Iron Butt Hints
Tips for Women in the wind iron butt riders

The key to the ride is keeping the stops short, and the pace brisk (that is, mildly above the limit).

Group riding dynamics will not be the same as in a Women in the Wind group ride.  The goal is different, and our focus as riders has to be different.  The members of a group must discuss their riding dynamics - signals, how to pass slower drivers, how to deal with gas stations and the like.  Especially at night, you must know what is expected of you so that you do not become separated.  If you need a break, gas, anything at all, know how to communicate it and do NOT hesitate to do so!

Last year Bill Davis said, correctly, that if we were riding in a group we should plan ahead of time for what to do if someone gets tired or has a mechanical problem or the like.  All of you group riders should be thinking about how you want to deal with those issues so you can discuss it with your group members.

Every group should set up a "notice" ring so that one person can call or page the group’s partners/husbands with news.  Last year I paged Claire every time we stopped, to let her know all was ok.  It did not take long, and she felt a lot better knowing.  However, we ALL spent time calling, and that was a waste of time that we should have spent on the road.  If you are in a group, designate ONE person to do the call and have her partner or spouse get out the news.

Think about what wears you out on rides, and resolve those issues.  Even small things add up over 1100 miles.  Here are some things to consider:  Earplugs - noise will fray your nerves over 24 hours, and tire you more than you can imagine.  Try out a variety of earplugs.  I use the yellow barrel-shaped 29 dB earplugs and they help a lot.  (Yes, I know I am supposed to be deaf, but I can hear the wind noise all too well, and it is wearing even to me.)

I recommend wearing a full face helmet, and not just for protection against accidents.  Trying to protect your face from sun and wind for the full day is going to be tough.  We may ride through bug storms in the deserts too, and having full protection will be nice. 

Bicycling shorts can be a help.  You can get cycling shorts made from cotton that are designed to be worn under regular shorts - they have a chamois just like the lycra types, but they breathe much better.

Consider also how you might improve your seating position(s) on your bike.  I use my passenger pegs as well as my regular pegs, and I move myself around from time to time so that I relieve my little aches and pains.  You may not be able to use your passenger pegs, but consider putting on a backrest (or at least bungee-netting on a pack or something to support the small of your back) and bolting on some forward pegs so that you have a different place to put your feet.  Being able to move around on the bike will make a difference as time goes on.

You will not be able to stop to eat on the way - you will have to eat quickly at the gas-n-pee stops.  You should bring food that you know will sit well in your stomach and will give you energy for the full ride, yet can be eaten quickly.  I had several Luna bars in various flavors last year; many people bring peanut butter sandwiches or bags of nuts and gorp or the like.  Do not bring anything that will spoil or melt or that will take time to get into.  No mayonnaise, for example, or chocolate bars.  If you want fruit, a banana is good; a grapefruit is not so good.

Carry plenty of water or gatorade or sports drinks, as you prefer.  I had four quarts on the bike, and drank most of it along the way.  Keeping hydrated is one of the BEST ways to stay alert and awake throughout an Iron Butt ride, especially one that goes through the desert, so drink water (or a drink like gatorade) soon and often.  In fact, it is best if you can rig up a Camelbak or similar hydration system on your bike so you can drink while riding.  (Don’t carry the Camelbak on your back, though - it is too heavy.)

Do NOT bring caffeinated drinks - they will dehydrate you, and adrenaline will keep you awake for most of the day anyway!  (We all had a caffeinated drink at around 10 PM last year, and that was perfect.)  In fact, it is a good idea to wean yourselves off caffeine about a week before the ride.  (Whatever you do, don't have a Latte Grande before you start . . . you’ll be stopping every fifty miles to go to the bathroom.  We can tank up on the Starbucks when we finish.)

Layer your clothing so you can deal with the differences in temperature.  You will probably go from quite hot in the middle of the day to darn cold at night.  (An electric vest or jacket will be a blessing.)  In particular, make sure you have warm gloves.  Also, pack rain gear, including glove and boot covers!  You will probably not need it for rain but you can use it as your last layer for warmth.  Make sure you have plenty of space in your bags for the clothing.

I strongly recommend that you get at least a small tank bag because you can hold your wallet, food, sunglasses, cell phone, camera, flashlight, and other items that will be needed immediately at stops.  If you have to fish around in a pannier for these items, you will waste time that can be better spent on the road.  (A handlebar bag for cruisers can also serve this function, if you get a map case.)

ALSO, a tank bag with a clear window can hold the MAP!!  This is VERY important!!  If you do not get a tank bag, at the very least get a clear map carrier that you can mount on your tank or your arm.  This is inexpensive and a decent way of viewing a map or route instructions on the road.  EVERY RIDER must have the map and route instructions and must know exactly what to do!

When you start the ride, you should be FULLY gassed up and ready to go.  For the Iron Heart, there are gas stations right next to the start at Miramar, so you can all get gas right before you sign in and leave.

If your bike needs new tires or any service, do it at least a few weeks before the ride so that you can catch any goof-ups before the ride, not during it.  If you don't need any service, check your oil, the air in your tires, your battery charge, and all those little items to be sure you are ready to go and that you are ready to finish too.

Call your bank before the ride to let them know you will be using your credit card in three states, and not to put a hold on your account!

Last thing . . . When we do our practice rides, try to have your bike packed as you would for the ride itself, so you can get a sense of how the bike rides and so you will get an accurate idea of your fuel mileage.

From the Iron Butt Association forum

When discussing LD riding with the uninitiated, we frequently hear the question "But don't you have to ride too fast?"  Our reply is "No, quite the opposite; you have to learn how to stop fast; for every minute wasted at a stop, you could be a mile further down the road".

The obvious best advice is to cut stops to the minimum required for a safe ride.  Such as wearing gear that serves double duty, so you don't have to stop to don rain gear.  Practice performing tasks while riding that would ordinarily require a stop; like changing spectacles, snacking, cleaning your face shield, etc.  Keep in mind that multitasking at 65 mph can be risky, but with practice, it can be done safely.

The secret to fast fuel stops is developing a system that works for you.  That may mean keeping a check list handy.

Here are a few things we have learned "along the way".

When exiting the highway, make a mental note about where the on-ramp is in relation to the off-ramp and station, so you'll be headed in the correct direction when you are done with the stop.

Always stop with the pump on your right.

Begin the "getting-off" tasks before reaching the pump (disconnect intercom, vest plug, shut down accessories, zero the trip meter, etc.) so that with bike shut-down, all you have to do is get off the bike.

Make sure that the station at which you stop has pay-at-the-pump.  Look for any indication that the pump is inoperable, like a little paper note.

Keep your credit card in the same, accessible, but secure location.

Avoid stations that are likely to require you to go into the store to get a receipt; for us, that has been Chevron lately. Shell is usually pretty good, but I'm sure there are regional differences.

While fueling, take care of the odds and ends, like replenishing the snack bag, changing glasses, cleaning the shield.

When done fueling, check the receipt for correct time, date, location and, if on a rally, gallons.

Rather than taking the time to make entries on fuel log, just write the odometer miles on the receipt (having confirmed that the receipt is correct).  There will be plenty of time to fill out the log after the ride.  We keep receipts in a ziplock bag, kept on a clipboard, that is always placed in the same place in the topbox.  We have a self-addressed, stamped envelope inside the ziplock, in the event it is lost.

All of these things should be practiced. Some riders keep a fuel log all the time.  Get in the habit of always getting and checking receipts.  Practice, practice, practice.


Tools, including a flashlight

Tire patch kit (including inflators or a pump)

Tire gauge

First aid kit

See-through map case

Tank bag, even if it is a small one (a handlebar bag for cruisers will do fine, if you get a separate map case)

Rain gear (including totes and glove covers)

Supply of water and gatorade (Camelbaks are good but if you have one, carry it on the bike, not on your back)

Easy-to-eat food such as Luna Bars and bananas (Nothing that will spoil or melt!)

Reflective vest



Cell phone

Maps of California, Arizona, and Nevada

Clock that will be visible while you are riding

A bicycle computer can be useful, especially if your bike does not have a trip meter

Camera!!  You will have time to take some pictures.  :-)


The key to a successful Iron Butt ride is not riding fast -- it is making efficient stops.  You should try to spend no more than five minutes at each gas stop!  (Ok, if you have to use the restroom it will take longer.)  Every minute on the ground is one less mile down the road.

How far you can ride to reserve!  You must know what your mileage is on a tank of gas.

Where the gas stations are along the route.  You should plan your stops ahead of time so that you can minimize the number of stops you will need to take along the way, and so that you will not need to stop and waste time during the ride to look at a map for the next gas station.  If you are riding in a group, figure out who can go the least distance and work out the stops with her limitations in mind.  For example, if one woman’s bike can go only 125 miles until reserve, plan your stops every 120 miles or so.  (Keep in mind that you may need to adjust this on the fly if you have bad headwinds, so it is always good to know where all the gas stations are.)

Read the Iron Butt Association Archive of Wisdom for many more useful hints on how to achieve a safe and successful ride.