and once the diversions finished the traffic eased up. Reached Thoppur, where i decided for good that i would stop for fuel and food. “6:15 PM till 6:45 PM, Thoppur - Fuel & Food Stop - Odometer Reading 16141”
After a relaxed stop for food, i prepped up for the last part of the longgg ride. I did not plug in to hear anymore music, I knew “Aaromale” song is no more gonna wake me up, but put me down to sleep. I calmly rode out, there was still some traffic on the road - and i read there should be some road blocks ahead. Tragedy stuck hard! The Shytan ka Bacchas were driving along me in their politically alcoholically influenced Sumo. The truck in front of me stopped abruptly leaving the sumo no room to move. I saw some gap to the right and i went ahead. The drunk inmates of the sumo were furious for me over taking them. The Sumo caught up in the next few hundred meters and started abusing me, showing signs and few others threw their cigar buds towards me. The Sumo started chasing me down violently, as though with the intent of ramming me down. I was shocked! It was like right out of a movie, it was dark and where ever i turn it looked like a Sumo car following me. i had no other go to speed away and as far as possible, i did not even wanted to look at the RVM;s to check if they were on my tail. I crossed Krishnagiri in no time, and even after joining the other side of the highway, i was still shattered. “Do you need all this” A voice inside me asked. It wasn’t fun to get messed up. I stopped abruptly in the middle of nowhere, parked on the side and sat on the lay-by. Tiredness, Numbness, Pain, Fatigue, etc etc - You name it. Its no child's play. I laid back, gazed at the stars and did nothing for a while just to calm myself down.
In all the hay bay of events, i forgot to take a receipt at Krishnagiri. I was near Vaniyambadi and needed to stop for fuel. I tried in couple of big petrol pumps, but none accepted cards nor gave a printed receipt. With fear of running into reserve, I topped up fuel in a huge HP petrol pump, but still without a printed receipt but for a manual hand written receipt. I rode on, and found a Reliance Petrol Pump. This even though being not so frequented, accepted credit cards and also gave a printed receipt. But the bill showed some kadaperi Village, North Arcot district, and not any nearby town but had the time as 21:27. At that time i was happy that atleast the timing was printed. "9:27 PM, Kadaperi, near Vellore - Fuel Stop - Odometer Reading 16359”
Crossed through Vellore, stopped once again in my usual spot. Had a coffee, biscuits - called home and enquired if they will serve me Dinner or scold for coming in late. Thankfully mom wasn't angry and asked me to come home soon and safe. Once again back to headphones and i reached Chennai in No time. Stopped by the ATM near home to take some receipts. With the number of times i have used ATM’s to take out receipts - My wallet was filled with 100 rupee notes! "10:35 PM, Ending Point, Chennai - ATM Stop - Odometer Reading 16500” Oh that is it! I have completed 1656 Kilometers in about 19.5 Hours! With pain in the butt and smile in the face, i went home - Puzzled looking mom asked where i went - All i could reply was “No Where!”. As i sat down to eat, with sleep, pain, tiredness slipping thorough the eyes - All i had to tell myself was “It Was really worth the experience!” It was more of an achievement than a proper ride, a competition with the bike to test who lasts longer. I’m happy to have come out with the happier face and I too can call myself an “Iron Butt!”
Thanks for reading.
Ananth T E