So You Want to Enter the Iron Butt Rally

Ira

Staff member
Premier Member
IBR Finisher
IBR Staff
#1
The Iron Butt Rally takes place every two years, in the odd-numbered years. Lots of folks become addicted to the daily reports from the rally scribe and other sources. And when it’s over, lots of folks ask me “How can I be selected for the next Iron Butt Rally?”

Many apply but few are chosen. In past years, we have received more than a thousand applications for nominally 100 positions on the starting line. The odds can be pretty long, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of being offered one of those golden tickets.

There are two basic ways to be selected for the IBR. One way to gain entry is to win or place highly in one of the single- or multi-day rallies held in the two years before the IBR that offer entry. For example, the top ten finishers in the 2016 Butt Lite were granted no-draw entries (i.e., selected but still required to pay the rally fee), with the winner getting a paid-up entry courtesy of Team Strange, the Butt Lite organizers (see http://www.teamstrange.com/2016/butt_lite). They may or may not make the same offer for the 2019 IBR, but it’s something for which to be on the lookout.

The other basic path into the rally is via a drawing. Announcement of the opening of the application process for the 2019 Iron Butt Rally will likely be in early 2018. It will be posted here on the Iron Butt Forum and to the LD Rider email list. It’s normally re-posted on many other motorcycle lists as well.

The draw is internally subdivided into several categories. An allocation of spots is set aside for Iron Butt Rally finishers who submit an application to ride it again. There are also a few spots for prior IBR competitors who did not finish (DNF) for one reason or another - the "Unfinished Business" class.

Another allocation is reserved for the "Hopeless Class", the most insane of a nominally insane bunch who want to take on one of the toughest motorcycle rallies you can find on the most improbable motorized two-wheelers: scooters, very small displacement bikes, pre-WWII Indians. The craziness eventually went so far off the dial the rally instituted performance standards for safety’s sake. No one wants to see a 125cc moped mowed down by a semi. But there are still intrepid souls who insist they can finish on old rotary-engined bikes, motor scooters, or forty-year-old BMW airheads. We like it!

A few entries are also reserved under the heading of “Rallymaster’s Discretion”. Special circumstances can prompt the rally management to add a rider or two who doesn’t fit in the other categories

And finally, there is the allocation for everyone else. This is the way in for most riders who haven’t been selected in the past. It accounts for half to two-thirds of the field.

Although the draw is random, the Rallymaster and staff is would like to believe those drawn have a reasonable chance of safely finishing the IBR. So one thing you can do to improve your chances of selection for the starting grid is to establish a riding resume.

How, you say?

Having a record of IBA certificate rides, especially some of the more difficult ones, can help. The Bun Burner GOLD, Ultimate Coast to Coast, the Border to Border Insanity, and the 48/10 are examples of such rides. It demonstrates one of the two major skills needed to complete the Iron Butt Rally – the skill to safely ride a motorcycle under trying conditions and time constraints. Even failed rides can help by demonstrating the good judgment to stop if mechanical, physical, or other conditions make it unsafe to continue.

That’s the easy part. It’s a given that everyone in the IBR can ride the wheels off a motorcycle. But there is a big difference between being able to ride long distances and being a competent rally competitor. Knowing where to ride is at least as important as knowing how to ride. So participating in competitive events, especially multi-day rallies, is important for both the experience and visibility it provides.

The primary difference between IBA certificate rides and rallies is that competitive aspect. The days of being successful in rallies by using a “brute force” approach, where riding lots of miles can overcome poor routing skills, are over. More than ever, one needs to understand the structure of the rally as well as possess the ability to evaluate the rally bonus pack. To do that, one needs to master a set of software tools (e.g., routing software, spreadsheet or database programs, etc.) and be able to load the planned routes into the bike’s navigational system. I’m not aware of any commercial rally-analysis products, but several have been developed within the rally community.

Although “bench running” a previous IBR or other rally by obtaining the bonus listing and waypoint files from the Internet can help hone the mechanical skill to manipulate and evaluate data, there is simply no substitute for actually participating in the real thing. It’s one thing to be able to enter information in your analysis software in the comfort of your living room. It’s quite another to do it on Day 4 and “on the clock”. It’s also another opportunity to strut your stuff and show you can “plan your ride and ride your plan.” The IBR staff is paying attention.

Finally, participation in the long-distance community provides another opportunity for the IBR staff to get to know you a little better. Two popular discussion platforms are the Iron Butt Forum and the LDRider email list.

You can register for the IBA Forum, go to

https://forum.ironbutt.org/index.php

Subscription information for the LDRider email list is at

http://ibdone.org/mailman/listinfo/ldrider_ibdone.org

Participation in these two platforms help your chances to be drawn for the IBR in multiple ways.

These are places to ask questions and get answers. The competitive riding community is generous to a fault when it comes to sharing hard-won knowledge. Former IBR riders, in particular, are happy to provide advice, especially to those new to the sport. Becoming a better rider and competitor can’t hurt your chances.

Although one can learn a lot from just lurking on these sites, posting also provides the staff some insight into the kind of person you are. The Iron Butt Rally is as mental an exercise as it is a physical one. The ability to maintain one’s composure and good judgment under trying conditions on Day 9 of the rally is critical. Character counts when it comes to being an IBR finisher.

In summary, although there is no guaranteed way to be selected for the IBR, having a record of accomplishment in terms of IBA certificate rides, participation in single- and multi-day competitive events, continuous improvement of your competitive skills, and involvement in long-distance community can certainly improve your chances.

Ira Agins
Iron Butt Association
 
Last edited:
#3
I agree, very informative. Thanks also for making this years rally book and leg details available to download - they are a real insight, even having followed the rally throughout I hadn't appreciated how much the scoring changed between each of the legs - tricky for a clear mind to process, never mind a weary traveller.
 
#4
Great post, thank you!

I, like many, had a very unproductive 11 days anxiously waiting on daily Rally updates. I'm hoping to get a chance to experience that from a riders perspective soon.

I appreciate the insight.
 

thekaz

Premier Member
#5
OK I thought that with my routing skills I would end up in the "hopeless class" but it seems I would need my uncles zandapp or anything prewar to be in that class LOL
 
Last edited:

BMWguy

IBA Member
#6
OK I thought that with my routing skills I would end up in the "hopeless class" but it seems I would need my uncles knapp or anything prewar to be in that class LOL
thekaz...
This one 'oughta do it for ya'. Wouldn't count on passing the 40hp entry restriction but recovering from an engine breakdown is a snap. Has a good range and fuel economy - even has tires that hold air!!
https://seattle.craigslist.org/oly/mcy/6202513831.html

I actually considering buying it for funnies but the price is a "little high".
Mike
 

BillC_TX

Premier Member
#7
Ira,

That was a very good and complete explanation of the process. Thank you for providing a very good roadmap and enhanced understanding.

Bill Cumbie
 

EricV

Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#9
Word is that a pre 1985 Guzzi would do nicely in the Hopeless class. Or pick up any year of Honda CX or GL 500 or 650. Shaft drive and Honda reliability. It's been done, and well, but there is always entertainment in someone else going for it. ;)
 

EricV

Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#11
The last guy that rode a 2-stroke in the '17 IBR did it with such class and w/o any drama that any other attempts will be judged by his showing. The GL1000 rider was another hopeless class entry that was anything butt hopeless. Excellent rides by both.
 

cacomly

Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#12
The last guy that rode a 2-stroke in the '17 IBR did it with such class and w/o any drama that any other attempts will be judged by his showing. The GL1000 rider was another hopeless class entry that was anything butt hopeless. Excellent rides by both.
Agreed! It will be interesting to see what 2019 brings.
 

Roadglider

Premier Member
#13
"Yes, Ira, I want to enter the Iron Butt Rally"

That is my answer to Ira's God-like voice coming from above "So You Want to Enter the Iron Butt Rally?"

I am researching and learning from the past experience of others on this forum and planning rides to show my worthiness for the Rally. Even if I learn and prove my worthiness I know it is Chance that will ultimately allow me to ride with the chosen. Although I have decades of riding experience I am open minded about the strategies and tactics of LD riding. I look forward to many years of rides, rallies and events.

Ride Safe, Ride Long and Ride Always!

-Gene
 

cacomly

Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#14
"Yes, Ira, I want to enter the Iron Butt Rally"

That is my answer to Ira's God-like voice coming from above "So You Want to Enter the Iron Butt Rally?"

I am researching and learning from the past experience of others on this forum and planning rides to show my worthiness for the Rally. Even if I learn and prove my worthiness I know it is Chance that will ultimately allow me to ride with the chosen. Although I have decades of riding experience I am open minded about the strategies and tactics of LD riding. I look forward to many years of rides, rallies and events.

Ride Safe, Ride Long and Ride Always!

-Gene
Gene,
If you have not already done so be sure to read the rally reports written by the individual riders. Mine for the 2017 and 2015 IBRs is included in the below link to my blog
 

Roadglider

Premier Member
#15
Gene,
If you have not already done so be sure to read the rally reports written by the individual riders. Mine for the 2017 and 2015 IBRs is included in the below link to my blog
I read your Void Adventures, long read but gave me a better idea of how it unfolds. I will read IBR 2017 part 1 & 2 later for sure. Hope you and your bike recovered well. Thank you for the additional resources

-Gene
 

cacomly

Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#16
I read your Void Adventures, long read but gave me a better idea of how it unfolds. I will read IBR 2017 part 1 & 2 later for sure. Hope you and your bike recovered well. Thank you for the additional resources

-Gene
Sorry about the long read, I'm trying to find the balance between sharing the experience and boring people :)
 

Roadglider

Premier Member
#17
Sorry about the long read, I'm trying to find the balance between sharing the experience and boring people :)
No worries, I was not critiquing the length. I enjoyed reading it, made me feel like I was there with you. I signed up for the Big Money Rally to get my feet wet. Experience is the best teacher, good or bad, you still learn.
 

cacomly

Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#18
Big Money Rally is fun, I did that twice. Consider Tour of Honor as well. You can either do that at a relaxed pace or string a few together and ride a route as you would a rally. I use that to practice for the IBR
 

Paul Tong

Verified NIITWIt
Premier Member
IBR Finisher
#19
Word on the street is that the Heart of Texas Rally has been holding out on everyone. They have been hiding a secret. That secret being that the winner of the 80 hour version of the 2018 Heart of Texas Rally will win a no-draw entry into the 2019 Iron Butt Rally. Those devious bastards could have saved some folks some pain and anguish during the recent drawing process. Registration for the 2018 HOT Rally ends on Tuesday and can be done on Ridemaster.