Pre-prep and general mid-trip maintenance... Having no choice but to forfeit my ascent of Pikes Peak this week (closed the last six miles due to snow), I endeavoured to use the time wisely to prepare the for the Iron Butt ride - scheduled for Friday 29th May. Now you might think there was not a lot to it, just get on your bike and ride - over 1000 miles, in less than 24 hours - seems simple enough right? - and I certainly intended to use this format as a way to get a lot further east more quickly than what might otherwise typically take me three days riding (I like to stop and smell the flowers, and drink the coffee ;o) Of course if you actually want a certificate (plus the all important patch and pin badge) from the IBA (the Iron Butt Association - try putting that on your resume, it ought to make for an interesting few moments in any subsequent job interview ;o) then there are certain rules you need to abide by, but essentially you need a start witness, a time, date and location receipt to confirm your start position (typically a gas station receipt), a log of your refuels (similar receipts) to help confirm your route, and a similar witness at the other end to confirm your arrival... Fortunately I was scheduled some mid-trip maintenance at the workshop of Motominded in Colorado Springs. For those of you unfamiliar, these are the guys who make the headlight conversions for dual-sport/enduro bikes to typically mount some pukka LED lamps in the OEM masks, dramatically improving the lighting performance of your bike. Their most popular design is incorporating a Baja Designs Squadron into the stock KTM headlight mask, which is something that works particularly well on the KTM 690 for example. Chris who runs the company also shares the workspace with Ned (Neduro) who as many of you will be aware produces the excellent Double-Take rear view mirrors, that utilise the RAM ball mounting system, allowing you to multi-position the mirror and easily fold it out of harms way for more gnarly going - although at the same time, they are pretty near indestructible anyway! I already use these on a couple of my own dirt/rally bikes, and while the stock CB500X mirrors had stood up to a handful of tip-overs so far, I thought it would be a good ideal to try the Double-Takes for the rest of the journey, particularly the return leg on the Trans-Am Trail. The initial impressions are good (baring in mind the typically higher road speeds I'll be riding the CB), with just a little more vibration compared to stock - the flip-side of course is they won't come loose and spin round (this has happened with the stock mirrors on rough ground!) or potentially break in the event of a fall. The other thing I added was a pair of BarkBuster Storm hand-guards. Again these are my personal favourites these days, with a nice deep hand shield to keep the weather off you (this would pay dividends during the second half of the Iron Butt, believe me!), and a strong aluminium backbone to protect the levers and your hands. Initially I/we have been a little concerned about how well the supplied mounting brackets fit around the front brake hose particularly on the CB500X, but I have to say that the supplied kit that includes replacement bar-end weights (meaning the hand-guards mount a little further out now) actually fit pretty well if you mount the inner clamps this way around: All this prep is primarily to help protect the bike during the return leg, which will see a lot more off-road riding than I'd immediately be experiencing on my final blast to the east coast. However, the primary reason for the scheduled stop (other than socially, and for an excellent hamburger with the boys) was to finally fit the production fork internals to Giant Loop's US demo bike... To recap, to ensure we had the bike built in-time for the Overland Expo on the 15th May, we sent just the longer damper rods themselves for the stock forks (together with the longer TracTive springs) but without the all-important valve shim stack fitted. Once the production parts were in John's hands, he built-up a second pair of forks (which we had, and was the simplest way for me to change them somewhere on the road), and sent them to Motominded as they have the perfect workshop facilities, that did I mention, is only a stones throw from a excellent gourmet burger restaurant ;o) Swapping the fork legs over was the perfect opportunity to also install some protection for the exposed stanchions - and while initially we considered some neoprene sleeves, personally I don't like the way they fit very tightly against the stanchions - as they can trap any dirt behind them and potentially scratch the chrome... Instead I invested in a pair of old-school rubber gaiters (a bargain at 16 bucks!), which if nothing else ought to endear us to the KLR crowd ;o) The final prep was to install a neoprene shock boot around the otherwise exposed TracTive rear shock. Similar to the radiator guard (and their very neat Tail-tidy conversion), Rally-Raid are more than happy to recommend the R&G Racing boot as a suitable measure - although ultimately I believe John is considering designing a more traditional dual-sport kind of hard mud-flap (the main problem is the lack of suitable mounting position on the non-ABS bikes). photo. Boot is the perfect length to still allow access to the rebound adjuster. So, with the chain lubed and adjusted (and the head bearings simiarly snicked up as they'd started to settle after the past 2500 miles of hammering), the bike was ready to go... I guess all that remained for me to do was try and get an early night, and meet Chris the following morning as he had rather generously agreed to get up at 6am to be my start witness - thank you! Cont.