2023 SCBR – Day 1 – The Start Line

Truck and trailer packed up and delivered to San Clemente, CA!

The little 5×8 enclosed trailer was just wide enough to accommodate three scooters with zero millimeters to spare. A few patio cushions between each bike meant any straps were essentially anecdotal at best.

We arrived a few days early and, of course, had to make some common visits including a last minute gear check at Revzilla HQ

I wasn’t the only one with a support truck, however some really went all-in on the practice. A few busses and a handful of various pickup trucks loosely followed the route.

The Scooter Cannonball’s rider and bike registration/check-in was hosted by some overnight brewery up in the hills. Bike inspection was one of many attempted mechanisms in place to reduce the SCBR’s liability and further define the copy pasta indemnification language.

It was absolutely refreshing to see such a wide variety of scooters.

There were only a handful of 124-125cc machines on the rider list and, given the degree of difficulty, one would think anything with such a small engine should not only rationalize a much higher handicap score, but be included in the “qualified bike” scorecards. Take the Honda Trail 125, for example. This bike meets qualifications as an eligible scooter, as does the Super Cub 125, however the Grom and Monkey don’t…. Chain driven, no “step-through”, tire size, etc…. Okay…

I was surprised and delighted by the amount of Groms and Monkeys at the start line. Equally as happy when one would pass me full throttle on the route.

The start line was packed with optimism and nerves at 6:30AM. Riders were encouraged to appear at the start line for a group photo, however the cool kids checked in at the start line closer to 4-5AM and were already on their way to beat the heat and crowds. The forecast called for temps of over 107F, but being a first time rider of this event and knowing very little about all of the inside nonsense, I was anxious about not attending the 6:30AM meeting.

There was another Buddy Kick at the start line! An incredibly charming scooter shop owner out of Ohio chose the same color Kick for the journey.

After the group sort-of-photo, it was on each rider to go about the path on their own time/schedule. Again knowing the impending heat through the desert, most chose to leave immediately.

We went through several mountain passes on the first day. Beautiful and awe-inspiring views along the way!

In order to qualify as a “finisher” of the SCBR, the objective was to certifiably hit every predefined checkpoint. One of these checkpoints was inside the famous Joshua Tree National Park. Just a few miles before the park entrance I saw my first critical accident and rider down. Met with a landing medical helicopter and views of a rider getting CPR on the side of the road, it was clear not all of the 182 riders at the start line would finish sans broken bones.

The temperatures were only about 93F by the time I travelled through Joshua Tree. My bike was holding up until about half way through the park. Every mile in, my scooter lost one mile per hour. At this point I assumed it was the steady climb in elevation.

By the end of the park, I took a five minute break to let the bike cool down and gained a few more miles per hour. Heat was taking its toll on the bike.

The next leg of the journey was perhaps the most dramatic for day one. A sign only a few miles out from Joshua Tree said “Next service 100 miles.” I was too focused on making it to the next stop and assumed everything, including myself, was going to hold up. Each minute into the no-service terrain my bike lost speed. 65mph, 64, 63, until at one point the fastest I could press on was about 30mph…

I frantically kept analyzing the resources around me. What could I use for shade? If I bundle up a few weeds and debris, would it be enough for proper shade? Why are there zero cars in either direction?

My water was running out and I had about half of my fuel remaining and roughly 50 miles to the next checkpoint. The next checkpoint would offer nothing of value other than perhaps seeing a few other scooters for possible help. My support truck about an hour behind me, I tried desperately to get to that next checkpoint for a support beacon.

I made it to the checkpoint and found a few other riders, but zero shade. I had a bit of cellular service and was able to notify my truck that I needed a break and that something was wrong with the bike.

Off in the distance beyond the checkpoint, I noticed an SUV and asked the driver if I could sit inside to at least shield me from a bit of the sun. The driver was an Emmy nominated reporter covering the SCBR. She offered me water and interviewed me a bit. At this point the temperature was over 108F and many riders were visibly exhausted. My support truck arrived and through some quick diagnostics we were convinced the oil was perilously low. We topped the oil off and the bike cooled down just a smidge. I was able to keep riding.

Hot and slow. That was the name of the game.

SHADE. GLRIOUS SHADE! Every chance I could get I tried to cool the little engine down.

More carnage, more riders down.

At around 5:30PM we made it to the first hotel. Lake Havasu City, Arizona. I was too fatigued to inspect the bike. I was able to get up to 55mph at times on the remaining leg of the first day so I figured whatever melting components were causing the bike to not reach anything above 6,500rpm could wait until the next day.