Gary Eagan and the 1098 S vs. Cannonball

1098_s_gonzo_4OneWheelDrive.Net contributor and long distance rider Gary Eagan is at it again, and this time he’s taking on one of motorsport’s most notorious challenges, the Cannonball Run.  If that isn’t intriguing enough Gary won’t be riding a soft continent crossing tourer, no it’s the Ducati 1098 S for him.  Oh, and there’s a little matter of gunning for a record…

From where we stand in New York City’s Mid Manhattan, a snarling fleet of attack taxis and brain addled civilian motorists blocks our path to Redondo Beach, California, a bit more than 2,800 miles to the west. “We” is me and my inky black Ducati 1098 S. Both of us are prepped to the pupils for an approaching eruption of Gonzo Touring, bent on riding from NYC to So Cal in 35 hours; give or take a few minutes. 

A trifle of background here before the tale continues.

About six months ago I fielded an intriguing e-mail, its author inquiring if I’d be interested in participating in a replay, of sorts, of the infamous Cannonball Run. Like the original Cannonball staged in 1971, this would be a no-holds-barred romp from the thick of Manhattan in New York City to the Portofino Inn in So Cal’s Redondo Beach. It would, like the original and its subsequent reruns, feature mostly autos, but if I was interested in stretching a Ducati’s legs a bit, I was welcome to play.

Here’s the tricky part.  All the cars would have at least two drivers and loads of extra fuel, while as a moto jockey, I’d be a solo act with obvious limits on how much gasoline could be carried.

It took me at least a couple of seconds to swallow that hook. The table was set for fun ‘n games.

I ran the invitation past Steve Hicks, Ducati’s Canadian Service and Events Manager, and Jim McKenna, Ducati’s Sales and Marketing Manager for Canada. They looked at each other for a few seconds, and Hicks simply said; “This’ll be great. But you’re doing it on a 1098.”  McKenna grinned in agreement.

Hicks is a master mechanic, and knows only one way to do things…with perfection. At the Toronto Motorcycle Show, and Hicks walked over to a Multistrada, took off the saddlebags, then held them along side our show-display black 1098 S, adding; “This is what we’re going to do. I’ve actually been thinking about doing this for a while now.”

Fitting the make over into his brutal work schedule was difficult, but in March Steve e-mailed me a picture, introducing me to what he called the “1098 Bagger.” He’d welded the bag mounts from the Multistrada to the sub frame, and when he mounted the bags it looked more like a factory-designed machine than a one-off tossed together in a garage. At least to my eye, it was a masterpiece.

Next step was increasing the fuel capacity, so I contacted Fuel Safe near Bend, Oregon, a company specializing in making custom fuel bladders for NASCAR, F 1 machines and airplanes. I sent them the Multistrada bags, Hicks gave them the green light to cook up a workable solution, and a month later they sent back another masterpiece. Semi-rigid fuel bladders for each bag, exactly fitting the interior shape of the Multi’s bags, and each holding about five gallons of fuel. They designed and installed beautiful billet filler nozzles protruding through the top of the bags and quick-release caps, allowing quick refilling without opening the bags.

Other pieces Hicks added to the bike were a set of Heli Bars to allow the bars to be rotated slightly aft, fully adjustable Ducati Performance rear sets and a Sargent seat.

I then rode the 1098 from Toronto to Warren, Michigan, where the crew at Powerlet designed and installed custom mounts for my Passport 8500 radar detector and Garmin 2620 GPS. They also wired in a few accessory outlets that enabled heated riding gear to be run directly through my tank bag.

Ducati has partnered with their Toronto dealer, Rev Cycles (Ducati Toronto) for additional support and bike preparation, which was a welcome addition to the effort. Kevin Davis, Rev Cycle’s general manager, and I had previously conspired on numerous endurance-oriented events, including record-setting runs from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida and from Vancouver, BC to Halifax, Nova Scotia (covered by OWD ). Both those records were set on Multistradas.

So the bike was ready, Rev Cycles was posed to offer whatever aid I might require in the days and weeks leading up to the ride, and there was little else to do aside from preparing my body for the task and selecting my route, departure time from New York  coupled with my anticipated arrival time in Redondo Beach.

That snaps us back to Manhattan and the attack taxis and sundry supporting cast of busses, civilian autos, trucks, pedestrians and bicycles, tangoing in a seemingly senseless knot of machinery. The task today was to figure out what would be the best time to slip through the Lincoln Tunnel, out to the New Jersey Turnpike and on to our goal at the lap waters of the Pacific Ocean. Traffic in Manhattan capsizes in the trough of description. The roads for any entry to or exit from Gotham are prone to slamming shut anytime, day or night.

It’s not unheard of to blow an hour or more to go the mile-and-a-half from my starting point on 31st. Street to the entry to the tunnel. My time clock would be punched the second I left the starting location and end when I hit the finish table inside the Portofino Inn. Blowing an hour from the get go would absolutely suck.

I could choose to start when Manhattan more less snoozes (it really never sleeps) around 3-4 a.m., as the rules allow a participant to leave anytime during a pre-selected 24 hour period. But that would get me through the Manhattan mess cleanly, only to find me arriving in the traffic swamp of the Los Angles area around 8 a.m., going in the same direction as the hundreds of thousands of crazed commuters. Plus, considerations presented themselves between the two slices of Metro Madness. Depending upon which way I chose to go, I would have to find a starting time to keep me free of clogged traffic in such places as Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis or Denver, all areas that could stop me cold.

New York and Los Angeles are both wonderful cities, inhabited by fine and friendly folk, largely meaning no one any harm. I’ll leave it to the individual reader to accept or reject that summary. But when these good folk leave their homes way too early for their daily slog through nut-numbing traffic, a change consumes them. Aggression is heightened, largely out of predatory necessity, and their subtle smiles become slicing snarls. Each foot of tarmac along roads to or from “The Cities” become war zones; each driver fighting foot and fang for every car length earned, claiming their progress by throttling into a moto-scrum of bashing bumpers and not-so-subtle gestures.

A spectator to this madness can only wonder if it is possible, as many motorists suggest, to actually shove that entire arm topped with extended center digit all the way UP THERE! This invasion force of otherwise good human beings, while being pureed through a traffic Cusinart and turned into whimpering pulp, obtains an aggregate, ugly purpose. They become………


The original Cannonball Run in 1971 was actually named “The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash.” Without proper planning and a ration of luck, running that same route 37 years later could easily become the “Shitmist-To-Shitmist Masshole Memorial Survival Dash.”


My decision has been made, in part. I’ll leave Manhattan between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., depending upon local traffic tragedies and which of two routes I decide to take. One would take me from NYC, onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike which becomes I 70 West, through Indianapolis and St. Louis then down to Oklahoma City and west on I 40 and eventually on to Redondo Beach.  The other would take me out of Manhattan, up to I 80 West, through the knotted confluence of I 80/90/94 south of Chicago, through Iowa and Nebraska, south to Denver, to Las Vegas and on to Redondo Beach. Weather may well decide which of the two routes is chosen.

So the 1098 Gonzo Tourer and I study the traffic in Gotham, choosing to fool ourselves into believing that what we see today, and have observed via live traffic cameras and other sources for the past several weeks, will repeat itself when we decide to drop the gauntlet. The actual ride date and time is being kept under wrap for obvious reasons, but will run sometime before the longest day of the year. I’ll keep you posted.

As for my goals for this ride, they are multiple. As always, I want to have fun while inching up the adrenaline load a bit. I am not necessarily considering competing against the autos for first-to-finish. I hear some of the cars may have as much as 100 gallons of fuel and two or three drivers. They may have to stop once along the 2,850 mile or so romp. I’ll have a bit more than 13 gallons of fuel, and will need to stop at least seven times for gas, likely a few more. Wind and rain, if present, will hamper my progress more than it will that of  the car guys & gals.

My main goal is to best the time set by motor sports legends Dan Gurney and Brock Yates when they won the l971 event in their Ferrari Daytona with a huge aux fuel tank and two filler nozzles. That time was 35 hours and 54 minutes, a spirited romp across the country. A time I believe I can beat. I have posted a time of just under 37 hours riding from San Francisco to New York on a Ducati ST 4, but that was done under Guinness rules, which limited my on board gasoline to eight gallons and required me to stop four times for multiple witnesses to sign official verification paperwork. Plus, it’s about 100 miles farther from San Francisco to New York that from New York to Redondo Beach. With more fuel and fewer en route requirements, my goal is realistic, at least to me.

Yates concocted the original Cannonball Run, which has spawned numerous movies based on the theme, to honor Cannonball Baker, a legend in motorcycling and auto racing.  In l914, Baker,  born Erwin G. Baker on March 12, 1882, rode a 1000 cc Indian from Redondo Beach to Manhattan in 11 days, 12 hours and 10 minutes. Considering that much of the route had no paved roads at that time, and that Baker had to arrange burros to haul in gasoline to his projected points along the route, that time is incredible.  It didn’t go smoothly for Baker either.

Baker was attacked by a large dog during the ride and had to seek medical attention after the resulting crash.  Then later the intrepid rider said he had to shoot two attacking wild dogs near Ft. Apache, Arizona to avoid a similar, or worse, fate. He said the dogs acted like “a pack of wolves.”  He also had six flat tires near Dodge City, Kansas, when he rode into a section of road littered by a keg of nails dropped from an earlier passing truck. Those travails, shouldered while riding on a road he characterized as “like plowed fields, some knee deep in mud,” make the jaunt the 1098 & I will take seem like a walk along the beach. The worst we will face will be the invasion of the Massholes.

Over his career, Baker is said to have made 143 cross country trips, and ridden an estimated 5.5 million miles while competing on or testing motorcycles. In l953 he rode from the present-day location of The Portofino Inn to Manhattan in 53 hours and 30 minutes, a record that would stand for nearly 40 years, and then bested by Yates and Gurney in the l971 Cannonball.

Telling people of this upcoming run elicits responses from “confusion” to “outright disbelief”, over my choosing a 1098 for a non-stop cross-country ride. I believe the 1098 S is actually very comfortable for a full blown, Sport Bike of the Year winning machine. The few alterations we’ve incorporated, none of them mechanical other than the Termi Full System, have made this a comfortable ride. This bike is much more than the dedicated, narrow purposed sport bike many consider it to be (OWD has demonstrated that – Ed. ). I think that in the next month or so, the 1098 and I will prove that in trump.  Assuming we can steer clear of The Massholes, I see this a chance to show that while the 1098 is a masterpiece on the race track or in the canyons, it’s an admirable Gonzo Tourer as well.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for the entry. I almost passed your blog up in Bing but now I’m glad I stopped by and got to read through it. I’m definitely more informed now. I’ll be recommending your site to some friends of mine. They’ll for sure enjoy the heck out of what I just read too. LOL. –Daniel


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