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Meet John Ryan

John Ryan in Prudhoe Bay

John has just arrived in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. He's parked his bike in his friend Kevin's garage.

John Ryan is a man whom I admire. I'm not alone, lots of people like him. I've never met him, yet. But I will. Hope you'll stay with me for a few minutes and find out a bit more about John.
On the way to Prudhoe Bay, a rock punched a hole in his oil pan. Aside from fixing that, he also had to have a new bracket for his windshield fabricated. All that got done, but no one was able to fix his CB radio.

John takes his bike to Trail's End BMW, the local shop, to install a set of tires. Good idea!

John's cell phone seems to follow him around

Hard to see it, but John has a custom made, 13 gallon gas tank on this bike.

Voni Glaves felt like John needs something red on the bike, so she made this for him

John meets up with his friend Jack G. at Hilltop

John, Kevin and Jack head out for the start of the Dalton, and meet two riders from North Carolina

One last photo op before John heads out.

Okay, here's the deal. John is leaving Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, for Key West, Florida. For those who've not looked at a map, this is the longest straight line ride available in North America. The Iron Butt Association calls this the UCC, the ultimate cross country chalenge. The IBA will certify the ride if you complete it in less than 30 days. John plans to do it in less than 4 days.

The actual data plot from John's gps

John arives in Deadhorse, and fills up with gas. Then on to the car wash to clean some mud off the bike, and install his saddle bags

And he's on his way...

At 42 hours into the ride, John is approaching Moose Jaw, SK. He's roughly half way, and he hasn't even entered the lower 48 states yet.

John has a major delay at the border crossing, then stops in Minot, ND, where he takes a quick break while a few friends change his oil and mount new tires.

There's quite a period here with no pictures, so let's hear from Jim Shaw, who knows John well.


To begin his ride, John first attempted to ride up to Deadhorse with his friend Jack, a veteran long distance rider who lives in Alaska. They were both turned back near the top of the Atigun pass over the Brooks mountain range by a lack of traction on the snow covered road. The Atigun pass rises from about 800 feet to over 5,500 feet, before the road descends to the near sea level terrain near Deadhorse. They backtracked to Fairbanks, and Jack had to ride back home.

John's second Northbound attempt took him near Coldspot, where he had a flat tire. He repaired that along the road, but the tire was not considered safe to start the ride. He rode back, again, to Fairbanks to replace the tire.

On a third attempt to get up to Deadhorse, a rock penetrated John's oil pan, just a few miles from Deadhorse. Somehow, John got the bike to Deadhorse, where there are skilled shops to mend the pan. However, John didn't have the time and money to have the entire exhaust system removed to take off the oil pan for proper welding repair. Instead, a temporary fix was made, estimated strong enough to survive the upcoming 5600 miles ride. That estimate proved true.

Just about any ordinary Long Distance rider might have given up before this ride started. John Ryan is not your ordinary long distance rider.

And so, an hour after midnight, Saturday morning (Eastern Time was used throughout the ride), John began his one man epic ride to Key West, some five and a half thousand miles Southeast of the place they call Prudhoe Bay.

Suffice it to say, there is a complete record of the trip's navigation by the SPOT GPS/satellite transponder John carried all the way. There are also computerized gas receipts at the start and end, as well as all the way through. There are also approved witness signers at each end. Usually, these are either police with badge numbers or IBA pre approved witnesses. John called me a half hour ago, and I was able to congratulate him. Some few of us have been helping to sponsor his rides since before his Iron Butt Rally 7th place finish in 2005. He calculates his time from start to finish as about 86 hours. During the ride, John had over 8 hours of sleep, at various places along the road, including on a picnic table.

The previous record was set by Gary Egan in 2004, I believe. He was reportedly riding a Ducati Multistrada.

John's bike is a 2005 (I think) Yamaha FJR-1300, which was purchased new by him. It now should have over 150,000 miles on the clock. John started his Iron Butt career on an inherited '94 (I think) BMW K75, which now has almost 200,000 miles on it. John Ryan is, I think, a 1960 model.

John is a very likable guy. He makes friends easily, and those friendships tend to last. Part of it is, I suppose, his forthright honesty about himself and his life, his sincerity, and his imposing physical presence and alertness. John is a type 1 diabetic, having been diagnosed at about age 15. He carries an insulin pump, and can frequently be spotted testing his blood glucose. John does not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages. The little welcoming committee at Key West planned to bring some Champagne; I suggested they bring some Gatorade, too.

John says he will stay in Key West for a couple of days. He'll get some rest, and replace the brake linings on the FJR, which he says are worn from all the mud, gravel, and sand on the Haul Road. He plans to do the work, himself.

Active BMW MOA member and GS rider Clark Luster has offered John his vacation house in Key West for the stay.

Speaking only as one of many who have offered just a little support for this ride, I think I can tell you that all of us who have given any money, effort, lodging, bike mods, etc., are greatly proud to be associated with this ride. Maybe we bought some gas, oil, shocks, tires, brake linings, and aid and comfort. John did this ride all by himself, otherwise, and it was entirely his plan and schedule. Some of John's friends changed his tires and oil in Minot. There was no support truck, or any of that. John wouldn't have allowed it, if it had been offered. Riding, he's a one man show.

Other than some sleep, John said there was an unexpectedly long time spent at the border crossing, that cost some time.

John's final discussion with me on the phone was to the effect that it might be pretty hard for somebody else to challenge this ride, but if they do, he figures he could shave a few more hours off the time with what he knows about it, and with a little better luck. In one case, he kept on I-40 when he should have taken I-24 to Chattanooga. That cost him (by my measure) 120 extra miles on the ride. He suggested that he didn't properly follow his GPS at the turn.


I believe you have witnessed a world class ride, and a raising of the bar for one of the most challenging rides the Iron Butt Association defines.

Join me in complimenting John, if not before, at the MOA Rally, where he'll be hanging as an ordinary rallygoer; as ordinary as solo ride record setters get.

Jim Shaw
Hinckley, Ohio USA

John rides into Key West

A hero's welcome awaits

Note the "Hippo Hands" in the above photo

Later, John's bike is parked at a friend's vacation house

John's time from Prudhoe Bay to Key West:
86 hours 31 minutes

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