Off The Beaten Path: Iron Butt Advice

BRIDGEWATER, CT- A special something showed up in the mail to usher in the New Year – my Iron Butt Association Saddle Sore 1000 certification!

victoria-bylineFrom here forward, I shall be known as #65836 in the IBA’s books – a rider crazy enough to spend 22 hours on two wheels riding over 1000 miles in a gigantic circle around the Northeast.

In looking back upon obtaining this milestone, there were quite a few things that went right for me that day – some due to good planning, others attributable to sheer luck. There were also several ‘lessons learned’ along the way. It is my hope these few points can help any rider thinking of taking on their very own IBA challenge.

SS1K BMW F650gs

So, what went well?

– Well-planned route: My route was a mix of county and state routes along with some interstate to make time. The variety of terrain kept things interesting and the planned stops in places of natural beauty brought some much needed relaxation between stretches traveled. I also checked for and avoided any construction sites or known high traffic areas to not waste precious time.

– Weather: I specifically planned my event on a date with maximum daylight and, luckily, it was a stellar day weather-wise, clear and just a bit on the warm side.

Minna Case
Minna Case

– Choosing an experienced Coach/Co-rider: My friend Minna Case (pictured above and below), who accompanied me on most the ride, has completed several IBA events. She gave me valuable tips and tricks throughout the journey to fight off fatigue and stay focused and safe.

– The right bike for the trip: I gained a new respect for my BMW F650GS over the course of this event. While not the ideal engine displacement for highway riding, the bike’s ergonomics suited me perfectly for a very full day in the saddle. Having the bike serviced prior to the event also ensured against any potential mechanical maladies which might occur upon running at speed over an extended period.

SS1K Lunch Break

– Food/beverages: I packed sufficient water and electrolyte drinks in my tank bag to stay hydrated along with snacks such as fruit, nuts and some jerky, and nibbled at gas stops along the way to keep my blood sugar and energy levels constant. We did imbibe in a longer lunch break in Newport, VT which was nice to actually be off the bike and enjoy a larger (but still light) meal.

What went wrong?

– GPS Failure: Upon deciding to take a different path to the highway from my start location, my Garmin coughed up a fur ball, refusing to recalculate to my next waypoint. So, I had to wing it, purchasing a map about a 100 miles in (as I forgot mine at home) to try to stay relatively on course until I met up with my co-rider in NY state. She also had the route in her GPS unit and then led most of the rest of the journey. Lesson learned – do not rely on one GPS – have multiple units if you must but ALWAYS carry a detailed map of your route!

SS1K Brattleboro

– No throttle assist/locking system: Over the course of 20 or so hours on the throttle a rider’s wrist can get mighty sore as mine did – to the point of nearly useless in keeping the throttle open. For those without cruise control, something as simple as a ~ $6.00 generic ‘cramp buster’ or a standard throttle lock device which runs around ~ $30.00 could make the difference in meeting your IBA goal.

– Camera Debacle: Funny how little things can really annoy and frustrate an overly-fatigued rider trying to focus on finishing a grueling long distance event. My 35mm camera hung around my neck the entirety of the ride, and kept falling off my tank bag and strangling me while dangling to the side of the tank. Be aware of potential distractions such as this and strive to avoid them early on.

SS1K Lake Champlain

– Eyesight issues: Not sure what could have prevented this but for those of us with sensitive eyes, be sure you’re packing some soothing eye drops. My eyes dried out severely about 15 hours into the ride, making it very difficult to see the road clearly, especially after dark.

– Insufficient buffer zone mileage: About 700 miles in, my co-rider realized I was lacking sufficient mileage due to my ‘garminism’ earlier in the day and that we had to alter the route to head further north after sunset. The thought of having to go further when already facing mental and physical exhaustion really did a number on my focus. This could have been easily avoided with 30 buffer miles planned into the route.


SS1K Start

– Mental fatigue: Loss of coordination: I was not prepared for hitting the wall of physical and mental fatigue and when it happened I felt as though I lost 50% of my coordination on the bike. The last 150 miles riding alone after my riding buddy peeled off was by far the most difficult and scary part of the event. In retrospect, I should have put more preparation into building up the physical and mental stamina for the hours, mileage, and conditions I would be riding on the actual day of my IBA challenge.

SS1K Lake Willoughby

– Not setting my bike trip meter or GPS trip meter to zero at the start: In my hurry to embark, I forgot to do both of these things, causing frustration when assembling my trip data for submission.

– Did not document odometer mileage at gas stops: Another item that left me trying to re-build my route prior to submitting my paper work for certification. Always remember to take down your mileage at each gas stop and write it on your gas receipt. You will be grateful you did this later – trust me.


We only understand our true capabilities in this life by testing our personal limits. This ride certainly tested mine. With preparation, planning and an adventurous spirit, you too can join the ranks of The World’s Toughest Riders. I wish you luck and a safe journey!

About Victoria Zandonella

A native of Trumbull, CT who currently resides in Bridgewater, Victoria Zandonella is the founder and organizer of the Northeast Dualsport Riders. She got her “M” endorsement at age 16, but left riding in her late 20s. She came back after a hiatus of more than 20 years and owns a 2008 Yamaha XT250, a 2005 BMW F 650 GS and a 2009 Suzuki Gladius. She has a B.S. degree in Business Management from Fairfield University.