MCUSA had six of the most intimidating flat track bikes in the industry lined up for a go-around at the Arizona Mile.
There are sports that require a certain amount of bravado, or for lack of a better term – balls. Flying 30 feet in the air over a Supercross triple is something most would never even think of trying; same holds true for dragging a knee through Turn 8 at Willow Springs at nearly 180 mph. All take a select breed of individual, one that will sacrifice life and limb in the pursuit of the ultimate rush – especially the one that comes with winning. I’ve had the awesome pleasure of experiencing all of the above in one from or another, some even at a professional level. But there is one two-wheeled sport that has eluded my resume: Flat Track. And it’s also the one that requires the most of that special aforementioned bravado.
Speeds well in excess of 120 mph aboard a 300-pound bucking beast with no front brake, walls a mere 20 feet adrift on either side of the dirt horse track, the racing groove so close to the inside barriers that one has to actually pull their head back mid-corner so as not to lose it, there really is no sport that rivals the controlled madness that is flat track. A tiny 12-inch-wide groove provides high levels of grip, but get off the line and into the marbles even a fraction of an inch and it’s like hitting glare ice on slick tires at 100 mph. Hold on to your socks folks, this isn’t bingo; this is high-stakes poker with your life on the line.
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While I’ve had a few friendly spins on friends’ MX bikes-turned-dirt trackers, it’s never been anything serous. This is why when the offer came across the MotoUSA offices to ride all the top AMA Twins around the Arizona Mile I jumped at it. My ADD kicked in, and Flat Track instantly became my new shiny ball. Little-to-no experience or not, who can say they rode six of the top flat track machines in the world around a Mile? Intensive research followed (like I said, shiny ball syndrome in full effect) and two things quickly came to light via YouTube videos and various other firsthand stories: This would more than likely be one of the most exciting assignments I’ve ever had, but also probably the single most dangerous.
I personally experienced the ‘all-in’ danger on Joe Kopp’s Lloyd Brother’s Ducati. After gaining confidence after the initial laps, I starting to push the limits. My lap times dropped several seconds in the process, and I got slightly overzealous exiting Turn 4 and, well… Next thing I knew the priceless handmade Ducati racebike was slamming to the right-hand steering lock, the rear tire trying to pass the front in violent fashion. At this point I was now a passenger and merely along for the ride. The Flat Track regulars on hand for the test had advised me to stay on the gas if such a situation occurred, something completely counter intuitive to all natural instinct. I somehow managed to override common sense and by an act of the Big Man himself, Kopp’ s Ducati and I didn’t end up wrapped around a fence post! How or why, I have no clue. Guess I should have paid better attention when 10 of the best Flat Trackers in the world advised me to not push it to the outer edge of the groove. Mental note: stay the hell off the marbles and listen up, ‘cause these boys know a thing or two about going fast and surviving 120-mph dirt ovals…
And while there is no more risky two-wheeled sport in this country, or maybe the world, the experience of riding these fire-breathing monsters around the Arizona Mile would go down as one of the all-time great experiences in my moto-journalism career. Considering I’ve ridden nearly every Superbike currently in existence as well as several of today’s MotoGP machines, that’s saying a lot. In fact, I would go so
With much anticipation and excitement Steve Atlas let the clutch loose on the first 300-pound behemoth…
far as to say this rivals the MotoGP test for top of the pile (yes, that good) – keep reading and you’ll see why.
Let me preface by saying that excluding the mighty little Kawasaki, all these bikes feature custom frames with fully hand-built chassis, of which there are only a few producers, all specifically made to house the engine of choice. I say excluding the Kawasaki as they have one bike using a modified stock Versys frame and also a full “framer,” as they are commonly referred to, of which the team switches off using depending on the track. For this test we used the modified stock set-up, as that’s what rider Brian Smith had found best suited to the Arizona track. It’s for this reason we will classify each machine by the engine used.
The Ultimate AMA Flat Track Shootout
Waters Racing Suzuki SV650
Waters Racing KTM LC8 950
Factory Harley-Davison XR750
Lloyd Brothers Ducati
Bonneville Performance Triumph
Monster Kawasaki Ninja 650R