The 2006 International Motorcycle Speed Trials by BUB was dominated by the three-way streamliner hunt for the world record, but there were plenty of other bikes trying to break records out on the Bonneville salt, including the MCUSA-sponsored Vulcan 2000.
The headline news coming out of the Salt Flats in 2006 was the epic three-way world-record streamliner fight, which we have already chronicled with our 2006 Bonneville Streamliner Battle
article. Yet, there were plenty of other riders besides the record-chasing streamliners, who made the journey out to the western edge of Utah to test their mettle on the famed Bonneville Salt Flats. As the International Motorcycle Speed Trials by BUB continues to grow in popularity, there were a number of rookies ready share the salt with Bonneville regulars, including the MCUSA-sponsored Vulcan 2000.
For those unfamiliar, MCUSA has been out to the Salt Flats twice already, having attended the motorcycle-only BUB event since its inception in 2004. Each year our friends from the Oregon Coast, mechanic Guy Mobbley and drag racer Butch Cook, have taken one of our test bikes and battled for a record at Bonneville. The first time around we utilized a Mean Streak
to snag an AMA record at 126.168 mph. The second year the folks at Kawasaki lent us a bigger, gruffer Vulcan 2000
, which Butch motored to an AMA record-setting run of 139.620 mph.
For the third time around, we held on to the same Vulcan and figured instead of breaking our old record we'd try for a new one in a different class. Last year we ran in the Modified frame class, so this year we switched to Production frame, which entailed bolting the front brake back on. Aside from reattaching the bulky 300mm dual disc configuration up front, the other big change for the Vulcan this year was swapping out the stock dual exhaust for a more powerful 2-into-1 system. The new exhaust for the Vulcan was a prototype from Mobbley's SCP Performance
shop in Reedsport, Oregon, with a finished chromed version expected to be available for his customers early next year.
We figured the 2-into-1 would generate more pop from the Vulcan's 2053cc powerplant, but the extra weight on the front wheel from the dual 300mm rotors would make breaking our speed from last year a challenge. Butch Cook got our AMA attempt underway on the first day of the event with an initial pass of 137.090 mph. Cook then backed it up with a return pass of 139.201 mph, which snared us an unofficial record at 138.146 mph - or so we thought. We decided to call it good with the Vulcan and dropped it off at impound for tech inspection.
Butch Cook was a busy fellow at Bonneville, racing two other bikes besides our Vulcan and then making a non-stop drive back to Medford, Oregon, to participate in a NHRA regional, where he was victorious in the motorcycle event.
An error in registration, however, cost us our new AMA record. We had mistakenly entered the 2053cc Vulcan in the 2000cc class instead of the 3000 category. The paperwork gaffe disqualified us, though we didn't know it until weeks later when the AMA scrutineers went over their rules and regulations. At least we have our original AMA record nailed on the wall here at our Medford, Oregon HQ for being tops in the 3000 Modified Frame Production Pushrod class.
Meanwhile, the Mobbley/Cook team was looking ahead to competing on two other bikes. Butch was able to snag a couple (more permanent.) AMA records with a pair of bikes owned by Lawrence Saxton. After setting new marks on a vintage Indian and a Honda CRF450R at a respective 100.002 and 112.476 mph, Cook followed up his busy docket at the Speed Trials with an all-night drive back up to Oregon to participate in a Division 6 NHRA round, where he was victorious in the motorcycle dragracing event.
With our Vulcan sealed in impound after the first day of the five-day Bonneville event, we had plenty of opportunities to meander through the pits (when we weren't chasing the three streamliners, that is) to check in with old friends and make some new ones.
Some of our old friends we ran into at Bonneville were Extreme Scooter creators, Robin and Gary Lamberd. We have already documented the Lamberd brothers and their unique stand-up scooters powered by large dirtbike engines, profiling them earlier this year in our Custom Builder: Extreme Scooter
Some of the familiar faces we ran into at Bonneville were brothers Robin and Gary Lamberd, who were back once again on their unique Extreme Scooter
Robin and Gary were back out on the salt to better their speed of 103.086 mph from 2005. To that end they rolled into Bonneville with some changes to their unique stand-up design, the most noticeable being the fairing-like bodywork to make the machine a bit more aerodynamic. They also sprung for a sweet orange/yellow fade paint job, which might not make the CR500-powered machine run faster but sure makes it look sharp. Topping the list of internal changes, the Lamberd boys made a switch to methanol-alcohol carburetion and wide-ratio gearing, a carryover from their recent drag racing forays. They also fabricated a new drag racing exhaust with a larger expansion chamber and swapped their dirt-friendly O-ring chain for a standard unit with marginally less drag. They even threw on a steering damper in anticipation of a possible crest over the 125-mph mark where the damper is a safety requirement.
After a couple of frustrating runs during the opening days of the event where they timed in the high 80s, the Lamberds went back to the drawing board to figure out what was holding them back. It turned out the alcohol system which had worked so well for the quarter-mile dragstrip back home in Buckeye, Arizona, wasn't as well suited to the five-mile Bonneville circuit. After some head-scratching, they swapped the original race fuel carburetion back on and messed with the gearing. But the Salt gods were not smiling on the Extreme Scooter's efforts this year, and its speed never eclipsed the 2005 number.
The Extreme Scooter has changed a bit since we last saw it, getting a fairing up front and a dragracing exhaust to compliment the new alcohol carburetion.
Undaunted, the ever-resourceful Lamberd boys won't be deterred by their 2006 results; in fact, they plan on expanding their Bonneville participation. The EXS team is building a partial-streamliner entry out of a 2005 Suzuki GSX-R750, with hopes of having it ready in time for next year's BUB event. (Robin's half-serious idea to put the GSX-R750 mill inside the scooter was shot down by brother, Gary, and Project EXS collaborator, Willie Cooper!). As for their Extreme Scooter, they're still planning on continuing with the drag racing and are participating in an upcoming endurance desert race up in Washington this spring. Plus, the Extreme Scooter's inventor, Robin, has ideas about getting to work on a 4-stroke motocross-engined offshoot of his current stand-up design. We'll keep you posted on further developments.
There were plenty of new faces out at Bonneville too, and the added number of first-time participants, combined with some radio problems during the opening days, led to longer lines of frustrated riders waiting to get out onto the salt. On more than one occasion, however, new riders commented on how surprised they were that all the waiting was made worthwhile after experiencing the sensation of burning through the timed mile wound out in top gear. There were a lot more grinning faces at the finish line than the waiting line, that's for sure.
Having lost both his legs in an accident eight years ago, Craig Anderson has still found a way enjoy his passion for motorcycling and arrived at Bonneville looking forward to piloting "The Flying Kiwi."
One first-time participant who caught our eye was Craig Anderson, who took some runs up and down the salt on his sidecar machine dubbed "The Flying Kiwi." The feat was made all the more interesting by the fact that Anderson lost both of his legs eight years ago in an accident unrelated to motorcycles.
"I was an active motorcyclist and have been since I was probably 11 years old," explained Anderson. "I didn't want to stop riding, so I grafted a sidecar onto a BMW and started riding it around. Then this opportunity presented itself and I just had to go with it."
The opportunity Anderson mentioned was the chance to pilot "The Flying Kiwi" down the famed Bonneville Speedway. Anderson operates the machine with an electric shifter and hand controls, with the sidehack being powered by a 2003 GSX-R1000 motor. In 2005, the machine set a world record down in New Zealand at 172 mph before Anderson got his hands on it, with his runs at Bonneville being his first-ever behind the Kiwi's controls.
I could tell the Bonneville salt had gotten to Anderson when I saw him later in the week after multiple passes on the Kiwi. With his maiden sprints on the sidecar machine, Anderson had almost broached the original world record by notching an AMA-record speed of 168.333 mph.
After five days of winding out the Kiwi, getting the sidecar machine up to 168.333 mph, Anderson's return to Bonneville was certain. "Oh there's absolutely no doubt. Yeah, I'm afraid the salt fever has struck deep."
"It's been absolutely wonderful," said Anderson. "It started out on Monday being completely nuts and now here I am going 15-mph faster than I thought I might and almost as fast as what these guys set the world record at." As for whether he will return to the salt for 2007, the Big Bear Lake, California, resident was quick to respond, "Oh there's absolutely no doubt. Yeah, I'm afraid the salt fever has struck deep."
The list of new faces wasn't limited to participants either, as there were some spectators who made the journey out to Bonneville as well. One man traveled all the way from Ghent, Belgium, to get broiled by the Utah sun and watch speed records get shattered. Patrik Baetens got through the usual pitfalls that get tossed at the intrepid world traveler, like credit card snafus and lost rental car reservations, but he was relishing his once-in-a-lifetime Bonneville experience.
"In magazines I could see and know about it, but you have to come here and live it," said Baetens when asked about why he made 5500-mile journey. "I remember the car that first broke the 400 miles in '57, that was Campbell (Donald Campbell, the son of Sir Malcolm Campbell). In '58 there was a World Expo in Brussels and on the stand from England, his machine was there. I remember that. I was only eight years then! (laughing) Since then, I've been thinking about it (coming to Bonneville)."
Patrik Baetens made the trip all the way out from Ghent, Belgium to witness the place where world records are made. An eight-year-old Baetens inspired to make a Bonneville visit back when he saw the Donald Campbell streamliner at the 1958 World Expo in Brussels.
One subplot we expected heading into Bonneville was a no-holds-barred slugfest between the mighty Hayabusa and the new ZX-14. That assumption was damaged by the fact that, in stock trim, the two bikes run in different classes, with the 1299cc Hayabusa in the 1350 class and the 1352cc ZX-14 just missing the cutoff and forced into the 1650 class. In spite of the class difference, the two machines do figure to become the two top adversaries in the chase for the ultimate land-speed record for conventional motorcycles.
John Noonan holds the current world-record of 252.832 mph, which he set at the BUB Speed Trials last year on a turbocharged Hayabusa. Noonan wasn't breaking records this year, however, and the rumor circulating through the pits was that he had sold his record-breaking bike. Expect Noonan to be back at it again in the years to come with a new machine at his disposal.
The displacement discrepancy between the Busa and ZX-14 was a moot point, however, as there weren't many ZX-14s in attendance anyway. The handful we spotted were owned by riders who had entered into the "Run Watcha Brung" class, which allows the weekend warrior set to show up at the event and get a single back-and-forth run on the famed speedway. There was one notable exception amongst the ZX-14 owners, however, as Bill Scherer, an aerial photographer from California, was there to ink his name in the record book.
Sherer's ZX-14 ownership is a bit of a story in and of itself, as his last riding experience before the giant Kawasaki came back in 1971 when he owned a Honda 250. Deciding he wanted to own a world speed record, Sherer and a friend set their eyes on Bonneville when Kawasaki released the ZX-14 earlier this year.
Aris Bernales jumped out of the crowd when he hailed as a visitor to the MCUSA site. The San Jose resident made the trip out to Bonneville with his ZX-12 dragracer because, as he said, "this is on my 'always-wanted-to' list and something I have to do before I die."
"I said to my friend, 'You know, I'd sure like to set a world record.' So we looked at the world records and they weren't very high, at least for this class (1650). He called me about five months ago and said, 'Bill this bike just came out and I think we can set a world record with it,'" explained Sherer on how his ZX-14 Bonneville odyssey got started. "I looked at it and it scared me to death. Everybody said, 'Bill, you're going to kill yourself.'"
The airplane pilot was able to pick up the powerful learning curve of the muscular Kawasaki, even if the new rider/ZX-14 pairing makes MSF instructors want to go into spastic convulsions. Sherer had a few scrapes in the ZX-14s bodywork where he had one drop to his credit, but the pilot soon mastered the red Kawasaki. During the Speed Trials Scherer was a constant presence on his ZX-14 and seemed to always be at the starting line waiting for another pass. For his tireless efforts at Bonneville, Scherer was awarded three AMA records and the FIM world record he had wanted all along, topping the new Kawasaki out at 195.474 mph.
In reality there were far more Kawasaki ZX-12s at Bonneville than the newer, bigger 14s. Most machines at the Salt Flats are project bikes, with many having multiple visits to Bonneville under their belts. There wasn't much time for ZX-14 owners to tweak their new purchases, and some of the aftermarket parts common on most were still being fabricated. For example, the steering damper on Sherer's ZX is one of the first available for the new Kawi, and one is required by Bonneville scrutineers for any bike that exceeds 125 mph.
We did find one ZX-12 owner, Aris Bernales, who was a true Bonneville rookie. The San Jose resident, who distinguished himself to us on by hailing as a regular visitor to our site (which always makes us happy), brought his weekend drag-racing machine out to the Salt Flats to see what she could do.
Bernales shows off his official time for the MCUSA camera. Finishing at 189.986 mph, he was determined to one day get his ZX-12 up past 190.
"This is on my 'always-wanted-to' list and something I have to do before I die," said Bernales about the reason for his trek to Bonneville.
Between trips back and forth covering the ongoing streamliner battle, on occasion, we'd bump into a smiling Bernales waiting in line to make another run. The Kawi rider kept facing new barriers he was determined to break. The first hurdle was cracking 300 kmh (186.4 mph) and we found Bernales tinkering in the pits, changing a rear sprocket to go just a little bit faster. Before leaving the event we ran into Bernales one last time and it looked like he might have gotten bitten by the Salt bug too, as he now sits on 189.986 mph and was determined to get it over 190 before he'd find true satisfaction.
If this year is any indication, expect many of the first-timers like Anderson, Sherer, and Bernales to make repeat visits as the BUB event grows in popularity. With its unique atmosphere and camaraderie, Bonneville will continue to attract those seeking the ultimate test of speed.
Stay tuned for follow up articles on custom builder Roger Goldammer, who was in attendance for an episode of Discovery's Biker Build-Off, as well as the folks from Hayes Diversified Technology who were testing their diesel-powered machines, of which they are supplying prototypes to the U.S. Marine Corps.
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