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2010-03-10 "To The Moon and Back – Several Times!"

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To The Moon and Back – Several Times!

Can you imagine having 1.5 million miles of riding under your belt?!? Dave Swisher, just your average motorcyclist, accomplished that easily! Read more about his experience below.


Heroes of motorcycling come in many forms. Some set records on the track and win world championships. Others travel the world and provide inspiration to motorcyclists to take on epic adventures. But there is a different breed of hero that doesn’t achieve the same level of exposure and applause. They are normal motorcyclists like 80 year-old American Dave Swisher, who do extraordinary things.

Like most motorcyclists, Dave enjoys working on his own bikes, travelling to rallies and undertaking big motorcycle tours just for the fun of it. But unlike most motorcyclists, Dave has covered a staggering 1.5 million miles (2,400,000 kilometres) in less than 30 years on a variety of machines from just one manufacturer – BMW Motorrad.

To put that distance in perspective, the moon orbits Earth at an average distance of just under 250,000 miles. Dave could have ridden to the moon and back THREE times and still have miles left over! Although such distances have been covered many times before, the feat is unique as all miles have been covered on BMW machinery. Despite this impressive achievement, Dave remains humble. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!” he admits. “Travelling 1.5 million miles on BMW bikes wasn’t something that I intentionally set out to do – it kind of just happened. I didn’t get my first BMW until I was 43, in 1973, so you could say that I’ve made up for lost time.”

Strangely for someone so obviously committed to motorcycling, Dave didn’t receive his license until well into his forties. “I was in the dairy business for a very long time, which meant that I was constantly working seven days a week and didn’t really have time for anything else,” he reveals. “I’ve got six sons and when they got old enough I bought them all a trail bike which they used to ride on the farms. I’d also ride around the farms on them and I’d really enjoy it. I just didn’t want to see my name in the local paper for riding a bike without a license, so I decided it was time to make it legal!”Your browser may not support display of this image.

Since he started to ride BMWs in 1973 (after taking ownership of an R75/5 to complete a ride to the west coast of the USA) Dave has owned a grand total of 19 bikes from the German manufacturer. He covered just 4,420 miles on an R90/6 in 1974 – by far his lowest mileage tally on any BMW bike. He accrued the most miles on a K100RT in 1991 – a grand total of 308,602 miles! So why the fascination with the Munich-based company?

“My friend rode a BMW and after going on a few rides with him, I saw the advantages of the shaft drive,” Dave answers. “BMWs have always had a reputation for being durable and reliable, so when I started thinking about my first big trip to the west coast, I decided to get myself a bike that I could rely on”.

The K1100LT is Dave’s personal favourite and to date he has owned seven examples. “I like them because they’re almost bullet-proof,” he continues “I’m not interesting in going 160 mph so sports bikes don’t really do it for me. The K1100LT does everything I need it to.”

Despite his advancing years and a recent bout of ill health, Dave continues to rack up serious distances on his beloved bikes, although his miles-per-year rate has declined in recent times. “I had a slight stroke last year, but I still managed to ride 48,000 miles!” he says proudly. “I average between 50,000 and 60,000 a year and notch up most of the miles travelling to rallies and events throughout the USA. I regularly travel to the west coast, which takes several days each time so it is quite easy to cover thousands of miles at a time.”

Your browser may not support display of this image. So with so many miles covered in a relatively short space of time, what does Dave consider his best experience on two wheels? “They’re all the best experience and it really is difficult for me to put my finger on one aspect in particular,” he says. “I do enjoy riding out west. The roads are so isolated and you can see 20 miles down the road. It often feels like you’re the only person out there. I’ve also ridden throughout Europe, Mexico and most of North America, including two trips to Alaska, so I’ve got some very fond memories of life on the road.”

In December 2009 Dave underwent major surgery and had a total knee replacement. This means that regular trips to the physiotherapist and much needed rehabilitation time have taken the place of motorcycling, for the time being. But the devoted motorcyclist is keen to get back on two wheels as soon as his health permits. “I have registered to go to a rally in July so I’m focusing on being fit for then,” he concludes. “It took me 26 years to get to a million miles and another 15 years to get to 1.5 million so I think two million is a little far off on the horizon! I’ve never ridden to set records though. I ride because I enjoy it and I’ve got no reason to stop any time soon.”

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