A minimum of 1610km (1000 miles) in less than 24 hours on gravel/dirt in the Iron Butt Association (IBA) world is called a Dusty Butt. If there’s any sealed road in the route it has to be subtracted from the kilometre count. High standards of proof are required for the IBA to certify it.
There’ve been 52 Dusty Butts listed as certified on the US IBA site on bikes ranging from BMW R1200GSs to the smallest, a KTM 620. I thought it might be worth upping the ante, or lowering it, by having a crack on a Yamaha WR250R. A proper test of man and machine.
During Covid it’s been difficult to get hold of used bikes but I fluked an already “adventurised” WR with 24,000km of relevant experience. It sported a good bash plate, an 18L tank, comfy seat, luggage racks and various items of protection. I snapped it up and rode it 50km home, and delivered it to Clive Ward “The Professor” at Motorcyclebiz. Clive knew my requirements and prepared the bike meticulously. Work included changing every bearing, fluids, filters, tyres, tubes, chain, sprockets, and checking every nut and bolt. A larger screen, a Montana 680T mount, high rise bars, bar risers, a pair of Baja Designs Squadron Pro’s and a rotopax bracket were fitted. Importantly the front suspension was serviced and adjusted, and the rear had a Race-Tech kit installed ready for the task at hand.
The timely opening of the South Australia Border created a ride now or never situation, and some pressure to get the bike finished. I collected the bike from Clive on Wednesday and left for Coober Pedy, with the bike on a borrowed trailer the next day. My friend Bill offered to help with the driving and monitor the ride as it progressed, so we dug in for the 2000+km road trip.
We arrived in Coober Pedy on Saturday afternoon. The original plan was to ride at 4am the next morning, but a forecasted 45 degrees with high winds meant a delay of a day.
Sunday’s soaring temperatures and wind were a reality but presented an opportunity to take the bike on a shakedown ride. I filled it, rode 50km out on the route pinned, took a photo, and then rode back. The bike went well, was fine on the dirt although I couldn’t really get my 195cm standing comfortably, despite the bar risers. Luckily my size 16 Tech 7s were comfortable around the gear shift and rear brake. The bike used 5.3L of fuel in the 100km, making my larger rotopax required, to ensure sufficient on board fuel for each 427 km leg of the ride.
The rest of the day was spent hiding in the underground hotel avoiding the 47 degree heat and howling winds, and hoping that the somewhat milder weather forecast for the next day eventuated.
I woke at 3.15am, ate, and we packed the bike. The start docket at the Shell Roadhouse was at 4.17am. With the Montana reset, SPOT tracking on and a drink of water I rode off into the darkness. A couple of km of tar and I turned left towards William Creek, stopping for a photo at the Road Advisory sign nestled within the opal mines.
I knew there were black cattle along this road, so care was required. The Squadron Pros were doing their job admirably and as my confidence increased, the speed crept up a little. It was coolish and a bit damp; the sandy areas on the road presented no real issues. There were some washouts of varying lengths across the road at points, the worst of which marked by a small, almost invisible flag, stuck in it. Fortunately, I didn’t ride into any of them. By the time I turned right towards William Creek on the Oodnadatta Track I had seen an unspectacular cloudy sunrise.
Nothing was stirring at The William Creek Hotel as I rode through on the way to the Lake Eyre South Viewing area. I stopped there for a while, taking in the huge white expanse of salt flats, and put the contents of the rotopax into the main tank. Clear glasses were changed for sunglasses, and gloves swapped ready for the heat and some wind that was coming. I was very happy with how the bike was going. With stock gearing it had some difficulty holding 6th in the rougher stuff or against the wind, but I was making better than expected time.
Shortly after leaving Lake Eyre I heard a pop, clunk and roar. An inspection revealed the db killer had been ejected from the exhaust. The rear right blinker was also showing signs of heat damage from the exhaust gases. The blinker lens later fell off, but the globe remained functional for the nine right turns left in the ride.
A headwind had whipped up but the noticeable power increase the loss of the db killer had delivered made 6thsignificantly more useable. I turned right on to Borefield Road and three vehicles going the other way were the first I saw until I reached Roxby Downs. 23.5L of fuel was burned for the first leg, and I was pleased I hadn’t gone with the smaller rotopax.
While refuelling I drank some water from my camel back and ate a piece of Lions Club Fruit Cake that I had secured from the Caltex at Peterborough on the way to Coober Pedy. It’s one of my favourite long ride calorie sources. It was a quick stop and time to return to Coober Pedy.
Borefield Road was still quiet; the strengthening crosswind gave a little more assistance this time. I stopped at the intersection with the Oodnadatta Track for a quick photo, then it was riding with a tail wind back past Lake Eyre to Margaret Siding.
Evidence of the old Ghan rail line in the area is easy to find. The rising heat meant the sandy areas presented slightly more of a challenge after William Creek. I was using an airhawk and the slight disconnect between seat and sit bones seems to help a bit when the bike was squirming around. Interestingly, with the wind assistance, the trip back to Coober Pedy was significantly faster and topping up from the rotopax was not required. I refuelled well ahead of schedule at 1.50pm, having covered 849km.
Bill was waiting for me, helped with the paperwork, and with lubricating the chain. Lunch was a flat white and a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich. Keeping the calories up on these rides is as important as not upsetting your stomach. I was in some pain – my hands had stiffened up, my thumbs were aching, right wrist sore from holding the throttle open and my knees were burning from constant knee guard compression. All expected and packed away for later.
Now all I had to do was the same thing all over again. Turning east the sun was behind me, the still strengthening and gusty wind in front, and the temperature in the low thirties. That said, the 166km to William Creek seemed to fly by, and I stopped for a quick snap.
The light was better at Margaret Siding on this pass, so I took more pics. I wasn’t in a hurry but dismissed taking some time to check out the hot spring at Coward Springs. Lake Eyre shone brighter in the afternoon sun and soon enough I was turning right onto Borefield Road again.
Up ahead two huge twin trailer livestock transporters turned onto the road. My heart sank, getting past them was going to be a nightmare. I decided to stop and refuel; if I passed them there was no point having to stop again. While refuelling with my helmet on, listening to Taylor Swift, I was startled by a ute that had pulled up next to me to see if everything was OK. I expressed gratitude for their concern, and they were on their way.
Too soon I caught the first of the stock trucks. The cross wind from the left was still blowing and the truck was driving on the right side of the road so I could undertake it without getting completely dusted. Very polite. The first one wasn’t too bad, but I felt nervous and tiny between the two behemoths. While passing the second one I got hit by a wall of dust so thick that it almost felt like being hit with water. I was covered in it but there was nothing to do but get past the thing and cough later. I saw more dust ahead and thought it might be the guys in the ute. It was another truck…. Bugger!
After a third pass, my visor and my sun glasses had a thick film of dust on them. Stopping to clean them wasn’t an option – the trucks would just pass me again. So I tipped my head forward and looked over the top of my sun glasses for the next 40km or so until I again reached the BP at Roxby Downs just before 7pm.
26.5L of fuel, a flat white on soy, and a chicken, lettuce and mayo wrap were consumed quickly. A quick call from Bill and my wife, and some texts arrived from people watching the SPOT track, all encouraging me for the last leg of the ride. I didn’t want to hang around too long but I was also concerned I’d meet the three trucks on the road again if I left too quickly. My knees, hands and right wrist were aching quite badly . The loud pipe had my ears ringing and head aching and the area of my body mostly connected to the seat was feeling somewhat traumatised despite the airhawk. I knocked back a couple of panadol and ibuprofen. They were going to wear off before I finished the ride and it was likely to be a nasty finish but they certainly helped for a while. I also and changed back to my clear glasses, cleaned my visor, zipped up the vents in my jacket and put on warmer gloves in preparation for the cooler night riding coming up.
Riding out of town I quietly cheered as I saw the three stock trucks dropping dust on the outskirts of town. The road was vehicle free and I enjoyed watching the sun go down.
There was a slight glow on the horizon and a new moon rising as I got back to the Oodnadatta Track. I switched on the Squadron Pros and prepared myself mentally for the final 300km in darkness. Nothing existed outside the lights, I love riding at night.
There was one light between Roxby Downs and Coober Pedy, at William Creek. I took advantage of it to refill the tank just to be sure. I didn’t want to have to muck around with refuelling by head torch. While stopped, a 4WD appeared from nowhere and drove past, pulling up at the other end of town. A man got out and just stood there. As I was getting ready to leave, he got back in his vehicle and drove off slowly on the wrong side of the road. As I got closer, he turned a rear facing floodlight on me, perhaps upset by LED converted low beam of the WR. I flicked the Squadrons on and after a while he turned off his flood light and slowed down. I dipped the Squadrons, caught up and started to pass him. As I rode alongside he moved his truck slowly towards me so I accelerated and scooted past. Then he lit the front of his truck up. He had a very impressive light bar and spots which greatly improved my vision while blocking the reflections into my eyes with my elbows. I’m not sure he was trying to help me, but when I turned left towards Coober he almost stopped, then continued towards Oodnadatta. I wondered if I was in Wolf Creek rather than William Creek.
Near the Anna Creek Station turnoff I saw my first and only kangaroo for the ride. A big boy on my right who was facing away from me. I still slowed down and of course he turned towards me and jumped into my path, roosting me with the next hop. The last section of the ride means constant self-monitoring for signs of fatigue. These might include forgetting to scan, staring at the road, slowing down for no apparent reason and I have some OA/time sums I do in my head. Any sign of mental fatigue and it’s time to rest or reconsider the ride. I had plenty of time up my sleeve but remained focussed and on task.
I continued to make surprisingly good time in the dark, the sand had cooled and settled again; I managed to dodge the washouts and flags, and the road was clear of cattle. I backed off a little as I passed the opal mines, I felt bad about the roar of the bike at such a late hour. At 12.27am I was back at the in Coober Pedy getting a finish docket, and doing the paperwork with Bill.
1698km in 20 hours 10 minutes; 1644km on dirt. A great day out on the WR250R which ran like a dream. My goal of a Dusty Butt on a little trail bike was realised, pending IBA Certification of course! If certified, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be, it will be the smallest bike to have successfully completed an IBA Dusty Butt anywhere in the world.
The WR is for sale now, but I did get to ride it four times!