Monkey Butt 500

Rider rides a mile for every issue: 500 in one day…on li’l singles. Because we can.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Ridin’ the rollers across the Carrizo Plain on State Route 58. Photos by Kurt Yaeger.

A ride is an experience, a long sequence of moments—some special, most mundane—that unfolds in unexpected ways. That unpredictability, even on a meticulously planned ride, is what makes a motorcycle trip so satisfying. Like you, we’ve gone on countless rides and experienced those moments that make us—motorcyclists—who we are. And in the thousands of pages of Rider published since the summer of 1974, we’ve chronicled thousands of rides across every U.S. state and nearly every country scattered around the globe.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Our 500-mile ride kicked off at 5:00 a.m., well before sunrise.

So what better way to commemorate our 500th issue than a ride? Time was tight, so an epic, multi-state tour wasn’t in the cards. But a scenic cruise down Easy Street on two-wheeled BarcaLoungers wouldn’t cut it either. Plenty of blood, sweat and tears went into publishing 500 issues, so the same should go into our ride. (Well, maybe not the blood. Nor the tears. And not too much sweat.)

We considered doing an Iron Butt ride, but riding 1,000 miles in 24 hours is hard and we’re pretty soft. We wanted to have fun on this ride, so we set our sights on a more modest and symbolic goal: riding a mile for every issue in one day. And to make things interesting, we’d do it on single-cylinder tiddlers—a half-Iron Butt Saddlesore on half-pint bikes!

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Our mounts: a Honda Rebel 300 (left), BMW G 310 R (middle) and Yamaha XT250 (right).

For our team of staffers—Editor-in-Chief Mark Tuttle, Managing Editor Jenny Smith and yours truly—we chose a variety of thumpers: a BMW G 310 R sport standard, a Honda Rebel 300 cruiser and a Yamaha XT250 dual-sport. Our ride would begin and end at Rider HQ in Camarillo, California, and our 500-mile, clockwise loop would go up the coast to Cambria, east to the Central Valley and finally southwest, over mountains and through valleys and canyons on as many back roads as possible.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Our 500-mile, tiddler-friendly route. Map by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

According to the GPS, if we rode nonstop the route would take us 10.5 hours, which also happened to be the amount of daylight available on February 1. But we needed to stop to refuel the bikes and our bodies and to shoot photos, so our very long day would start and end in the dark. And to help us document our ride, we enlisted Jenny’s boyfriend, Kurt Yaeger, an actor (he was Greg the Peg on “Sons of Anarchy”), photographer and fellow rider who would enjoy the relative comfort of his BMW R 1200 GS.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Greg took a turn behind the lens, capturing our photographer, Kurt Yaeger (center–not the horse) at sunrise.

After waking up at O-dark-thirty, we gathered at the office, filled our hydration packs and stuffed our motorcycle luggage with snacks and supplies. As we mounted our mini motos, an ear-piercing blast and a cry of “Charge!” made us jump out of our skin…all of us except Mark, who chuckled to himself as he stuck an air horn back in his jacket pocket.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Unbeknownst to us, as we mounted the bikes for our 5:00 a.m. departure, Mark was ready to scare us to full attention by blasting an air horn.

With our pulses still racing with adrenaline, we departed precisely at—you guessed it—0500 hours. The weather gods would bless us with a warm, sunny day, but two hours before dawn it was black and cold. We shivered and buzzed our way north on U.S. Route 101, ahead of rush hour traffic but right on time for a convoy of menacing tractor-trailers. Riding in a tight, safety-in-numbers formation with visions of heated grips dancing in our heads, we wondered, what have we gotten ourselves into?

We were relieved to exit the freeway and wind our way up to San Marcos Pass. This ride was a new adventure, but it was also a trip down memory lane, a ride on some of our favorite roads that have been featured many times in Rider’s tour stories, road tests and photo shoots. Descending into the Santa Ynez Valley, we enjoyed our first special moment as dawn turned the sky from dark blue to glowing pink and the nearly full moon shined brightly, still majestic after the previous night’s “super blue blood moon.”

Near Los Olivos, we peeled our frozen bodies off the bikes to watch the sun rise and pray for warmth. It was 36 degrees.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
After two hours of riding in the dark, teeth-chattering cold, we welcomed the rising sun with open arms.

After a pit stop in Buellton, we rode through the Santa Rita Valley and got our wish. No longer cold and not yet hungry, we cruised comfortably toward our first set of twisties courtesy of Harris Grade Road. Continuing north on Highway 1, it was too early for tacos in Guadalupe, so we pressed on, recharging with caffeine and jerky in Pismo.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Ride to eat, eat to ride. Get between Greg and his protein bar (or his tacos) and you might pull back a bloody stump!

Having done stints on the BMW and Yamaha, I folded myself onto the Honda and twisted its grip to the stop. The Rebel’s low seat and compact dimensions didn’t fit my 6-foot frame, and its 3.8-inch rear shocks didn’t do my lower back any favors, but otherwise it was a hoot. Horsepower on the tiddlers was modest, ranging from a high of 34 on the BMW to a low of 18 on the Yamaha. They were wrung out on the freeway, but on back roads, where riding a slow bike fast is way more fun than riding a fast bike slow, they punched above their weight.

Skinny tires and ample suspension travel made the Yamaha the most forgiving when the going got rough, and its long, narrow seat allowed us to move around. But it was pretty wheezy climbing hills when burdened by the likes of Mark or me. With stylish bodywork, a fancy digital display and standard ABS, the BMW is a small bike with big-bike ambitions. It handled well and was comfortable, but its stepped seat locked us into place. The Honda’s chunky tires and exposed engine and frame give it a bulldog stance, and it proved to be a tough little number even though it bucked hard over bumps.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
When we got to Moonstone Beach in Cambria at 10 a.m., we’d already been on the road for five hours.

From Cambria’s Moonstone Beach we headed inland, tackling Santa Rosa Creek Road, a gnarly, Mr.-Toad’s-Wild-Ride ribbon of pavement that’s barely a lane-and-a-half wide and winds its way through a narrow canyon, climbs steeply over a pass and descends into a garden of riderly delights. We tossed the tiddlers around like toys and loved every minute of it.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Freeways are boring. We spiced up our 500-mile route by stitching together as many beat-up back roads as possible, such as Santa Rosa Creek Road.

By the time we arrived in Atascadero, it was 1 o’clock, we’d been on the road for 8 hours and we hadn’t quite completed half of our loop. To fortify ourselves for the long hours of seat time that remained, we loaded up on meaty tacos and fruity Jarritos sodas at Garcia’s Mexican Fast Food.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Much salsa was spilled and many napkins were dirtied in our street taco comparison test, a three-way tie between pork adobado, carne asada and chile verde. We’re already planning a rematch.

Filling our bellies with carne asada and chile verde before taking on State Route 229 (a.k.a. Rossi’s Driveway), a short, narrow road with berms, whoops and jumps like a paved motocross track, probably wasn’t the best idea, but man, those were tasty tacos. We had one of those glass is half-full/half-empty moments at the halfway point, but we soldiered on, turning east on State Route 58 for a long, desolate, up-and-down ride to the oil fields of Taft.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
A brief repose at the halfway point to let our tacos digest before getting shaken and stirred on State Route 229.

We kept their throttles pinned, but the tiddlers sipped gas. With the largest tank and best fuel economy (2.96 gallons, 65.2 mpg), the Honda eked out 193 miles of range, followed by the BMW (2.9 gallons, 62.8 mpg, 182 miles) and Yamaha (2.4 gallons, 64.1 mpg, 154 miles).

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Mark can hardly contain his excitement that topping off the tiddlers is well within our budget.

We chugged our way back up into the mountains and turned left onto Hudson Ranch Road, where we dropped our kickstands to bid fond farewell to the sun. A beautiful sunset was followed by another special moment—riding graceful curves on a high ridge with panoramic views while bathed in the pink and orange glow of the day’s last light.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
The day was sunny and clear, but it lasted less than 11 hours. When we bid a fond farewell to the sun, we still had 150 miles and 4 hours to go.

Soon enough we were back to the character-building part of the ride. With darkness came the cold, and after a final fill-up we battled more big rigs on a short stretch of Interstate 5 before riding east on State Route 138, a two-laner that cuts straight across the Antelope Valley. We were droning, just trying to make miles.

But then the unexpected happened, another special moment. A reddish glow on the horizon got brighter, turned orange and played hide-and-seek behind the clouds. Slowly but steadily it took shape—the moon was rising and got brighter as it climbed higher in the sky. It felt like a good omen.

After riding over another ridgeline and winding our way through Elizabeth Lake Canyon, we swapped bikes for the last time with just 40 miles to go. Fatigue turned to excitement as we twisted and turned up Grimes Canyon. A few minutes later we pulled over to the side of the road as the GPS turned exactly 500.0 miles. We hooted, hollered and high-fived in celebration.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
After 10 hours of riding and 6 hours of monkeying around, we finished our 500th mile at 9:00 p.m.

Riding a mile for every issue was a 16-hour adventure, from before sunrise to well after sunset. We rode until we ached, we froze our butts off and we laughed and had fun at every stop. And every time we saddled up again, Mark blasted his air horn like a rallying cry. Charge!

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Mark demonstrated that, yes, he could very well have been Keanu Reeves’ stunt double for his Super Bowl commercial.

Like you, we love to ride. Sometimes we ride with a purpose, sometimes we ride just to have fun. But no matter what, the best part of riding a motorcycle is the affirmation of a life well lived. Savor every moment.

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Like any proper adventure, at times we were cold, hungry and uncomfortable. But nothing broke, nothing went wrong and we actually had a lot of fun. Success!
Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Greg on the BMW G 310 R.

Greg’s Gear
Helmet: Schuberth C4
Jacket: Fly Terra Trek 4
Pants: Fly Terra Trek
Boots: Fly Milepost II

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Mark on the Honda Rebel 300.

Mark’s Gear
Helmet: Shoei Neotec
Jacket: Joe Rocket Classic ’92
Pants: Rev’It
Boots: TCX Airtech Evo Gore-Tex

Monkey Butt 500 mile ride
Jenny on the Yamaha XT250.

Jenny’s Gear
Helmet: Arai XD4
Jacket and Pants: Spidi 4Season
Boots: Sidi Deep Rain

3 COMMENTS

  1. I read the hardcopy a month or so ago and enjoyed reading it again digitally. What a great trip! Thanks for this. I’m a big fan of touring on the small and cheap.

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