The “Ironbutt 10,000” is the holy grail of long distance motorcycle riding. To complete it, the rider must drive 10,000 miles in ten consecutive days. That’s roughly 13 hours of riding a day, basically doing laps around the U.S. Few have been able to complete the challenge, which hovers menacingly in the imagination of serious motorcycle aficionados.

“Before the 200 mile marker,” explains Alan Porter, a Motorcycle Safety Foundation expert-class rider with 20 years of motorcycle experience, “the average cager would start having second thoughts. At the end of the first day, he'd be desperately dialing the phone numbers of loved ones to tell them, over the maddening ringing in his ears, what a horrible mistake he'd made. For even the most robust of these poor sods, the prospect of nine more agonizing days of ‘taking in the sights’ by motorcycle would instill fear similar to that of a rodent under the shadow of a kettle of circling hawks.”

To train, it is recommended that you sit on your floor in the fetal position for 12 straight hours. To withstand the mental rigors, consult long distance motorcyclist and Buddhist monk Kusala Ratana Karuna. You could also seek the advice of Phil Mattson, number one on the top-ten-list of men who should be famous but aren’t. Mattson, unbeknownst to anybody outside of his family and the Ironbutt Association completed 30 consecutive 1000-mile days on his Harley this August. That’s right: 30,000 miles in 30 days.


And that was just the beginning. At age 62, the acclaimed, Grammy-nominated choral composer announced he wanted to break the record for miles biked in a year. The reason: he “wanted to spend some time on his bike and think about his life.” His friends and family thought he was joking. The elderly and prodigiously bald pipe-smoker did not fit the profile of a typical long distance motorcyclist. Sure, he loved his Harley, but the long-distance record for a year was 120,000 miles and Mattson had never biked more than 35,000 in a year.

Within the first few miles, Mattson's specially outfitted motorcycle developed a fuel pump problem and he was forced to turn back. It was not a promising beginning. But the next morning, Mattson silenced the skeptics with an unbelievable 18 hours of continuous high-speed riding. He covered 1500 miles and was awarded a medal by the Ironbutt Association.

He didn't stop to collect it.

Within 30 days, he had logged nearly 31,000 miles and broken the world record for miles biked in a month. Over the next 12 months, Mattson knocked down nearly every long-distance record there was. He flashed through 49 states in less than 7 days. He rocketed from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back again in 100 hours. He roared down to the tip of South America and turned around within a few hours of arriving. And in August, he watched his odometer tick past 193,242 – 130,000 miles more than last July 13th.

But don't worry. There are still records out there for the ambitious. No one has yet completed the IronButt 10,000 in a sidecar.

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