Things we think of while riding down the road

goin’ really fast…

Good evening Speedsters,
Well, I just got back from The BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats…WOW is all I can say. Thats it for this post..thanks for reading it…
Ok, just kidding…
Here’s the story, about 4-5 years ago a couple of roadracing friends of mine got a wild hair up their fannies and deciced that building a Bonneville Streamliner was something they wanted to do. No problem..they’re both engineers, good mechanics and racers. Fast forward to about January 2006…this thing is actually beginning to take shape. Powered by a 920cc Norton engine..going after the 1000cc pushrod motor Streamliner record. Cool huh??!! The frame is pretty well sorted out and is coming together, the motor is ready to go, so let’s put it all together. Easier said than done. Build the cockpit..design the controls, outriggers..on and on and on…time is flying by and September is coming up really fast. Originally scheduled to leave on Friday September 8th..still working on the ‘liner’ Saturday night the 9th till about 11pm…guess we’re leaving Sunday. Sunday 8AM we hit the road…13 hours later we roll into the Wendover Nugget Hotel parking lot, 4-5 miles from the Salt Flats. We meet up with our friend Kevin Johnson from Reno Nevada, another former Willow Springs speedster, settle into our rooms, enjoy a bit of Kentucky’s finest ( Makers Mark Bourbon..) and talk about the upcoming speed trials.

Monday morning dawns clear and beautiful. A short drive and there we are..the world famous Bonneville Salt Flats. History is made here..how fast can a man go on a motorcycle or in a car?? THIS is where you find out. It’s an unbelievable sight..surrounded on three sides by mountains..the salt goes on and on as far as the eye can see. Stark white, like snow but solid. It truly is awe inspiring, even if you’re not a motorcycle racer. As was said in Hot Rod Magazine about 40 years ago..it’s like racing on the moon. A 5 mile drive along the salt and we arrive at the pit area..more like a small city of cars, trucks, vans, trailers and…motorcycles. An old hand shift Indian, side valve Harley Davidsons, a Bultaco, a couple of vintage Triumphs. a handfull of Vincent Black Shadow’s, our Norton’s and all accompanied by the appropriate amount of grey hair and beards. And then…

… the modern motorcycles…Hayabusa’s abound..well, yeah…they’re really fast. A couple of new Kawi ZX14’s, Ducati 999’s, Honda CBR100RR’s..the list goes on and on…but, here’s where it gets interesting…
BUB has added a ‘Run What Ya Brung’ class to the event. You can show up on your daily rider street bike, pay your $100 and take a couple of runs on the salt to see how fast you can go. Full dress Harley’s, BMW RT models, a Honda CRF450 dirtbike with Street tyres, a young man with an MV Agusta F4 Agostini replica ( he went somewhere in the vicinity of 175mph!!?? ) too much fun. I took the opportunity to interview some of these riders for my podcast..interesting people and having a lot of fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about??!!

Another thing that was really interesting about this meet was how many women were there racing!! I interviewed a few of them..one young lady was riding a Honda RS250 roadracer expecting to go somewhere in the vicinity of 160mph..she ended up a bit short of that but still achieved a record speed. I met a lady named Laura from South Dakota on a very custom and highly built Harley Road King…check this out..fairing w/ CD player ( blaring away..) and saddle bags…147MPH!!! Another lady, Valerie Thompson on a bilt to the hilt Harley Davidson pushed past 160mph!! These women are truly awe inspiring.

Another side of this event, and actually any motorcycle racing event, is the family and friends supporting the racers. As I was cruising the pits interviewing racers, it dawned on me that talking to the families would also be very cool. Completely by accident I started talking to Rocky Robinson’s family…mom, wife, son, brother..Rocky is the pilot of the Ack Attack Streamliner. They broke the exisiting Land Speed Record of 322mph on their first run…347mph! Anyway, that was one of the most fun interviews I had..I’ll have it up on the podcast in the next few days.

Now, back to OUR team effort…after waiting and waiting and waiting inline to get on the track ( 5 hours !!!) They closed the course because of wind…damn. Ok..back to our pit and time to drink beer..wind is blowing like crazy so we lower the canopy, huddle inside and wait out the storm. Other racers come by and visit..all in all a fine way to spend the late afternoon. The LSR ( Land Speed Rcing ) family is very special and unique.

Tuesday again dawns beautiful. We get to The Salt Flats earlier and get in line..a few hours later..SEVEN to be exact..we finally put Ken and his old Norton 750 on the course. Within the hour Ken holds the AMA Land Speed Record for 750cc pushrod motorcycles at 126.35mph!! Yeah Baby!! Back to the pit’s and start working on getting the ‘Liner’ ready. Now, here’s the deal..Eric, the pilot, has NEVER driven a streamliner..so we spend the late afternoon running up and down the back area of the flats figuring out how to start and steer this thing..a lot of laughs. But, we also discover a few problems..as in the really high tech electric shifter doesn’t shift. OOPS…designed to shift a Harley drag bike..(does that mean it wears a dress???)…you’d think it would shift a Norton, right?? Well..uh, no. These old gear boxes take a bit of finessing..not bang/slam. A call to Pingle, a few adjustments and hey, it looks like it works…

Wednesday it’s out to the Salt and see if we can get the ‘liner’ on the course. Here’s what I learned about racing at Bonneville…it’s called ‘hurry up and wait’..no kidding, you wait for hours for your few minutes of glory. Anyway, we finally get the liner out on course and…….off Eric goes…for about 100 yards…the motor died. Ok, back to the start line, wait for a few other motorcycles to go and guess what…up comes the breeze and the course is closed to Streamliners. They can close the course anytime the breeze exceeds 3mph. A good safety proceedure I think. Well..back to the pits and drink more beer…thats the other thing about Land Speed Racing..I think it’s powered by beer. Ok with me….

Thursday again dawns beautiful. But today, the last day of the meet is going to be short..done by noon. We gotta get out there…no problem. We’ve got the drill down. Line the bike up pointing a little to the right, leaning on the left skid, start in second gear..good push and away he goes…motor sounds great..go Eric go…
jump in the truck and go chasing after him…tune in the CB to hear course control…something about a ‘parachute test’ was successful..huh??? the chute popped out a mile 2 and Eric dragged it through the flying mile..speed??? a whopping 65mph!!
Ok..lets see what we can do for the return run..
Line him up…point right, lean left, big push…uh..Eric..the course is over there…no wait..now it’s over there…ah..there he goes down the course. Back in the van..let’s go get him…listen to the radio…through the flying mile at a blazing…108mph! HUH??? The electric shfter failed. Eric couldn’t get out of second gear..so..well..108mph in second gear??!! Not bad ‘eh?!
So, as they say…there is always next year..stay tuned..
oh, one more thing…I’m going to start working a supercharged Honda SL350 for next year…Bonneville does strange things to your mind…
See you on the road..
Paul

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