The Time Tunnel - Motorcycle Speed Record

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By Jon Urry on Thu, 14 Oct 2010 - 02:10


Time Tunnel

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah USA, Sunday 1 July, 1990. The largest crowd ever seen on the Flats has gathered to witness a motorcycle land speed record. The bike was owned by American bike mag Easyriders, sponsored by 10,000 of its readers who each paid $25 to have their name on the side. Dave Campos was riding. Here's his story.

"On one of the first runs at around 250mph the bike started to wobble, but I just dug my elbows into my stomach to brace the bars. At 300mph it was all I could do to hold on and eventually the force ripped the bars from my hands and we crashed. I thought I could just ride through the wobble. I was wrong. I bruised my thumb, but the bike was really beat up, so we needed to rebuild it for another run. We traced the problem to the front wheel. In an earlier test the front tyre had blown. The only 15-inch tyres rated to 400mph were Firestones that stopped production in 1967, so we were forced to use 23-year-old tyres on our runs. After an earlier accident we swapped the tubed wheel for a solid aluminium one, which led to the second accident. The tubed wheel weighed 13lb, but the solid aluminium one weighed 75lb, and once it set off on a gyroscopic wobble there was no stopping it.

"After the crash we stripped the bike down and anyone in the crowd who could help did. It took us three days working non-stop to get the bike fixed. The frame was still bent but we put it back on the tubed tyres and went for it. On 14 July I set the AMA and FIM absolute speed record with an average of 322.149mph. I was disappointed, I could have gone faster and wanted 350mph.

"We used two 1500cc Harley-Davidson Shovelhead engines, which had a water jacket built round them and made around 300bhp combined. They were normally aspirated, no turbo, and we had nitrous but didn't use it. Shame really. I'd have loved to feel what it could have done. We only used three gears: first did 200mph, second 285 and third was good for top speed. At 322mph the engines were only doing 5200rpm but I concentrated on the mile markers, which passed about every 10 seconds, and the wobble. The frame was still bent after the accident, which was why the speed wasn't as high as I wanted. During the run I had to close the throttle to get it back under control, that cost me 10-15mph. You know, I want someone to break the record so I can get it back. I'm 64 and I don't want to be the oldest out there! I want to get 350mph."

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah USA, Sunday 1 July, 1990. The largest crowd ever seen on the Flats has gathered to witness a motorcycle land speed record. The bike was owned by American bike mag Easyriders, sponsored by 10,000 of its readers who each paid $25 to have their name on the side. Dave Campos was riding. Here's his story.

"On one of the first runs at around 250mph the bike started to wobble, but I just dug my elbows into my stomach to brace the bars. At 300mph it was all I could do to hold on and eventually the force ripped the bars from my hands and we crashed. I thought I could just ride through the wobble. I was wrong.

"I bruised my thumb, but the bike was really beat up, so we needed to rebuild it for another run. We traced the problem to the front wheel. In an earlier test the front tyre had blown. The only 15-inch tyres rated to 400mph were Firestones that stopped production in 1967, so we were forced to use 23-year-old tyres on our runs. After an earlier accident we swapped the tubed wheel for a solid aluminium one, which led to the second accident. The tubed wheel weighed 13lb, but the solid aluminium one weighed 75lb, and once it set off on a gyroscopic wobble there was no stopping it.

"After the crash we stripped the bike down and anyone in the crowd who could help did. It took us three days working non-stop to get the bike fixed. The frame was still bent but we put it back on the tubed tyres and went for it. On 14 July I set the AMA and FIM absolute speed record with an average of 322.149mph. I was disappointed, I could have gone faster and wanted 350mph.

"We used two 1500cc Harley-Davidson Shovelhead engines, which had a water jacket built round them and made around 300bhp combined. They were normally aspirated, no turbo, and we had nitrous but didn't use it. Shame really. I'd have loved to feel what it could have done. We only used three gears: first did 200mph, second 285 and third was good for top speed. At 322mph the engines were only doing 5200rpm but I concentrated on the mile markers, which passed about every 10 seconds, and the wobble. The frame was still bent after the accident, which was why the speed wasn't as high as I wanted. During the run I had to close the throttle to get it back under control, that cost me 10-15mph. You know, I want someone to break the record so I can get it back. I'm 64 and I don't want to be the oldest out there! I want to get 350mph."

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