Get an Iron Butt

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Logging more miles on your motorcycle in a single ride takes stamina, practice, and serious perseverance. No one knows this better than Carl Reese. He broke the solo record for a coast-to-coast crossing on a motorcycle, riding 2,829 miles from Los Angeles to Manhattan in just 38 hours and 49 minutes last August. And that included a stop at a Harley-Davidson shop in Belmont, Ohio, for a rear tire replacement. Even if you don’t aspire to knock out almost two days straight on your bike, his tips — for the physical component of the trek and beyond — will help you extend your two-wheeled trips. Many of the suggestions are the same he shares with fellow riders at the Motorcycle Relief Project, a group that organizes multiday rides for veterans, and where Reese volunteers.

Get fit.
Reese has never been a gym rat. And even though he’s active at work, running his business, Carl Reese Construction Company, he joined a health club to prepare for his coast-to-coast journey. His focus? Both fitness and strengthening his abs and back. “I knew that sitting that long in the saddle, I was going to have to build up my core.” To increase his stamina, he also took spin classes for 24 months leading up to his ride.

A little extra padding helps on longer rides.
Reese bought a few pairs of paddle bicycle shorts for his foray into spinning. He wore his favorite pair on his record-breaking ride to combat the constant vibration from the vehicle. The chamois-enhanced shorts helped, but not enough. “When I got to New York, I was still raw on my backside. I couldn’t sit down comfortably for the next two days.”

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Eat healthy.
Your energy will be dictated by what you put into your body. Reese committed to eating organic foods and drinking vegetable juices. He took advice from his girlfriend, a physical therapist and nutritionist. On the ride, he survived on a few salmon sandwiches and a trail mix of nuts and dried cherries.

Use caffeine wisely.
Reese gave up coffee and tea six weeks before he shoved off from Los Angeles. “That was tough for me because I enjoy coffee every morning, and the first week was a killer … during the run I took a quarter cup of coffee during day two when I was feeling drowsy before the sun came up. That bit of caffeine was enough to get me to dawn, and I fell into the natural circadian rhythms of being awake at daylight.”

Stay hydrated.
Reese rode with a full hydration pack. He also had four bottles of waters he froze solid. “Eventually, I went through the CamelBak and, by that time, the water bottles were thawed out.”

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Fight the sun with appropriate optics and a visor.
Reese’s helmet features a retractable visor that knocked down the bright sun. During the day, Reese rode with prescription Ray Ban sunglasses. At night he used his regular glasses. For quick changes, he kept his eyewear in his tank bag.

Stay mentally strong.
“The training leading up to [my attempt] was borderline obsessive because you have to be committed to it. Once you say you’re going to do it, the real work starts … mentally you’re alone inside your head.” If you have any demons, there’s a good chance they’ll arrive unannounced during the wee hours.

An extended fuel tank provides expanded capacity.
Reese outfitted his BMW 2015 K 1600 GT with an additional 8-gallon fuel cell, doubling the distance he could cover before stopping for petrol.

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Technology can make long rides easier.
Reese outfitted the front of his bike with a radar detector and laser jammers to reduce the possibility of getting a speeding ticket. He also added aftermarket 15,000-lumen lights to the front of his sport tourer. “They illuminate three-quarters to a mile of road at night … you have to have them because you’ll outrun your stock headlights.” Because aftermarket lights are so powerful — turning darkness into virtual daylight — only use them when there’s no oncoming traffic or vehicles ahead of you. A more powerful light also makes you more visible and, therefore, keeps you safer. Likewise, when covering longer distances, tracking weather is paramount. Inroute is like for motorcyclists. “You tell [the app] where you want to go and it shows you on a timeline what time of day or mileage you’re going to hit weather. And it’s pretty much spot-on.”

Planning makes perfect.
“There’s a big difference between cowboys who are reckless and guys like me who are problem solvers,” Reese says. Having a support team checking traffic and providing alternate routes was critical to his success. Folks monitored road conditions for him and reported potential problems like a piece of plywood in the roadway or an obliterated deer spread across a few lanes. “Just going like a bat out of hell clear across the country is going to get you arrested,” he says. “But if you can maintain your speed and not stop; if you can force yourself to stay in that seat with minimal refuels; and you can keep yourself alert by eating high-energy, low-sugar foods — and you’re not doing Red Bulls or energy drinks — you can maintain alertness and cover distance without going absolutely crazy.”

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