While Solar Impulse prepares for a third leg of its Across America flight, two intrepid motorcyclists are on their way or preparing to depart on similar, but ground-bound traversals.
Terry Hershner reported on his “Life Off the Grid” Facebook page, “On the edge of the Pacific Ocean, moments from Mexico, officially leaving the west coast at 1:40 am Friday May 31st.” By Saturday afternoon, he was well past El Paso, scurrying at the 70 mph he’s been maintaining through the trip so far, but only when he’s moving. Three incidents have brought him to a stop for varying periods. One unintentional “off-roader” near Gila Bend, Arizona tied up the eastbound lane for an hour while police removed his vehicle from the road.
Outside Lourdsburg, New Mexico in the early morning, he texted, “Going ‘Zero’ mph for the last 45 minutes. A drunk driver hit the bridge and the highway patrol shut down I-10 so a life flight helicopter could land. This is the third time this trip the freeway has come to a halt! I didn’t plan on these occurrences when I planned to cross the US in 3 days. It may take 4. How disappointing.”
He should be in Florida by Monday, stopping only (aside from mayhem not of his own making) to plug his bike into two 220-Volt chargers and get a quick nap.
His mount, a Zero Motorcycle with two battery packs and an extreme Vetter fairing, goes, “200+ miles at highway speeds vs. 43 miles stock. He’s doubled up on battery and the fairing more than doubles range,” as one of his Facebook friends explains. Working with Craig Vetter, Terry has reduced drag and improved riding comfort even in an “open cockpit” mode.
To show the possibilities with fairings, a fully faired 125-cc motorcycle from Vetter achieved 477 mpg on one economy run in 1985. The molds were created in 1983 and are still used to create slippery, aircraft-like shapes for eco-riders.
A second team from Moto-Electra Racing will set out to make the same run in the opposite direction, but in only three days. The competitive team will push the limits in its attempt. As reported by Rider Magazine, “’We will travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean using only the batteries in the vehicle,’ explained Brian Richardson, the manager of Moto-Electra Racing. ‘The event will conclude on the Santa Monica Pier in California. The race is against the clock and the motorcycle will be ridden by Thad Wolff, one of the great AMA Superbike racers of the 1980s.’”
The California-bound cycle is a one-off custom machine, mounting the electric pieces on a Norton Featherbed frame and looking a good deal more “old school” than the Zero/Vetter combination. It resembles a European “café racer” in many respects. Streamlining will depend on how closely the rider can hug the frame on this bike.
The team has planned about 20 recharging stops along the route, with a team from Virginia’s James Madison University tagging along to run a portable generator and assist with keeping stops as short as possible.
These are both exciting rides, reminiscent of the Cannonball Runs that featured high-speed races between wildly varied competitors – and which inspired at least two movies. Highway speeds and long distances between stops hint at the practical level both bikes approach – something that will translate well into future developments for less hurried rides.