In this article, Rowland tells of his Saddle Sore 1000 ride. His story shows what our motorcycling passion is all about and why we do what we do. It also shows the durability, trustworthiness and versatility of our Nighthawks. Read and enjoy!

Saddle Sore 1000

(by Rowland Hill)

I did an Iron Butt Association (IBA) Saddlesore 1000 trip on my Nighthawk 750 in April, 1998. I left San Antonio, Texas, at 7:00 A.M. and finished back at San Antonio at 3:30 A.M. the next morning. I averaged 52 miles an hour and 39.3 miles per gallon. The time included fuel stops, construction, towns, two chain lubings, stopping to put on my rain pants, calls home to tell my wife I was going to be later than expected, etc. I rode to Melrose, New Mexico (24 miles west of Clovis) and back. I had made it a point to get to bed early and get up early the previous week so that I could get an early start on a good night's sleep.

I owned four bikes over a period of five years in the early seventies and have ridden a little bit in the intervening time. Last spring I took a Motorcycle Safety Foundation beginner's course to get my motorcycle privileges back and then made a weekend trip of 750 miles on my son-in-law's Suzuki Intruder 800. The Intruder was a nice cruiser, and if it was all I had, I would go touring on it, (I did last spring), but I didn't like the small tank, spoke wheels/tube tires, lack of a centerstand, and no tach. This spring I decided it was time to get a bike again and settled on a 90's Nighthawk as the best choice for my limited budget; maybe even the best bike regardless of budget. My planned use was morning brunch runs with the local retreads with the odd long cross country trip thrown in. After much looking, I found a black 92 with 2800 miles, centerstand, luggage rack, and case guards. The weekend after getting it, I took the Safety Foundation's experienced rider course. The next weekend, I did the Saddlesore 1000.

The first 50 and last 120 miles was Interstate. The remainder was half two lane and half four lane, including four lane divided but not limited access. The longest leg was 167 miles and I put 4.0 gallons in the 4.8 gallon tank. I could have planned my fuel stops so that I would have made fewer stops, but when I left, I hadn't decided which route I was taking. Since I didn't know how the bike was going to be on a long ride, I decided to get the necessary starting documentation for the IBA and then see how it went. At each fuel stop, I checked that the receipt had a date/time stamp on it, wrote the odometer reading on it, and stuffed it in a pocket (one with a zipper and a velcro flap over the zipper). I made out my IBA log the next day.

I figured that keeping the sun behind me was a good idea and going northwest and returning southeast accomplished that. I had never been to Clovis and the route went through Muleshoe, Texas, which I found intriguing. The round trip to Melrose figured to be at least 1040 miles by the Rand McNally TripMaker program whether I used the quickest or shortest route, so there would be no question of having done at least 1000 miles.

The Rand McNally TripMaker allows one to check the Rand McNally website for current highway construction bulletins. If I had used that feature I might have selected a different turnaround point and gotten home earlier.

The early morning ride through the central Texas hill country was really pretty with the topography, winding roads, and wildflowers. About noon, I reached Sweetwater and eight miles on I -20 before cutting back northwest to Lubbock. After getting on I-20, I saw a BIG motorcycle coming up behind me. I couldn't tell what it was in my mirrors, but it sure had mass to it. When he pulled even with me, I saw what looked like a chrome header for a small block Chevy. It was a new Boss Hoss V8 350. The radiator looked to be about 20x30 inches. We rode together the rest of the way to Clovis. He was taking it from the factory in Tennessee home to Washington state and was going to see relatives in Clovis. Otherwise, I was alone on the trip.

There was a dry front lying across west Texas and I had all wind conditions. Tailwind at the start, then left cross wind, then headwind. When I turned around at Melrose, the headwind became a tailwind, then right cross wind, then headwind again with drizzle as I got within 120 miles of San Antonio. The Memphis Shades Roadmaster windshield/handlebar fairing worked well. The bike was very stable in the variety of winds I encountered.

I cruised an indicated 75 (72 +- actual with speed limits of 70) during the day. I tried doing 75 after dark, but didn't feel safe. I felt that I was outriding my stock headlight. At about 11 P.M. I decided to stop the ride, and slowed to 65 since I figured to stop and get a motel at the next town. I found that 65 was a comfortable speed and since I didn't feel tired, I decided to keep on riding until I did. In this case, I went farther by slowing. I also made more stops during the last half of the ride, but didn't have to dodge any deer coming back through the hill country.

On the headlight subject, I think that there is too big a vertical angle between the stock low and high beams. If I find myself planning another trip with much after dark riding, I plan to mount a light to one of the case guards and aim it in between the stock beams. That way, if I lose either stock headlight filament, I will not be in instant blackout. If I want to get fancy, I will mount a driving light on the other case guard and wire it to my high beam.

I had put highway pegs on the engine case guards. The two available riding positions were fine for my legs., The slight lean forward to the handlebars didn't work well for the long haul; the muscles between my shoulder blades were pretty unhappy by the time I finished. I want to get handlebars that are a couple of inches higher and farther back before I do any more long trips, so that I will have a more upright seating position. The throttle lock (Vista Cruise) was definitely useful. I spent a fair amount of time with one or the other hand in my lap or going through gyrations to keep my wrists limber. Since the ride I have added a digital clock with inch high digits from Pep Boys.

The seat did OK. One of things I wanted to find out was whether I needed to install an aftermarket seat (probably Corbin) before making long cross country trips. When I got to my fuel stops, I was ready for a break, but felt OK when I got back on. My butt wasn't sore the next day. Something I might try in the future is when going through a town, stop off the road, put the bike on the side stand, walk around it, and then get back on without shutting it down or removing riding gear. Same process could be used at an interstate rest stop without using much time.

Otherwise, the bike itself did fine. It just kept running, some vibration but 1/10th what I experienced with my 650 vertical twin back in the 70's.

I used earplugs (the compressible foam rubber type, $.50 at a gun store) and found they made a tremendous difference. Now they are a standard part of my gear. Besides protecting the hearing I have left, I am convinced they reduced the fatigue factor. My First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket without the lining gave me good ventilation across west Texas in the hot afternoon yet with the vents closed and the liner back in kept me warm and dry after midnight. In colder weather I can add layers as necessary. I just wish they made it in some colors besides black. Black is asking for overheating in South Texas and I would like a brighter color in traffic.

I mixed a gallon and a half of Gatorade and took it in 20 ounce plastic bottles in an insulated bag tied and bungeed to the passenger seat in front of the passenger backrest. I drank some at each stop to avoid dehydration. After checking the nutritional analyses, I've decided that Gatorade is mostly flavored sugar water; cans of V8 juice and orange juice will be my choice next time. As recommended by the IBA, I ate light fat-wise and lightly quantity wise.

If I were to do another 1000 miles in 24 hours, I know that a route with more or all interstate and no construction would have been much easier, time-wise, if heavy traffic and/or congested metropolitan areas could be avoided.

As for now, the Iron Butt Bunburner 1500 (1500 miles in 36 hours) shouldn't be much harder than 1050 in 20.5; it may even be easier taking it in two 750 mile chunks. I have a brother who lives 1360 miles from here in Sheridan, Wyoming. Hmmm. I can stretch that to 1500 easily by going the scenic route. Hmmm. My brother in Houston has a 1200 Gold Wing. I wonder if I can talk him into a visit to my brother in Sheridan?

In closing, I would like to thank Randy Ortiz for his informative website; I used it (and his western trip report) during my research on which bike to buy. For the long haul riders, the Iron Butt website ( is informative.

Back to the contents page...