FarRiders™ or IBA – which one is for you?

If you are reading this and are new to Long Distance (LD) Riding you might be looking for the right place to gather information that will help you achieve Australian “Iron Butt” rides safely and have some fun along the way.  So where do you go to find the information?

In Australia the place to go has recently changed. So the correct answer to the question depends on what you really want to get out of your LD Riding.  Here’s some background.

In 2006 FarRiders was started by an iconic long distance motorcycle rider Davo Jones to encourage safe LD Riding and provide the opportunity for riders who enjoy longer days to occasionally meet.  The mechanism for this was a Ride To Eat (RTE) where a location and date was decided upon and riders would meet there, chat and leave with a minimum distance of 1000km to be ridden in 24 hours.

It’s a great concept, I did my first FarRide in 2012 after having already completed 2 Iron Butt Association (IBA) rides.  It was a wonderful day ride to Lightning Ridge for lunch. I’ve been to quite a few since.

Back then if you had completed an IBA ride and had it certified it automatically qualified you to become a member of FarRiders.  The other way to become a member was to register for and complete a FarRide RTE. FarRide RTE’s came in three difficulty levels that were graded

  • FR10 – 1000kms in 24 hours with checkin at the RTE, appropriate start docket only required
  • FR12 – 1200kms in 24 hours with checking at the RTE, appropriate start docket only required
  • FR12 Gold – More documentation but not up to IBA requirements

It was explained to me that these progressive rides were to assist riders who might move towards IBA rides by building planning skills, endurance and documentation abilities.  A great idea though not particularly relevant to me at the time as I already had IBA runs on the board. It was an easy day ride with friends with a social gathering in the middle. At the time FarRiders were known as the Australian link to the IBA and it was certainly the place for IBA riders to converse and discuss LD Riding. Davo Jones was an accomplished IBA rider who was sadly killed in a collision while competing in the Iron Butt Rally in the USA in 2009.  The links between FarRiders and the IBA were very strong.

At the time all certification for IBA rides was done in the US by the IBA which sometimes presented challenges due to distance and their unfamiliarity with our locations and conditions.  For quite some time there had been discussion among LD Riders about the benefits of local IBA certification and an official IBA presence in Australia

Since Davo’s passing in 2009 FarRider’s close links with the IBA seem to change.  There was also some division in FarRiders that resulted in some members forming their own group, Distance Riders Australia (DRA).  At one point about that time there was an announcement from the “CEO” of FarRiders that certification was to be done locally in Australia in association with FarRiders .  It was at the point that the submission mechanism was provided and I actually attempted to submit at least one ride through it.  For one reason or another that didn’t eventuate and I resubmitted them to the US for certification.  I suspect it was because of resistance to the process from non-FarRiders and perhaps some FarRider management issue with the IBA over the arrangements.

The IBA, based in the USA, own the relevant copyrights and trademarks for their logos, ride names etc.  We all know the US is a litigious, capitalist place so it’s pretty well stitched up and ready to protect itself.  It’s no secret that if an Australian branch of the IBA was to kick off  the IBA in the US was likely to expect their pound of flesh.  After all where they deal directly with overseas riders they get all the money to promote their sport.  It doesn’t make a great deal of sense even as a non profit organisation for them to hand over the use of their logos, trademarks and risk their global reputation for nothing. However it also meant that the non-profit benefits went to IBA members in the USA and none filtered back here.

So time went by and nothing progressed in terms of a local IBA presence.  There was a perception among local IBA Riders/FarRiders that things had stalled in terms of having any local presence for the IBA.  Many riders were frustrated with the timeframes for dealing with the US based organisation and the lack of events specifically tailored to riders who routinely knock out 1600kms in a day. In the USA the IBA organise rallies, large RTE’s and events where IBA riders get together, ride together and chew the fat. The IBA after some time listened to local feedback re certification delays and created a more streamlined mechanism that works better however still suffers the tyranny of distance and lack of local knowledge.

Late in 2015 the Iron Butt Association decided to create it’s own Australian IBA presence, IBA Australia,  after some contact from local IBA Members who ultimately decided they were willing to take it on.  I suspect the process was more convoluted and negotiated. FarRiders and other local LD organisations were somewhat bypassed by the IBA starting from scratch approach and I assume some feathers were ruffled.  It’s logical that the IBA needed to make the best decision for the local extension of their own organisation based on whatever history and contact they had had with other interested local parties, including FarRiders.

The announcement was made. FarRiders reacted and the following changes were made

  • Certification of an IBA ride (that is subjected to a higher standard of documentation and scrutiny) is no longer sufficient to become a FarRider.  You must complete a shorter and easier ride to join.
  • References to the IBA were removed from the public facing parts of the website.
  • Discussion forum categories where IBA Ride Reports had been previously shared with other riders were closed to further contributions and made read only.
  • The database listing FarRider’s rides would no longer be categorised by an IBA Ride Type.  To replace that rides that were previously categorised as say SS1600K now needed to be given a non descriptive, trivial name like “My mad ride” and descriptors including IBA terminology are actively discouraged.  Each new “ride” name now creates a category in the database without a hint of what it actually might be.
  • A new type of ride was created to allow existing FarRiders to add a ride to the existing member ride list. The basic ride is 1000km in 24 hours, give it a name and write an entertaining report including one or more photos and it’s approved by peers.  The documentation required to enable any form of verification – none, it’s an honour system. The cost – free.  The entertainment value of the report and pictures is as important as the ride itself. So in reality it’s the equivalent of the former shortest FarRide with a story that when recommended by three FarRiders gets added to the list.  Multi-day rides can be achieved by adding 800kms/24hrs on subsequent days.
  • Questions to the forum about IBA specific rides have been answered by suggesting the rider ask IBA Australia directly despite the fact that the expertise within FarRiders, that is the many very experienced IBA riders who participate, exists to answer most questions off the cuff.

FarRider’s non-recognition of IBA rides as sufficient for membership and their discontinuation/discouragement of the use of IBA ride names is puzzling.  A ride is what it is.  From my experience the IBA don’t have a problem with the use of their trademark ride names etc on other forums except if it is used improperly.  For example if someone incorrectly called a 1000km ride an Iron Butt ride. These IBA trademarked terms are used routinely in other forums I am a member of locally and internationally including OzStoc, ADVRider, The Super Tenere Forum and more. Clearly I’m not a party to the thinking of FarRider management but I suppose on some consideration inferences can be drawn that would suggest reasons.  However it is their right to make whatever changes they wish to make in response to the IBA Australia announcement.

The effect of this resistance to calling IBA rides what they are is that these more difficult, scrutinised, certificate worthy rides can not be easily distinguished now from a “latte ride” of a medium distance (1000km in 24 hours) in the FarRiders forum. The lack of informative categorisation of rides means the Member Ride List’s  usefulness as a reference tool for serious LD riders is now getting closer to zero with each day.  For example there is currently a ride categorised as “Never the Same Again” that was actually a 10,200km 6 Day Trans Australia Insanity, one of four ever done.  You would never know it was there if you didn’t read the report and over time it will disappear into the ether of other silly names and be lost to new members. Having said that some FarRiders are participating more with the introduction of a recognised shorter ride, so it’s proven popular to those riders.

So what’s the result.  IBA riders who are long term FarRiders still participate, friendships have been formed and FarRides will be attended I’m sure. For now the FarRider forum is more active but no longer fully supports the needs of more serious LD Riders.  These riders are slowly migrating to the IBA Australia Forum.  The two can clearly co-exist and an LD rider can be a member of both and many currently are.

But if you are new to LD riding and are looking to have a crack at rides of an IBA distance and already have a social network of riders then head straight for the IBA Australia Site.  Your questions will be answered directly, without judgement, by people who take their LD riding and IBA rides very seriously. More importantly, information you want to find out about an IBA ride you might want to do will be easy to find.

Joining both organisations is easy enough.  To join FarRiders just register for one of their RTE’s and turn up on time.  The rest is free.  With a focus of rides of a shorter distance

To join the IBA plan a 1610km ride at a time and date that suits you.  Document it properly as you ride is and send your documentation to the IBA for certification.  There’s a US$45.00 fee to pay by PayPal and eventually you’ll receive your IBA number and certificate in the mail and you’ll be part of a group of more hard-core riders.

So both forums/organisations have benefits and hopefully after reading this you’ll know where to head based on what information you need and what type of riding you want to do.

A final option – For completeness there is also another certification option out there in the USA, Long Distance Riders, that will scrutinise your ride and certify it if you pass. They have an interesting 800km in 12 hour introductory ride and other rides similar to IBA length.  Certification is relatively quick and painless but they do not have the presence or reputation of the IBA and don’t seem to organise events.  Their certificates and patches though are very cool if you like that sort of thing.