In the tracks of a moto-pioneer.
Editor note: Richard Worsham is the founder and CEO of Janus Motorcycles, a small outfit hand building vintage-looking and feeling motorcycles in Goshen, Indiana. We’ve written about them and their unique bikes, as well as their old-school approach to construction and assembly, earlier this year. You can read all about them in our story HERE.
Richard had the opportunity to make a cross-country sojourn in the tracks of the legendary George Wyman, the first to cross the United States on a motorbike. Richard has been kind enough to share his story with us, in several parts, which we will feature here over the next few months. We hope you enjoy Richard’s travelogue as much as we have.
George Wyman setting the standard for long distance riding panache with his famous “Wyman pose”.
Over the past few years we have been visited here at Janus Motorcycles by a strange motorcyclist, fully geared up on his 1200cc Bavarian steed with many upgrades and “farkles” as they are termed in the adventure and sport touring motorcycling world. Farkle is a portmanteau, or combination of the two words “function” and “sparkle” and is also claimed to be an acronym for Fancy Accessory, Really Kool, Likely Expensive. We were invariably struck with the fact that this motorcyclist never really took his gear off, even his helmet, and marveled at his FLIR camera mounted on his bike (for spotting animals at night). Tim Masterson was a different breed of motorcyclist than anything we had experienced. Little did I know at the time how much I would be learning about this long distance riding phenomenon and the community of motorcyclists that surround it over the coming years.
The first time Tim showed up at Janus, he told us the story of George A. Wyman, the first person to cross America on a motorcycle, in fact a motor vehicle of any sort. Apparently this pioneer of motorcycling had passed right through our hometown of Goshen, Indiana on his historic ride from San Francisco to New York City in the early summer of 1903, not a block from where the Janus Motorcycles world headquarters stands. Tim had been working hard, along with a couple of other individuals, to document and raise awareness of George Wyman and his historic ride, as well as creating and marking waypoints along his route. We were quick to accept his request to post a Wyman waypoint sign on the outside of our shop commemorating this historic feat of motorcycling. In the spring of 2018, Tim’s visit was to install the waypoint sign in a more visible location at the front of our (at the time) newly expanded showroom and to install the formal Wyman memorial plaque just below it.
Tim Masterson and yours truly posing with the Wyman waypoint sign and memorial plaque on the front wall of the Janus Motorcycles HQ in Goshen, IN.
Simultaneously, the Janus team had been discussing the need to make a longer journey on one of our motorcycles. We were looking for a way not only to prove our motorcycle and engine, but to stress test them with a real world trial across many miles and away from the convenience of our repair bay. Our first idea was to take two bikes and ride out to the Pacific Ocean. We were looking at dates and discussing who would be available for such a ride, when Tim suggested that we enter a Janus in the George A. Wyman Memorial Challenge, an event where a group of riders retrace George’s route across the country. For more information on the Wyman Memorial Project, please visit their website.
The significance of such an endeavor was not lost on us. Not only was George Wyman the first person to cross the country on a motorized vehicle, he did it on a motorcycle—a 200cc motorcycle at that—exactly 115 years ago. The motorcycle that he rode was a 1902 model built by the California Motorcycle Company, the first production motorcycle brand in the United States.
I jumped at the opportunity to pilot one of our own bikes across the country. Without hesitation, I decided that our Halcyon would be the best option out of our three models at the time, both for long distance riding and as a tip-of-the-cap to George Wyman (our Halcyon 450 would be another three years down the road).
This Halcyon 250 #68 was chosen as my bike for the Wyman ride. It was the start of a very different sort of long-distance relationship.
We had just about a month to prepare for the ride and get the bike out to San Francisco. Once I had confirmed that I was going to make the trip on a Janus, Tim coached me through the basics of what to expect, the gear to bring, and how to manage the long hours in the saddle. I had no idea what I was in for… Almost all the riders attempting the Wyman Challenge were members of the Iron Butt Association who describe themselves as “the world’s toughest riders”. The Wyman Challenge is in fact a sanctioned ride by the IBA. After a week riding with a group of these riders, I can confirm their self title!
We decided that to learn the most from the trip and offer the best proof of the bike’s durability, we would keep everything on the bike as close to stock as possible. Engine, suspension, exhaust, etc. were all left stock. The one change that I did make was to replace the stock 47-tooth rear drive sprocket with a 45-tooth unit to lower vibrations at sustained highway speeds.
My first Iron Butt ride.
Next, I knew I would need dry storage for clothing, tools, gear, etc. With this in mind, I ordered a set of small removable aluminum panniers and then fabricated a mounting system off the Halcyon’s rear book rack assembly. Due to the Halcyon’s relatively small fuel tank (2 gallons) and the long distances to be traversed, I also knew I was going to need an auxiliary fuel tank of some sort. After considering several options, I decided to use a pair of Rotopax fuel cans. The benefit of these fuel cans is the ingenious way they are fastened to the motorcycle and the fact that they can be locked. I mounted the Rotopax cans behind the seat on the stock book rack. Next up was a set of our highway bars to which I added folding highway footrests to provide an alternate place to stretch out on the long miles ahead. Other upgrades and farkles included a simple tension operated throttle control, fleece seat cover, water bottle holders, USB charging port, and cylinder head temperature gauge.
For navigation, I used a waterproof Ram Mount box on the handlebars to hold an iPhone, running Google maps. At Tim’s recommendation, I also used a free service called Spotwalla, created by an IBA long distance motorcycle rider and uses SPOT GPS tracking to create a map of your ride. You can also send messages and images via the service. In addition to the iPhone, I also purchased a Sena bluetooth helmet headset for communication, etc.
The Halcyon 250 #68, farkled for long distance rambling.
The most important thing that Tim stressed to me over the phone was riding with the right base layers. He recommended a product called LDComfort. This company is based in Hoquiam, Washington and makes specialty base layers for long distance motorcyclists. I spoke with the owner, Mario Winkelman, a friend of Tim’s, and he explained the technology behind the garments and provided me with a full set of his gear including helmet liners. The benefit of LDComfort gear is that it is constructed out of two very thin layers of material. The inner material instantly transfers moisture away from the body to the outer layer which lets the moisture evaporate and provide cooling. Mario is a real character and a fixture in the long distance riding world. More on the LDComfort gear to follow.
In anticipation of the ride, Tim did a short interview with me, published on the Wyman Project site.
Posed with our transport crew and #68, crated and ready to head out West.
Before I knew it, the ride was a little over a week out and we still hadn’t gotten the bike out to San Francisco. Rather than ship the bike out via a standard carrier and risk missing the start date, we called a local friend with an RV transport company, Horizon Transport, based about 15 miles from Goshen and were able to have the bike transported in the bed of a pickup truck hauling a camper out to the Bay area of California. The driver, Linda, turned out to be a motorcyclist herself and took extra care with the bike, delivering a day earlier than requested.
All I had to do now was wait and assemble the last bits of gear that I would be carrying with me on the plane to San Francisco. It was with no small degree of trepidation that I looked ahead to longer miles in a single day than I had ever covered on a motorcycle. Each day on the Wyman ride would be in excess of my longest day in the saddle.
Next: The journey begins.