When turning back is not an option…..
Imagine passing your motorcycle test and then getting straight on your bike and starting a journey that lasts over 11,000 miles (17,600 kilometres). That’s exactly what BMW F 800 GT rider Deena Mastracci did when she recently set the world record for the ‘Longest, Continuous Journey by a New Licensee’..
Deena Mastracci never says no to a new challenge. Refusing to be outdone by her fiancé, professional endurance driver Carl Reese, (who used a six-cylinder BMW K 1600 GT to set the fastest time on a motorcycle from Los Angeles to New York in August 2015) Mastracci decided to set her own long-distance motorcycle record. First though, she needed a motorcycle licence – no easy feat in itself.
Mastracci’s cross-country trip began on 1 June in Santa Clarita, USA, where she left the California Department of Motor Vehicles armed with her new licence, rode out of the parking lot and just kept on riding for the next 27 days. Prior to that, she’d had no previous on-road experience other than a one-day class on a closed circuit at Streetmasters Motorcycle Workshops, and a motorcycle safety class given at a local college as part of the preparation for her motorcycle test.
This ambitious coast-to-coast ride, by way of the Arctic Circle, was no vacation though, as Mastracci encountered a variety of challenging conditions, including snow, mud, ice, gale force winds, flooded roads and plenty of loose gravel. Her route included the full length of the treacherous Dalton Highway (one of the world’s most dangerous roads) and her journey included pit stops in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; Denver, Colorado; Brookfield, Connecticut; and Grand Rapids, Michigan before concluding in New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Mastracci covered an average of 400 miles per day. During the third week of her journey, she even travelled over 1,000 miles from Denver, Colorado to Hammond, Indiana within a 24-hour time period, a feat that is only attempted by the most seasoned riders, and often referred to as an ‘Ironbutt Challenge’. Mastracci’s total distance of 11,236 miles (17,978 km) surpassed the previous record of 9,000 miles set by Clif Chu in July 2012.
For this latest record attempt, Mastracci rode a used BMW F 800 GT motorcycle purchased at West Valley Cycle Sales in Los Angeles, the oldest BMW Motorrad Dealership in the United States and family run since 1950. The F 800 GT already came equipped with a Bill Mayer custom seat and Verholdten risers for a more comfortable handlebar position. Deena then added some modifications for this long ride, including auxiliary ClearWater Lights for increased visibility; an EarthX battery that is considerably lighter than the original (by some 8lbs/3.6kg) and designed to performed flawlessly in cold conditions when she was north of the Arctic Circle and miles from help. And to look good on the road, the GT had a special custom red and chrome paint finish done by Creations ‘n’ Chrome in the same town where she took her motorcycle test.
As for the F 800 GT itself, it was a big step up for Deena, having previously only ridden a 250cc Honda during training but she proved that that where there’s a will, there’s a way forward, as long as you have faith in your abilities.
“I was initially intimidated by the size and power of the F 800 GT over the first few days, but I soon got over that,” she says. “I was even told by several people that I would not make it up to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska because I was a beginner and my bike was a belt drive, but both the bike and I proved the ‘naysayers’ to be wrong. The range was excellent – over 200 miles per tank, depending on my right hand! My longest journey I did before refuelling was from Coldfoot to Prudhoe Bay, a distance of 246 miles with no gas stations in-between. I was very comfortable on the bike and I never had saddle soreness, even accomplishing the ‘Iron butt’ on day 21 by riding 1,023 miles within a 24 hour period. Even then I was just a little tired, but not sore.”
As a new rider, Deena was amazed by the support from the motorcycling community both during and after her journey. A live online map of her travels meant that people rode out to meet and support her along the way. There were TV interviews en route and an appearance at the BMW MOA rally in Hamburg, New York, left her with an aching throttle hand again – this time from signing over 1000 autographs!
"I feel blessed to have found a whole new family, especially the BMW MOA club,” enthuses Deena. “It is amazing to me what a brother/sisterhood this is – and just one more benefit of becoming a motorcyclist. Now, I can’t wait to take motorcycle rides in other countries, as I am completely hooked on this new aspect of my life. I have worked in physical therapy for almost 30 years and would love to have a job riding my bike from place to place for the next 30 years or more. I am sure a lot of motorcycle riders have that same dream.”
Mastracci’s very first motorcycle ride was not only a successful attempt to set a record for ‘Longest Distance Travelled by a New Motorcycle Licensee’, but was also a way to bring attention to the work of the Motorcycle Relief Project, a non-profit charity that helps veterans with PTSD and other injuries. The group arranges multi-day motorcycle tours and other activities, and also offers counselling for veterans in an effort to decrease suicides. Additionally, Mastracci hoped her ride would inspire other women who may feel intimidated by riding a motorcycle.
“My journey was the trip of a lifetime: a terrifyingly beautiful ride and an incredible learning experience all in one,” says Deena. “Everything about the voyage was a challenge for me. From navigating in traffic to manoeuvring through mud and ice, it was very tough. However, this journey was nothing compared to the trials that our armed forces face on a daily basis, which is why the work that the Motorcycle Relief Project does is so important to me.”
Carl Reese, who followed Mastracci on the journey on his BMW K 1600 GT motorcycle as a safety precaution, said, “It was remarkable to see how Deena evolved as a rider over the course of her journey. Going from no on-road experience to tackling more than 11,000 miles over the course of 27 days is nothing short of epic! I am so proud of her for taking on and conquering such a challenge.”
No stranger to setting records, Mastracci (together with Reese and Rodney Hawk) already holds the Guinness World Record for the ‘Shortest Charging Time Cross-Country Trip in an Electric Vehicle’ and as part of Reese’s driving team, has helped set records for the ‘Fastest Time for Crossing the USA in an Electric Vehicle’ and for a ‘Double Transcontinental Trip (LA-NYC-LA)’. She holds a total of five Electric Vehicle records. This attempt was Mastracci’s first individual record, and has been submitted to Guinness World Records book for formal verification.
Source: BMW Motorrad International
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