No Limits – No Regrets is a self-produced documentary by a self-confessed adrenaline junkie. Adapted from an eponymous 2015 book, it ostensibly documents author/producer Axe DeKruif’s attempt to break the speed record for crossing America coast-to-coast on a motorcycle. But as the film progresses, this feat becomes a backdrop to DeKruif’s struggle to better appreciate his near-perfect life – near-perfect, that is, until tragedy bursts the bubble of his achievement.
The No Limits – No Regrets documentary is available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, with the book available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon. With its tagline of “Success is a Function of Desire,” it’s a story of interest not only to bikers and engineers, but also to anyone fascinated by the need for speed, the power of ambition, and just the broader human condition.
The Need For Speed
DeKruif said that he started developing a reckless personality in his late teens, having discovered while in middle school that he was born with a heart murmur.
“No matter what the hobby is, once I get a hold of it I just found myself wanting more and more,” the heavily-tattooed DeKruif explained, chatting from his San Antonio home. “Which makes me really glad I’ve never tried drugs.”
Two open-heart surgeries a decade ago (which are chronicled in his first book, 2010’s Bouncing Off Guard Rails) further influenced his mindset and set him on the path to his 2014 ride from San Diego to Jacksonville, Fla. astride a BMW S1000RR.
“When you’ve already been that close to death, how do you top that with day-to-day activities?” posed DeKruif. “It’s just that desire to make sure that time you do have, you make the most of it … not just sitting back waiting for life to go by.”
DeKruif started thinking about doing some sort of cross-country event after watching the 2013 documentary 32 Hours 7 Minutes by Alex Roy, who held the speed record for crossing America in a car (as detailed in last year’s Apex: The Secret Race Across America documentary). The existing record on a bike, which was actually stopped 150 miles short of completion, stood at 36 hours.
(Check out Cannonball Run Record: A Guide To America’s Ultimate Illegal Street Race for all the current records.)
The first part of No Limits – No Regrets covers DeKruif’s early life; his making bad decisions in early adulthood; and then opening his own chopper shop in Florida. He’d get up at 4 a.m. to work at the shop, hit the bars afterwards, and get by on a couple of hours’ sleep and way too much Red Bull, he recalled.
“I can’t just sip at life – I have to slam it,” DeKruif proclaims in No Limits – No Regrets. “Just to see what happens, out of morbid curiosity.”
The documentary tells of DeKruif turning his life around by returning to college to earn his engineering degree and then moving to San Antonio with his girlfriend, Sunshine, and their dog, Baron.
The film shows photos of the array of incredible choppers built by DeKruif, and lists his series of ever-faster cars (mostly Porsches). It shows him shooting guns, chugging liquor, hitting 167 mph at the Texas Mile land-speed event, and even fire breathing. When he plays his high-end Gibson guitar in the film (for which he also wrote and self-recorded the soundtrack), he stays in character by doing so with a knife.
Now a mechanical engineer by profession, DeKruif modded the S1K himself. He bedecked it with all manner of mods and technologies that would facilitate maximum speed with minimal slowing and stopping. The mostly self-shot No Limits – No Regrets details much of this meticulous preparation.
DeKruif displays an engineer’s eye for exploring every eventuality, of both man and machine, and developing a mitigation strategy for all. He dubbed this in his Mitigation of Marginal Areas of Performance Plan (MMAPP), which he honed by closely monitoring his body and bike during shorter test rides in the build-up to his epic, 2,400-mile cross-country trek.
“One of the biggest things you learn through engineering is the logical approach: looking at failure modes … trying to fix things and make them better, and looking for solutions,” said DeKruif. “It creates a mindset of organization and logic, which is vastly important when thinking about what are the next steps and planning out.”
In DeKruif’s case, “planning” didn’t mean just tuning his bike and packing some sandwiches. His MMAPP included physical training, such as replacing his usual weightlifting routine with a plan focused on the flexibility and stamina he’d need to be able to handle a day and a half in the saddle. He also lost weight by cutting carbs and alcohol, which was crucial to maximizing mileage in order to reduce fuel stops.
MMAPP also has a section rather innocuously titled “Intake/Voiding,” which in fact refers to DeKruif’s diet before and during the ride. He ate MRE’s for three days prior, and just two Slim Jims during the journey. He filled a 3-liter fuel bladder, plumbed into his helmet, with a blend of energy drink and rehydration mixture. To reduce the number of pit stops, he wore both a condom-style catheter, which drained through an attachment to his boot and a diaper (which mercifully went unused).
While a “crotch rocket” like the S1000RR might not seem like an obvious choice for an endurance event like DeKruif’s cross-country ride, it made sense for him. Firstly, he already owned it and trusted it, having “driven the hell out of” it prior to his record attempt.
“It was solid, reliable, and super-fast,” he said. “It made sense as well because it got great mileage. The way BMW tunes their engines, if I remember right, is just a hair on the lean side.”
DeKruif modified the BMW to improve upon its already impressive 45 mpg and reduce the number of fuel stops. He switched out a sprocket, which he calculated would improve mileage by up to 12 percent. He added a 5-gallon tank to the bike’s tail and plumbed this to feed its stock tank. And he installed a Throttlemeister in lieu of electronic cruise control.
“I overestimated my mileage … because I was carrying a lot more weight and I was doing very high speeds for a lot of the trip,” admitted DeKruif, who said he hit speeds as high as 165 mph on nighttime desert stretches. “Three hundred and fifty miles between tank fills, there’s nothing wrong with that. But that was a little bit of a miscalculation.”
DeKruif realized from the get-go that technology – which had advanced immeasurably since Roy set the four-wheel coast-to-coast record in a BMW M5 in 2006 – was going to be crucial if he was going to break the existing 36-hour bike record.
This included a radar detector and screen affixed between the handlebars of the S1K and his Bluetooth-equipped helmet, to avoid potentially time-consuming speeding tickets. The Bluetooth also allowed DeKruif to listen to music, and to communicate with his route coordinator back in San Antonio.
“It’s a trick because you want to keep your brain active, but you don’t want to make it distracted,” he offered. “If you’re talking on a call with somebody, you might find yourself distracted, versus music you can kind of like blend into the background and it keeps you alert without losing focus.”
DeKruif also designed and fitted 3D-printed brackets onto the bike, onto which he installed a thermal vision system for night identification of animals and other road obstacles.
All of DeKruif’s preparation paid off and, other than hitting more traffic than expected in Houston and underestimating the level of law enforcement presence in the South, all went to plan. As he’d predicted, the human mind and body proved to be the project’s weakest links.
“The weakest link to me is truly the brain,” he said. “If you’re tired, if you’re hungry, for your brain to tell you, ‘too bad, keep driving’ is the whole key.”
DeKruif reported struggling to distinguish between dream-state and reality towards the end of his grueling ride when he repeatedly imagined being on a circle track through a forest.
“You also have two voices in your head happening,” he recalled. “One’s confused and a little nervous, because it doesn’t know dreams from reality. And the other one has to sit back and say, ‘stop, dummy: you’re on I-10 East; all you gotta do is keep driving straight and trust yourself.’”
Physically, DeKruif held up well, being used to staying awake for extended periods from his day job as an engineer. One surprise was that, even with the Throttlemeister, the thumb of his right hand was almost worthless by the end of his trip from holding the throttle for so long.
“I kind of had to ham-fist the fork when I got to Florida. I couldn’t use my thumb in a way to hold a fork properly,” he said. “[But] my entire goal was to get there fast, not comfort or enjoyment.”
DeKruif handily smashed the record for crossing America on two wheels, rolling onto the beach in Jacksonville just 33 hours, 10 minutes after leaving San Diego.
“I was happy with the result,” he said. “If I look at it as an engineer … I would absolutely have loved to have gone faster. And it was a little disappointing. My average speed came to, like, 72.6 miles an hour.”
There was little glory and no media attention along the way. In the film, his girlfriend and a friend manage to pull alongside him in a car as he navigates San Antonio (coming within a mile of his home). Another gaggle of well-wishers wave him on in Louisiana. But he comes to an anticlimactic halt in the Jacksonville sand, all alone, and then has to wrestle the bike back out of the sand.
Neither BMW nor The Guinness World Records were involved in DeKruif’s coast-to-coast feat, as events involving such high – illegally high – speeds on public roads are rife with liability issues.
After claiming the record, DeKruif returned to what looks like an idyllic existence – great job, lovely home, happy relationship – in San Antonio.
“In some fucked-up way, the only way I can hang onto this life is to risk it,” he says in the film. “So I can come back to appreciate what I have.”
DeKruif began writing No Limits – No Regrets, and had set its release date for the anniversary of his record-breaking ride. This also happened to be the anniversary of his first date with Sunshine, six years earlier. But by that November, she had tragically and suddenly succumbed to cancer.
“It would have been very easy to give up on the book after the loss,” said DeKruif. “But I thought, no, I really need this.”
Creating the book – which DeKruif dedicated to Sunshine and their beloved Baron – and the film proved to be an invaluable comfort through his grief.
DeKruif said he stopped riding bikes or even taking fast drives by car, for some six months after his loss. But he’s gradually worked back into it.
“It’s just very therapeutic for me,” he explained. “Every time something was wrong in my world, I could always just hop on a motorcycle, ride out into the open road, get some fresh air. You don’t have anybody talking at you; you don’t have anything distracting you.”
DeKruif said that his record-breaking ride will be “a pretty hard one to top.” He continues to upgrade his trusty S1K, including a full tear-down a few years ago and plans to give it a new look. He now also rides an Aprilia RSV4 1100. He’s taken superbike classes at Circuit of the Americas, near his home, and done speaking engagements related to his coast-to-coast ride.
“I did the cross-country ride at age 40,” he said. “And so maybe at age 50? Well, I’ll repeat it, but maybe this time I’ll just take my time … stop and see buddies along the way and see cool things.”
“I think a good story not only entertains but ideally inspires people,” DeKruif concluded. “The fact that I could not only accomplish this but the work I went through to get there.
“And instead of making excuses or blaming hardship that happened along my life, I was able to focus and accomplish something and kind of relay that message that you can do anything – but you have to want it bad enough.”
For anyone considering a similar test of two-wheeled endurance, DeKruif recommends choosing the right bike for the task and then being aware of the many ergonomic improvements that can be made. And shorter test rides beforehand are crucial.
“Work up to it, thinking about little things like the rearsets – you can adjust those and get a little less bend in the knee,” he said. “Some people adjust their bars. They put a little higher rise on the bars and get those more comfortable.”
And then it’s all about planning, planning, and more planning,
“Think about your timing; think about day versus night,” cautioned DeKruif. “I had a thermal vision system. But if it weren’t for that, nighttime can be really dangerous, especially if you’re driving fast and overdriving your headlights. So you might want to think about lighting for the bike.”
So are you ready to attempt something like Axe DeKruif’s record-breaking epic? Or maybe you fancy a shot at his actual record? Be ready to work hard and smart – and to hurt long and hard. Also, we don’t recommend it, as it’s highly illegal and endangers other road users. Be safe out there and enjoy your helmet and throttle therapy time.