So as many of you know, I have been testing touring routes and charge stations throughout California and Nevada for the past few months. It all started with a day full of painful soldering and transient voltages. I unplugged my soldering iron once I reached my max and said, "Screw this! I'm going for a ride!" Both Morgan and Zak were present and had seen me do this before. Last time I went to LA for 3 days, so they knew what was about to happen. They quickly sprang into action and delayed my departure long enough to pack me a backpack full of advil, some snacks, a camelbak full of water, head lamp, allen wrenches, a leatherman, basic tools, a first aid kit, and a bag full of quarters in case there were any tolls. I really didn't know what I had planned, just that I needed to clear my head. What I did was go on a 670 mile (1078 km) tour where I stopped and did Facebook live videos at various pretty locations, like the San Luis Reservoir and The Golden Gate Bridge which were absolutely gorgeous! The rolling hills of gold surrounding the massive body of deep cobalt blue water was pure ecstasy for my eyes, melting away the stress of the day. I knew this was what I needed, so I shared it with my friends!
After completing such an impromptu ride, I was amazed to find out that it was 270 miles (435 km) longer than even my most well prepared Zero ride with Super Chargers installed. I wasn't trying for distance nor pushing hard; I was just tooling around California to clear my head finding sweet vistas to appreciate, and accidentally beat my own personal record! This was a big revelation for me as my previous best, on a Zero, was riding to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, on routes I knew so well that I could ride without mapping or checking for chargers. In contrast, for this 670 mile (1078 km) Energica ride, I simply hopped on and hit the road for what turned out to be a very long and enjoyable ride.
Immediately upon returning I began discussing the viability of doing an Iron Butt on a stock bike. I was so amazed at the chance I could do this now. I finally felt like electric bikes were here. This is what I had been waiting for! The only other electric Iron Butt was Terry Hershner back in 2014 on a Mad Max-ified 2012 Zero S rat bike. I mean the thing was sick in many ways, it was basically 6 motorbikes cobbled together that would regularly melt motors and cause battery engineers to run away screaming in fear of a lithium ion explosion, but it was good enough to do an Iron Butt, even with it weighing half a ton. The other amazing thing is that the power train of the current Energica line was developed in that same year, 2014. We could have been doing this back then, but to be fair the Energicas were expensive back then, like the LiveWire today. Now the Energica and Zero motorbikes are pretty much the same price when comparing similar setups.
This first tour was done on May 25th 2019, it didn't take me long to arrange the time and route for the first Iron Butt test. 4 weeks later, June 26th, I made my first scouting run learning the stations and testing their capabilities. On this run I decided to stick with EVGo network stations; they are proliferous, and reliable. Also, it would be easier to validate the route using a single manufacturer's stations rather than having to cobble together receipts and time stamps from multiple charging vendors. EVGo was the obvious, and only, choice as they are the only network which itself spans the entire length of California. Using the other charging companies, I would have had to use one brand here and one brand there; this is totally fine when out for touring fun, but not ideal with the Iron Butt Association's rules.
On this run, I started in Carmel Valley and headed North to San Fran and over to Lake Tahoe, into Nevada, and then down to LA on the 99. The route was so plagued with construction that I lost an hour or two just to that and another from traffic in the various cities I skirted around. Also, I held a steady 70-80 mph for most of the trip, but I may have forgotten that the highways around lake Tahoe are not race tracks... so I heated the battery up a bit in the afternoon from riding far too hard around Tahoe. I made really good time for that section, though. In the end, I decided to end the test in Bakersfield after 23 hours and 821 miles (1321 km) with lots of good data and ways to improve the route and trip, like not hitting triple digits on fun roads. This is the time lapse of that test :
Unlike the previous test which only took 4 weeks to prep and run, July was a very busy month with our invite to be at Mike Corbin's Rally, and the Refuel TT races. It was quite a month, busy on all fronts, quite stressful at times in fact. It took a full 7 weeks from the June test until this most recent test on August 16th 2019.
Much like the first test, the second was full of learning experiences! I started out by riding to the new start point of my 1000 mile (1609 km) journey atop the Grapevine. From Carmel this was an inconsequential 500 mile (805 km) warm up, which beats my maximum distance ride on a Zero. Sometimes, I wonder how many times my mom dropped me on my head as a child. On top of this foolish decision, I did not check the weather. I left on probably one of the hottest days of the year. The majority of those 500 miles (805 km) was over 100°F (38°C) which made me question how much I really need a black leather riding jacket. I enjoyed the ride tremendously, but could have done with a much lower ambient temp.
Now, while I was hot as could be, the air-cooled battery of the Energica had turned into an air-heated battery, and reduced my charging power to 16kW from the speedy 24kW I was able to get after the weather stopped trying to kill me. Turns out the first level of battery protection begins at 105°F (41°C) given that the ambient temperature was so high, this gave not much room until the tiny battery icon on the dash turned yellow, and reduced my charging down to 16kW. In fact, I was pretty amazed that the bike still had crazy power and the fastest available charging on the market in this hot weather. On the Zeros I had ridden in the past, 102°F (39°C) was the hottest I was able to ride my bike. And even then it would not be able to charge at all after a 40 mile (64 km) stint. So this was a pretty awesome result. I mean since this wasn't the Iron Butt test yet, it didn't really have an impact on me, instead of 20 min stops I had 28 min stops, big whoop.
As the day went on, I realized I was running a bit behind schedule. My friends Ryan and Andrew offered me places to get some rest and food before my expedition began. In the end though, I decided to add to my stellar decision-making thus far by opting not to eat or sleep and just go for it. I ended up adjusting my route to start at the North County Correctional Facility or, as my route planner put it, from Prison to Home. I was running an hour and 25 minutes behind already as it was, instead of starting at 12pm, I ended up starting at 1:25am. This was a bad decision because between the Prison and my intended starting point was 45 mph construction, which was a shame as it ate up a lot of time. Thankfully though, there wasn't too much more construction along the route, just a lot of car crashes making traffic, and a sweltering ambient temperature of 110°F (43°C) which slowed my charging down again to 16kW as the day heated up starting at 8am! I had provisioned a special route for this though. I was heading north to Lake Tahoe, sweet lake Tahoe, I knew it would be cooler up there and hopefully make some time up and cool the bike and myself off. Welcome to the 'could I make any more wrong decisions' blog post; it was a bit cooler at : 96°F (36°C) still way hot! What the heck, Tahoe?! I was expecting temperatures in the 70s (20s) which would have allowed me to cool the battery and make up enough time to complete the full 1000 miles (1609 km). Instead, I got a big bowl of hot disappointment soup.
After about 650 miles (1046 km) into the test run, 1150 miles (1851 km) from my start in Carmel, it was cooled down to 102°F (39°C), I was completely beaten by the heat and soaked from head to toe in my own juices. I went into the Walmart I was charging at and changed into a fresh set of underwear, socks, and a new T-Shirt. Finally, a smart decision I made! I was so glad to have some fresh clothes on. I really wished I had fresh pants though. Over the past 1150 sweat-soaked miles, the jeans had been sticking to my leg, tearing the knees ever so slightly every time I got on or off the bike as well as each time I squatted next to it. Not only was the heat uncomfortable, it was destroying my clothes. After the quick swap for clean clothes, I decided I would take a nap as I was behind on time anyhow.
As I returned to my motorbike and its charging station, I was surrounded by group after group of people freaking out about how cool my electric bike was, and how they were completely unaware that electric bikes existed. Thankfully, I have been fielding questions like this for over a decade so it was easy enough for me to answer all their questions and send them on their way googling the bike on their phones. All of this Electric Motorcycle Evangelism though ate up the time I was planning on using for rest, so I got back on my trusty Italian Stallion and headed off into the sunset to complete my testing route. As the night waned on and I made my way home, the total miles I did for the test run was 845 miles (1360 km) in 24 hours, and 1340 miles (2157 km) in 36 hours. This places me awfully close to doing both the Saddle Sore Iron Butt, and the Bun Burner too! That was super unexpected and steeled my resolve to get them both under my belt. One Iron Butt is enough to show electric bikes are here, But to do a Bun Burner too?! That's more than most petrol riders handle, and on an electric. Have I suddenly been teleported to the future? Yes. Yes, I have. Every time I sit on this bike I am teleported to the future my 1980's childhood self dreamed of. This is living my dream, and I hope that others, like you, see this and decide to live theirs too.
Here is a short teaser for the Iron Butt from some footage I took in the second test. I am working on the first portion of the video right now with the test footage, as well as planning out the shots we would like to get from the event. Another good decision, lets not just try to be the first ever to do this, lets try and get good video footage from it as well! Riiight, wish me luck, because I think I could use it.