REVIEW: Iron Butt DVD: Extremely Entertaining!

The "Amazing Race" of motorcycling

By Genevieve Schmitt

If youre a motorcyclist, youve probably heard of the Iron Butt Rally, the endurance motorcycle race that challenges riders to travel 11,000 miles in 11 days. More people have traveled to space than have ridden the Iron Butt.

Not until now has there been a video presentation that encompasses the true essence of what the ride really is because for the past two decades the Iron Butt has been around, organizers shunned publicity preferring to keep the event out of the spotlight. Daily competitive rally reports are found on the Iron Butt Rally Web site. Subsequently, the general riding community only got sporadic glimpses of the low-key event.

I just finished watching “Hard Miles: The True Story of the 2007 Iron Butt Rally; 11,000 miles in 11 days,” a 65-minute DVD that kept me riveted as I watched participants ride ridiculous amounts of miles in a day for 11 days straight venturing to spots in the U.S. to acquire points towards the grand prize of top Iron Butter. As I watched these riders travel to mountaintops, scenic vistas, and oceans edges on everything from a 1972 Harley Electra Glide to a Yamaha FJR1300, it reminded of the CBS reality series, “Amazing Race,” which Ive been watching since it started almost 10 years ago. Participants compete by traveling the world stopping at pre-arranged spots and performing tasks as fast as they can to beat the competition to the finish line. But unlike on “Amazing Race” where teams compete to win $1 million, the top Iron Butter only wins bragging rights. That makes the human aspect of Iron Butt all the more interesting.

The Hard Miles DVD is well produced with that same kind of drama as we watch riders go through the highs and lows of this unique motorcycle competition. One such scene has the riders ready to take off for the start of the race after months of planning and preparation, when one couple riding two-up realizes their bike wont start because of a dead battery. Motorcyclists most certainly will appreciate these kinds of anxiety-producing moments sprinkled throughout the documentary.

Footage is mixed in with interesting interviews as we meet the riders and find out what they do to endure and reach the end of their journey. Of particular interest to WRN are the 10 women who competed in the 2007 Iron Butt rally, the event chronicled in the DVD. Five rode as solo competitors, five as two-up passengers. The top female rider, Vicki Johnston riding a BMW F 650 GS, placed 14th overall. She rode 9,868 miles in the 11-day rally. The highest placing two-up couple was Reiner and Lisa Kappenberger riding a Honda Gold Wing 9,849 miles placing 23rd.

The northeast route riders took on the Iron Butt Rally starting at rally headquarters in Missouri.

Iron Butt Background
Conceived in 1983, the first rally took place in 1984 with 10 riders trying to answer the age-old question, “Can a motorcyclist ride the four corners of the U.S. in 11 days?” The 2007 Iron Butt Rally was the 13th running of the event; it attracted more than 2,000 entries for the 100 spots on the starting line.

The Iron Butt Rally is not a race; rather it is the worlds most difficult scavenger hunt taking the riders to unique bonus locations across the U.S. and Canada. There are no big sponsors, no prize money, no umbrella girls, and no chase vehicles. The original concept was one rider, one motorcycle, and one task. During the grueling 11-day 11,000-mile rally, competitors battle the elements while typically staying in the saddle 16+ hours a day at an average speed of 60 mph so sleep management and rest bonuses are a key component of effective routing strategy.

In this biennial event, riders from around the world, from all walks of life come together to participate in this one-of-a-kind motorcycle experience, each rider testing his or her own physical and mental toughness. The DVD Hard Miles documents the ultimate test of rider, motorcycle, and the strategic thinking needed to compete in the 2007 Iron Butt Rally.

The winner, Martin Leir, rode a BMW R 1200 GS 12,460 miles in the 11-day rally. The big surprise was Brett Donahue who rode a Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH1200R 11,283 miles for a third place finish.

2009 is an Iron Butt year. The rally starts August 24 at a yet to be disclosed southeast state. The Hard Miles DVD is the best way to understand the trials, tribulation, commitment, and strategy of the long distance competition rider. Only a few select riders have managed to solve the equation of time, distance and endurance to successfully complete the worlds toughest motorcycle competition.

The western route riders took on the Iron Butt Rally that#39;s chronicled on the DVD.

You dont have to be a motorcyclist to enjoy Hard Miles. It tells a human interest story discovering why people are drawn to this type of competition. The DVD includes two bonus features, the first one containing rider introductions and the second, an interview with Michael Kneebone, Iron Butt Association President, on the history of the Iron Butt Rally. Lasting 37 minutes, Kneebone relives the early days of the rally and gives us insight into how and why it is organized the way it is today.

The price is $50 plus shipping and handling and can be ordered from this Web site: Visit for more information on the ride.

Dean Tanji is president of Abracadabra Presentation Graphics, the producer of the DVD. Dean has competed in three Iron Butt Rallies. Here he is at the 2003 event.

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4 thoughts on REVIEW: Iron Butt DVD: Extremely Entertaining!

  1. This is a great DVD and a part of my collections of all things two-wheels. Makes me want to plan a trip soon. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Hi Carol (letter dated 3/24/09)

    I cannot even imagine being able to ride that long in a day, let alone for eleven days! Maybe when I step up from my Ninja 250R?

    I plan on purchasing this DVD for our club. We just got the movie Redline America, which is a solo type of cross country trip. It has a very Zen feel. It is very good.

  3. Thanks Genevieve This is going to be great.
    I completed the 2001 Iron Butt Rally, but not without mishaps. I lost my rear drive on my bike on day two and thought I would never see my dream of finishing the Iron Butt. The good folks at Iron Horse BMW in Tuscon, Arizona, got me back on the road and arriving at the second check point 30 minutes late, but still in the game. Dean Tanji was there when I arrived in Pomona, Calif.

    Vicki Johnston is an amazing woman and one I call a dear friend. She kept in contact with me during the IBR 2007 and kept my excitement level high for the whole ride. I can't wait to get this DVD. Thanks for the reminder.
    2001 Iron Butt Finisher

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Carol. I can't imagine many women have done this, so it's wonderful to hear from the few women who have.

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