John Ryan: The Living Legend



Everyone has their version of what a “long” day was. When I first started riding, 100 miles was a long day. As I got more tuned into what made me more comfortable and I got stronger the mileage went up. Currently more than 500 miles is a “long” day for me. I’ve done it twice: Boulder, CO to Salina, KS and San Diego, CA to San Jose, CA. I was a few miles shy of the 500 mark on a Tahoe lunch run.

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Addiction Motors is a new motorcycle shop that opened up in the east bay run by some good folks I know.

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The space they secured for the shop is super trick.

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They hosted a lecture by a guy named John Ryan who is nothing short of awesome. The event was well attended by all sorts of bikes:

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I got there a few minutes after lunch started, so I got stuck at the end!

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They did have some cool bikes show up!

What followed is not something I expected. Three people spoke: Christina Shook, Melissa Pierson, and John Ryan. Each have their own take on the story of motorcycling and thus each had a very unique perspective on the sport we all share.

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She, a photographer, paired up with Tamela Rich, the author and the two of them chronicled a rather interesting story. Some older ladies banded together and decided to do a long-distance motorcycle ride to raise awareness around women’s cancer. As word got out more and more people started to join the movement. Her book chronicles these ladies along their journey. It’s titled: Living Full Throttle.

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Melissa Pierson wrote a book called the man who would stop at nothing. Her book chronicles the story of John Ryan. She told the story of compiling book and putting everything together. The real treat, was hearing John himself speak.

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John Ryan is a perfect example of modest.

His story is nothing but amazing. There’s a small section of motorcycle riding called iron butters. These are the people who put on tons of miles on the bike in a very short amount of time. To qualify to be an iron butter, you have to ride 1000 miles in 24 hours. There are other levels as well. The next step up is 1500 miles in 24 hours. There re other types of journeys like Canada to Mexico in 36 hours, across the country east to west in 50 hours, or both directions in 100 hours.

A good friend of mine did the New York to San Francisco ride in under 50 hours (2900 miles). 46 hours to be exact. When he arrived in San Francisco he looked like death warmed over. You could tell it was a long, hard ride with little room for error. Mike was a seasoned rider. He had been doing long-distance rallies for a while and knew that journey well. However, you can see that the cross country ride took a lot out of him.

John Ryan road from Deadhorse, Alaska to Key West Florida and 87 hours. Let me say that again John Ryan broke from Deadhorse, Alaska to Key West Florida and 87 hours. The iron but association would certify that ride if you do it in 30 days. John did it in less than four.

Five first 500 miles of that ride is a dirt road. Getting to the US border, you’re only halfway there. This is an insane amount of miles in such a short amount of time. As one can imagine, John is a very interesting individual. He has very nonstandard sleep patterns and loves to put on the miles on his bike. He retired his SJR at over 160,000 miles. After all list eight years my bike only has half that mileage: 80,000 miles.

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What it did find interesting is well is that John is a type I diabetic. He didn’t talk too much about nutrition but a big part of this practice is predictability. You have to eat well and control your brother blood sugar well to do what he does at all. I didn’t see an insulin pump on him, but I wasn’t able to ask if he had one. My hunch is that you guys mainly because it’s much more time efficient than injections. When you’re competing at that level every minute really does count.

While this is a segment in motorcycling I don’t really connect with, just hearing history was truly amazing. When you find someone who does something at such a level you can’t help but not be inspired. A few years from now I’ll probably still think 500 miles is a long day but nonetheless I’m glad I went.

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I don’t know the east bay all that well, but got to try out a new coffee shop after the session. Steve saw me pull in and decided to come to the seminar. We got some java afterwards.


The ride back to San Jose was cold, but good. I got some nice photos of San Francisco on the way home. Traffic on the bridge was miserable, but the photos were worth it!


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7 responses to “John Ryan: The Living Legend”

  1. Adam Wade Avatar
    Adam Wade

    I’ve done two Bun Burner Gold rides (1500 miles in 36 hours) and a lot of 400+ mile days since I started riding. Those days are gone now, but I’m glad to have had the experience over the years.

    1. Shane Avatar

      Just to clarify, the IBA’s Bun Burner is 1500 miles in 36 hours. The Bun Burner *Gold* (IBA “Xtreme!” ride) is 1500 miles in 24 hours.

      The entry level IBA ride is the Saddlesore, which is 1000 miles in 24 hours.

      I will miss John for a number of reasons, mostly stemming from his great attitude and winning persona. His ability to deal with adversity, and the way he dealt with naysayers also says a lot about him.

      One of the good ones…

  2. Tamela rich Avatar

    I am so glad you enjoyed this event. I want to clarify that the woman you met was not me, but Christina Shook. She is the photographer of my book, “Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer.” Christina is holding the book in the photo above and I am on the cover.

    I truly am a motorcyclist AND an author. Christina rides and is also the author of “Chicks on Bikes.”

    I hope our paths will cross some time soon. Throttle up!


    1. Me Avatar

      Tamela, Thanks for the tidbit. I’ve updated the blog post to note the change.

  3. jeff Avatar

    Sadly John Ryan was killed in an accident today. Godspeed John, prayers for your family.

    1. Me Avatar

      Jeff, thanks for reaching out and letting me know. Still in shock….

  4. Anita Ryan (one of John's sisters) Avatar
    Anita Ryan (one of John’s sisters)

    Thank you for your kind words about our brother. He will be missed by many, many people.

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