Carl Reese’s World Record Transcontinental Motorcycle Journey

The Man Who Rode Across America In 38 Hours, 49 Minutes

Carl Reese - Bike right side static
In addition to being smart, Carl Reese is also tough; the man trained incredibly hard for his cross-country adventure, adapting to a severe lack of sleep and developing a rigorous diet and exercise program.Photo By Ryan Sorensen

While adventure riding typically involves laid back, winding journeys with no set schedule, there are some riders out there who like to do things a little bit differently. Carl Reese is one of these individuals, having recently rode his 2015 BMW K 1600 GT from Los Angeles to New York in a shocking 38 hours and 49 minutes. Upon hearing of this feat, we just had to get the full story from the man himself.

When we asked Carl what motivated him to break the previous transcontinental world record, he replied with a childhood anecdote: “When I was in elementary school as a child, in the library, I would always pull the Guinness Book of World Records off of the shelf and go through it. I found the shortest charging time from coast to coast in an electric vehicle, and I fulfilled that dream, and broke two records in one shot. I broke a Guinness record, and a transcontinental record in an electric car. Then I thought, ‘What else is out there?’ I had ridden bikes since I was 12. I saved up my grass cutting money and chore money over the course of two summers, to be able to buy my first bike because my parents couldn’t afford it. When I was in high school, I made a pact with a buddy that we would someday do a trip across the United States. But as you get older, you have a family and your priorities change. I called this buddy up and told him that I was going to try and break George Egloff’s record from 1983, and I asked him, ‘Do you want to join me?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely not’, and that is where the planning process started for this trip.”

Carl Reese - front static shot
The 2015 BMW K 1600 GT turned out to be the perfect steed for Reese to use on his journey. The bike held up well, although he ran into tire issues mid-ride.Photo By Ryan Sorensen

Carl trained extensively to break this record, as the strain and stress on both his body and mind were sure to be immense. “My training began about two years ago when I started to take a spinning class because I had to get myself physically fit. I knew that I was going to have to sit for a long time, and I had to build my core strength. Guys complain about their backs on long trips, so I worked with a physical therapist. I also worked with a nutritionist to pick the right foods – high energy, low sugars. There were no Red Bulls involved, I was not willing to take any stimulants. I am an organic kind of guy; I am very particular about what I put in my body. I gave up coffee, tea, and sugar weeks before the run, so I could purge myself of all those things, so that if I did need coffee at some point during the trip, it would have maximum impact. I started to alternate my sleep patterns two months prior to the trip. Friday I would get up and go to work, then I would stay up through the night and into Saturday. Saturday morning I would take a shower, trick my body and push through to Saturday evening, and then I would sleep in on Sunday or until I felt rested enough to go back to work on Monday. After eight weeks of that I felt like I had done everything that I could do to prepare for the trip, both mentally and physically.

Since Reese trained and rode with minimum stops, we wondered when he found time to eat and drink during his trip. His answer was nothing short of awesome: “I had a tank bag on the vehicle that was prepared by the nutritionist. I would set my cruise control and eat pistachios and almonds; there were sandwiches that were prepared also, so I just ate along the way.” Carl went on, “The trick isn’t speed because that just draws attention. I talked to some of the guys who have done this in the past and they told me, ‘Don’t stop. You have to keep moving; you have to stay on the bike.’”

Carl Reese - lifestyle
Carl Reese was all smiles after bagging his latest world record.Photo By Ryan Sorensen

Knowing that he used the strategy of keeping a move on, we asked about his average speed, to which he responded, “74 MPH. We had tracking equipment provided by GPS Insight. They do global fleet management and GPS tracking. That piece of equipment was required when I did the Guinness Book of World Records for verification, so we just transferred that over to the motorcycle for this trip.”

Reese continued to recap some of the highlights he encountered during his trip: “There were several. I left out of L.A. in the early morning. The plan was to get through the desert before I got too hot. I remember going through Baker, and the sun wasn’t even over the horizon, and the heat was so intense. It felt like a blast furnace, and I thought, ‘I need to get through Nevada and Utah as fast as I can.’ So I really took advantage of the light traffic through the desert areas, and the GPS said that some of my highest speeds were through those areas. Another highlight was when the rear tire started to square off. By the time a got about 10 miles west of Belmont, Ohio, I felt something hit the back of the rear fender. I got off and looked, and I was down to the cords, and it was obvious at that point that I couldn’t nurse it into New York City. I had a really low point where I just hit rock bottom. I was so devastated that I underwent eighteen months of planning, twelve safety teams positioned throughout the U.S., and just the thought of me doing this again, with only 300 miles left to go, I just about lost it by the side of the road. After contacting West Valley Cycle Sales, I started riding down the road as slow as I could, and at the next exit I saw a big Harley Davidson sign. So I jumped off the exit and rolled up there, walked inside and talked to the management. I told them what I was doing and they absolutely dropped everything. Their whole entire staff just attacked my bike. They found a tire that was close, we had to shim it away from the swing arm so it wouldn’t rub, then they sent me back on the road. As far as police encounters go, I got pulled over at one point and the officer let me off with a warning.”

Carl Reese - cockpit
Reese's handlebar and cockpit setup for the ride was clean, with only the bare necessities—GPS, tracking equipment, radar detector, and phone. After the ride, the GPS revealed an astonishing 74 mph speed average.Photo By Ryan Sorensen

After all of the planning, after all of the training, and all of the close calls, we could only imagine the sense of accomplishment Reese felt when he finally achieved his goal. He described his final miles to his destination: “When I saw the skyline from the New Jersey Turnpike, I was getting ready to go through the Lincoln Tunnel. Probably a few miles before the Lincoln Tunnel, I could see the skyline of New York City on my right hand side, and it was a very emotional moment for me because all of this planning had come to completion, and I realized that with the help of all of the other individuals that believed in me, that I was actually going to make it. I was very careful in the last few miles getting into New York City. The arrival there was definitely a sense of accomplishment. This was my sixth transcontinental world record since last year, so it felt really good, and it felt like I had completed a bucket list item, that I had wanted to do for a long time.”

Carl Reese - headlights
Reese's advice to aspiring long-range adventurers? Use good headlights. "It’s very dangerous to outrun your headlights at night," Reese cautions. "It’s important for anyone else who is going to try this to know that I would highly recommend putting aftermarket headlights on."Photo By Ryan Sorensen

Carl ended with cautionary advice for the Dirt Rider readers who may want to emulate his journey: “The only other point that I should mention is that with our shakedowns, we realized that the light output of the stock head light wasn’t going to be enough. I have a buddy who rides every day and he suggested Clear Water LED Lights. They make a very powerful headlight for aftermarket add-ons. It’s very dangerous to outrun your headlights at night. It’s important for anyone else who is going to try this to know that I would highly recommend putting aftermarket headlights on. There’s also a lot of stories out there, there is a website called transcondrivers.org and they look at this long history of the transcontinental records being woven into the history of America.”

Congratulations go out to Carl Reese on this amazing accomplishment! Remind us to never complain about a long day in the saddle ever again…