Six riders attempt to crack the illusive 200mph barrier at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground
TAKE six people who've never done 200mph before, take one of the fastest bikes in Britain, add a two-mile long runway and this is how it feels
200mph is a number banded around a lot these days as a number easily achievable on a modern superbike. It's a bit silly really as all these bikes are limited to 'only' 186mph, and a Hayabusa or ZZR1400 will happily hit this point, then go no further. For the dedicated speed freak or M4 terrorist, it's all frightfully frustrating.
But there is a gaping void between having your bike flat-out for a few seconds, and doing a genuine 200mph. At 200mph, it takes you just 17 seconds to cover a mile. You're eating up 293 feet every second. Your breathing comes in ragged gasps and as you squeeze every part of your body tighter behind the fairing, the wind blast goes eerily quiet and all you can hear is the high-pitched whine of the engine. You rest the chinbar of your helmet on the top of the tank, and can actually feel the vibrations buzzing through your head. It's addictive and, frankly, rather scary. If the bike seized now or the rear tyre blew up (and they sometimes do) you'd have the biggest crash of your life. It's best not to think about it.
TO CAPTURE ALL THOSE FEELINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE ASSEMBLED A MIX OF RIDERS AND READERS WHO'D NEVER DONE 200MPH BEFORE AND STUCK THEM IN THE MIDDLE OF A TWO-MILE RUNWAY. LOST AND A LITTLE BEWILDERED, WE THEN INTRODUCED THEM TO MIKE GRAINGER, OWNER OF GT MOTORCYCLES IN PLYMOUTH AND HIS SUPER-TUNED KAWASAKI ZX-12R. IT'S A KNOWN FACT THAT TURBOCHARGED BIKES BLOW UP, SO WE ASKED FOR MIKE'S BIKE BECAUSE IT'S NATURALLY ASPIRATED AND HAS DONE OVER 150 RUNS IN EXCESS OF 200MPH. WE THEN GAVE THEM A SINGLE RUN UP THE STRIP ON A ZZ-R1400 TO GET A FEEL FOR THE PLACE AND WHERE TO BRAKE, AND THEN EACH RIDER GOT TWO RUNS TO ACHIEVE THEIR BEST POSSIBLE TIME. WE POSITIONED OUR PHOTOGRAPHER AT THE END OF THE STRAIGHT TO SHOOT THEIR REACTIONS AS THEY CAME TO A STANDSTILL, AND RECORDED THE FIRST THINGS THEY BLURTED OUT. THIS IS HOW DOING 200MPH FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER MAKES YOU FEEL...
THE TWO READER
HIGHEST PREVIOUS TOP SPEED: 152MPH
Top Speed: 185.6mph
Tim is an Army bike instructor and rides a BMW R1150LT. Underneath this sensible demeanour, however, lurks the mind of a former speed freak. When he was 23 he owned a ZZR1100, and he "used to ride for no other reason than to ride fast," he admits. "Now the bike is more an extension of my character. I like to use it to explore." On the day of his 200mph attempt his nerves showed, and he wanted to make sure he was happy with everything before he threw a leg over the bike. Tim's run began with a shock: the acceleration on the ZX-12R was like nothing he had felt before. "As I changed from fourth to fifth my leathers pulled at my neck, my helmet was trying to remove itself and my knees were being pulled from the tank. I was aware how bad my aerodynamics must have been, but any ideas I had about changing my body position went out of the window. I was scared. I was riding way out of my comfort zone, initially I couldn't see the braking marker and the feeling of creeping panic set in. When I could see it I tucked in and tried to squeeze the last few mph out of myself, my senses had overloaded though and I felt relief rather than elation when I realised I could get on the brakes." With his heart pounding it reminded him of the feeling you get when you have just had a near miss on a bike. He admitted he didn't like the sensation and with shaking hands a good 10 minutes after his run, said he still felt sick. Did he think he could do faster? "Definitely." 200mph? "I doubt it, I think my 16 stone puts paid to that!"
THE PR GUY
PROFESSION: BMF PR MANAGER
HIGHEST PREVIOUS TOP SPEED: 160MPH
TOP SPEED: 190.2MPH
Jeff is the press officer for the BMF. "I remember cracking a ton for the first time back in the '60s on a BSA, it felt great at the time." He definitely wasn't lacking in confidence to give it a go, not displaying any nerves, although he did seem to be asking more and more questions of Mike as his turn drew closer. Jeff's practice run on the ZZR1400 we took along as a practice bike seemed to go well as he promptly power wheelied into the distance: Jeff meant business. Before he threw a leg over the ZX-12R he told me that this was something he had always wanted to try before he died, and that he and his wife had been joking about him combining the two events. Funny now, but as I was stood beside him looking at the sweat on his brow I couldn't even muster a giggle. Yet Jeff hammered up the track. "I just stared straight ahead and changed gear by feel, it felt like I was going to take off. I took a peek at the rev counter and saw that I was doing 11,000rpm in top. This change of focus caused my eyes to blur, and I can remember swearing into my helmet as I approached the braking marker. It felt much faster than I ever expected and I was convinced I had just cracked 200." When Jeff arrived back he was very excited, "Fuck me that's fast!" He didn't care what the number was, and his reaction to his result wasn't at all one of disappointment. But given time to reflect and calm down he confided, "bugger, I really wanted to go faster." Spoken like a true English gentleman, and ridden like a complete hooligan. Good man.
THE CUSTOMER SERVICES MANAGER
PROFESSION: CUSTOMER SERVICES
HIGHEST PREVIOUS TOP SPEED: 160MPH
TOP SPEED: 202.8MPH
Lucy Plowman owns an R1 and rides it hard. She isn't the sort of person to brag, battered knee sliders and tyres worn to the edges do the talking for her. She's our kind of biker chick. Initially she kept herself quiet and a couple of the guys wondered if she knew what she had let herself in for. She thumbed the starter, didn't pull away very dramatically and short-shifted her way in to top. "I was amazed at how small such a huge place can seem so small when you're peering through a tiny screen. Once I was in top I settled myself down and pinned the throttle back. Even at these speeds the runway seemed to go on forever, when the braking marker came into view I concentrated on that - willing myself to keep it nailed." We were amazed at how long Lucy seemed to have the bike flat out and we knew that she would post a good speed. "Braking wasn't as scary as I thought it would be, turns out there was loads of room," she said breathlessly afterwards. "When I stopped, I could feel that my eyes were as wide as saucers and my heart was really giving it some. I felt quite relaxed while on the bike, but stopping seemed to make all the emotions kick in." Riding back, Lucy was desperate for the number to be over 200. When she found out that she had easily beaten the 200mph mark and had in fact gone quicker than everyone else she leapt into the air, shouting in excitement. "I think that any woman who posted the fastest time in that company would have found it hard not to be a little giddy with the achievement!"
THE FORMER PRO
PROFESSION: MOTORCYCLE COMMENTATOR, FORMER RACER
HIGHEST PREVIOUS TOP SPEED: 198MPH
TOP SPEED: 202.3MPH
Whit has never done 200mph. but his chilled manner helped to relax everyone else who was getting nervy on the day. James was third to go up the strip, and with his usual cocky manner, he just disappeared into the distance. "It just tracked along dead straight, no fuss," he said afterwards. "The bike feels really strong though, it's been put together well. I did consider taking a hand off and hiding it in behind the fairing, but didn't fancy finding out this bike has a 200mph death weave the hard way!" Even after everything Whit has done his reaction was worth seeing. Years on incredibly quick racebikes and he was pumped like everyone else. "Bloody hell that is fast, didn't feel that quick mind, must be 'cos this place is so open, you never get a real feeling of speed here." With that James unzipped his leathers and sat back in the sun, encouraging people and taking the piss whenever he could.
THE 200MPH BIKE
Mike's 200mph ZX-12R was built four years ago. Since then Mike has done hundreds of runs at 200mph or more on this very bike. It's not turbocharged and all the bike has had in that time has been oil and filter changes, and clutch plates. Brian Capper who built the engine was reluctant to divulge too much about what he had done to the engine, but blue-printing, balancing, and a fat fuel injection system are definite. Power is around 210bhp.
THE BIKE JOURNALIST
PROFESSION: BIKE JOURNO
HIGHEST PREVIOUS TOP SPEED: 180MPH
TOP SPEED: 196.6MPH
There is such a difference between silly numbers on the road and doing 200mph. I felt no nerves at all until the night before the event. They weren't huge stomach churners, but they were in there. I didn't go into this seeing it as a competition, but was desperate to clock the double-ton. Mike said he would do the first run to ensure the bike was okay. It was when he started the bike up that my nerves went into overdrive. I have ridden fast here loads of times before, so put my nerves down to the fact that all the other times it was to see how fast a bike could go, not how fast I could go. Mike wheeled the bike as far back as he could and launched it through a gap where we stood and we watched. It looked bloody scary and fast. He posted a speed of 203mph and handed me the bike, so I started from where he had. I didn't want to ping off the limiter on the way through the gears but I revved it until I was in top. Everything I wanted to think about went out of the window. Watching the concrete expansion joints rip past me I started thinking of Burt Munro from the movie 'The World's fastest Indian'. What I didn't think about was body position or gears and I tried to hook a seventh gear that didn't exist. It felt horrendously fast, but not really that scary and I was giggling with excitement and convinced I had done over 200mph. I sat and enjoyed the high I was experiencing and even when I found out I hadn't achieved 200 I was still feeling floaty. 15 minutes later the reality kicked in that I hadn't achieved what I set out to do and I felt massively disappointed. I was so close, but it might as well have been 20mph off. Bah! As usual for me it was close, but no cigar.
HIGHEST PREVIOUS TOP SPEED: 130MPH
TOP SPEED: 186.7MPH
Andy works with the local government to reduce accidents involving riders on his home patch of Lincoln. He owns a Fireblade and has ridden as a police rider for 15 years, and he cut his family holiday short to get over to the strip. Everytime I spoke to Andy he would start a sentence with a safety message and finish it with a high-speed comment. "Are you aware how much distance you cover while you're thinking about braking travelling at 200mph?" he would say, before finishing it off with "that ZZ-R is mental, I'm going to buy one of them when I retire!" Andy's nerves didn't really show themselves at all. "I think the amount of training I have had in the past is helping, plus this is a controlled environment, there isn't much that can go wrong, is there?" He's obviously never had a blow-up at top whack. Andy took as many opportunities as he could to familiarise himself with the layout of the track. When his time came he donned his police issue helmet with clear visor and strode over to the bike. "It's a bit different to Bikesafe," were his parting words as his shot off up the track. True to form, as Andy pulled away on a deserted runway he instictively looked behind him in the classic 'lifesaver'. "When I got into top I tucked in as best as I could, but I weigh 16.5 stone and it wasn't easy, even though the ZX-12R felt huge. I had it pinned in top and was willing myself to keep it there for as long as possible." At the end Andy's pupils were huge and he was sweating like mad. "Holy shit, that was brilliant!" he squawked, but when he got his result of186.7mph, he was instantly disappointed. "I really thought I would manage the 200, I can't believe I was so far off." While we were preparing the bike for the next run Andy stalked off. Kicking stones in the corner of the carpark he relayed his disappointment to his son on his phone. As much of a professional matter as this is, Andy felt he had let himself down personally. That's what the double-ton does to you!
We want to hear your stories of the fastest you've ever been on your bike and how it made you feel. Whether it was with a group of mates at the Nurburgring, following a friend down a French pŽage, or just tucking it all in at 2am on the M6, we want to know all about it. Was it scary, or just plain stupid? Perhaps it wasn't as mad as you'd thought it would be, and what's the point of top speed anyway? We will edit together the best stories and comments for inclusion in a future issue of the magazine, and we'd also like to see any pictures you've got. Rest assured that anonymity is guaranteed in this instance! What's the fastest you've been?
Ex-Performance Bikes Editor, racer and pipe smoker, Mark Forsyth, jumped off a ZZ-R1100 at 174mph while having a race with an aeroplane. This is how it felt...
"That gut-churning delay between thinking this was the final curtain and the moment of impact with the abrasive tarmac of Bruntingthorpe's two-mile runway seemed to last for minutes rather than split seconds. Slow-mo vision. Fuck me, 170mph is fast when you're about to bail out.
In a moment of appalling panic braking, I'd locked the front wheel almost the instant I whipped through the speed trap at 174mph. I saw the end of the runway, thought I couldn't stop and - not to put a too finer point on it - shat my pants and grabbed a big handful of front brake lever.
I remember sliding and getting very, very hot. As I waited to slam into the bank at the end of the runway I started to grip and tumble - arms, legs, hands and feet flailing in every direction. It was very bad.
Then I twatted my head and knocked myself out. A huge relief: out cold, better than any drug for dealing with pain.
Miraculously unbroken with just the tiniest cut on my thumb, I came round to discover two complete strangers pouring whisky into my mouth. The only witness to the whole crash, the man operating the speed trap, was so convinced I was dead that he jumped in his car and drove in the opposite direction to call the emergency services.
To this day I still 'enjoy' a recurring nightmare where my moment of losing the front and hitting the tarmac coincides with falling out of bed and hitting the carpet. It seems that crashing whilst pinned in sixth on Kawasaki's fastest is not a sensation you ever forget. But the biggest irony is that if I'd just braked normally, I'd have stopped at the end with room to spare!"
I passed my bike test on my 17th birthday back in 1981 on a tatty Kawasaki KH250 and ever since then I have had THE NEED FOR SPEED. By the time I was 18 I was riding around on a brand new Honda CB750FB which would pull me up to 130mph, and when a mate of mine took it on himself to challenge me to a flat out race rolling on in top from 80mph with him on his Honda CB750F2 the race was on. As we came down the slip road onto the A55 at Abergele heading towards Llanddulas we both hit the dual carriageway at 80mph and he started to pull away, so I wound the throttle hard to the stop and started to pull back on him as I came along side he up-shifted into top. I moulded myself to my bike and with my feet on the rear pegs and peering over the clocks I pulled away topping out at 135mph.
By the time I was 19 I was looking at the then mighty Honda CB1100RR, taking one out for a test run from my local Honda dealer, I took it out and found it would do 155mph (indicated) I was then set with the dilemma I was going to kill myself on a bike this powerful around the Welsh roads.
I stayed with my 750 and for a while I was happy. At 22 I hung up my leathers for married life but the bike where always in my mind with the freedom of the open road and the speed.
The wife always knew that I was lusting over another bike and one day she said get yourself another bike, me now in my mid thirties and thinking that I had grown up a bit since my younger years went out and bought a tatty old Kawasaki ZX10, which needed some TLC. I was not bothered I would ride this for a couple of years to see if I could get back into biking after a 15 year layoff, it was like stepping back 15 years when I first threw my leg over the Zx10 and I found that I still liked going really fast and soon found the Zx10 would pull me up to the 160mph mark I would go out on runs just to find someone in a Porsche to have a race with.
Posted: 19/06/2008 at 21:50
My wife likes bikes and has always gone pillion and knows what I like, flicking through some of the bike mags I would drop hints on what is nice and what I would like next, the year is now 2001 and my birthday getting near (well 4 months away) the wife starts to ask me what I would like for my 37th birthday. Three months before my birthday the wife said we are going out for lunch she drove. As we went passed a bike shop she said how about a new helmet and cloves for you birthday as she pulled into the car park of the bike shop. Hand in hand and me happy that I was getting a new lid we walked past a Kawasaki Zx12r in silver my favourite colour. Still drooling over the Zx12r we walked into the shop, a salesman came over to us and said to my wife “good afternoon Mrs E it is all waiting for you” I thought what the hell is going on! The salesman gestured towards the door and the wife lead me outside. The salesman standing next to the Zx12r then handed me a set of keys. The wife said to me I know it is early but I wanted you to have some of the summer to enjoy the new bike. I did not know what to do. Standing in front of me a brand new 2001 Kawasaki Zx12r “I cried and hugged her” it took me an hour to get myself back together again before I could ride away from the showroom with my new bike and a new set of Wolf leathers, cloves and AGV helmet.
On my way home after a ride out with the club ride-out.com lads I stopped at Charnock Richard filling station south bound on the M6 to fill up with fuel before I got home, it was a lovely sunny Sunday evening with not a hint of wind and just a short run down the M58 and through Liverpool before getting home to Birkenhead, as I rounded the roundabout onto the M58 I could see no cars so a wound the bike up off the roundabout the 12 just kept going and going 160 180 190 195 200 205mph (indicated) at which I thought to myself what if the rear tyre lets go so I gently wound the throttle off, now I am a big lad at 6”2’ and fairly strong the surprise I had when winding off the power the suction behind my back started to pull me off the back of the bike by the time I had the bike back down to 170mph the suction had stopped and I was nearing the end of the M58 which is just under 12 miles long from end to end I had covered the distance in 4 min’s 12 seconds and used ¾ of a tank of fuel. To this day I tell my tail of my M58 run and not many people believe a production bike will pull such speeds but I am happy with the knowledge that I have done it even though it was indicated I am happy, I will never sell my Zx12r the wife will go first.
Posted: 19/06/2008 at 21:52
Posted: 19/06/2008 at 22:01
Posted: 19/06/2008 at 22:05
Posted: 19/06/2008 at 23:13
Good little story and a lucky man to have such a wife who would do something like that.
Just proves you can't bloody trust them...heh heh.
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 08:48
What's the stopping distance at 200 mile per hour?
At 200mph you are covering a mile every 18 seconds roughly speaking.
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 09:58
You wife is a true angel! You are one very lucky man.
You are also lucky not to have been caught at such speeds. Now every Welsh rozzer will be looking for a silver ZX12R.
Having said that, it's a guy thing 'aint it? Wether it be a Car or a bike if we see an empty road we just feel the need to see how fast it will go
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 10:01
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 10:05
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 11:10
Big Nige wrote (see)
A machine, a collection of bits of metal and plastic is really more important to you than your wife?
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 12:28
/\ /\ /\
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 12:29
HiNow take it to a top speed run day at Woodbridge or Elvington and find out how fast it will really go rather than on the speedo.Managed an actual 181.8.mph from an unfaired Bandit with a bit of a tail wind. Speedo needle was pointing towards where 200mph would be if it was marked that high.All the bestKeith
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 13:02
Your wife sounds like a great person!
She must really love you.
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 13:13
Kickstart I do know that it was only on the speedo and true speed must have been around the 190 mark put to travel 11.9 miles in 4mins 12secs gives me an average of around 180 mark.
And I hope the wife does she has put up with me for 26 years.
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 13:21
Great read, the 1st part pretty much described my biking history.
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 13:36
180 mph out of a Bandit?
Which drugs are you taking!?
kickstart68 wrote (see)
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 22:31
I was going to ask the same question as i caught up with and passed a 1200 bandit in my old cossie, passed it about 155 (indicated) and i thought he had some big balls holding onto it at that speed on an open motorway, i was shiting my self just going past him
Posted: 20/06/2008 at 23:11
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 00:35
Unless of course he means a highly tuned, turbocharged maybe even nitrous assisted Bandit of course?
I was under the impression the 12 Bandit had a top speed in the region of 145mph against the 600's 125 or so?
Personally I reckon the more speed you have the more likely you are to want to use it as often as possible, not necessarily a great thing.
I've always thought there were other factors to enjoying a bike more important than sheer top speed, for me the feel of the bike and the way it produces the power is more interesting. But then I'm not a competitive person!
NUTTIN RILLA wrote (see)
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 09:32
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 09:42
nice story and top lass your mrs
i want to try one of these top speed days, any one got a link or has experience of one
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 09:49
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 10:17
HiMy Bandit is a 1216 one with played with head and cams, Akrpovic full system and 40mm flat slide carbs. Made 157hp when dynoed when the carbs were set up. The 181.8mph (through timing lights, did 2 runs over 180mph that day) was with a bit of a tail wind as mentioned, but will manage over 170mph true top speed in neutral conditions. Running one tooth down on the back and one up on the front.On mine an indicated 170mph (last speedo marking) is an actual 154.5mph and bang on the red line on stock gearing. Don't think this Sunday is a top speed run day at Elvington, but there is one at the start of August. Also the Straightliners / 200mph event at Woodbridge in September (181.8mph was at a 200mph day at Woodbridge), although you need to be a member first due to MOD restrictions.Putting a video camera on the bike (bullet camera gaffer taped to a tank bag containing the video camera) meant sitting a bit higher and knocked about 12mph off the top speed for this run, but:-http://www.alfa-pages.co.uk/TempPicture/Videos/BanditTopSpeed.wmvOr if you have time for a large download:-http://www.alfa-pages.co.uk/TempPicture/Videos/BanditTopSpeedFull.mpgStart of the runway we were using then was pretty rough, hence I didn't open it up until the smoother section.All the bestKeith
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 14:20
CanisMajor wrote (see)
good read and lucky bastard! but what are these 'cloves' you keep mentioning?
That would be a pair of these!
This is my son sporting my CLOVES he is only 16.
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 14:26
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 16:29
Posted: 21/06/2008 at 20:31
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