Motorized-Bicycles are Welcome on The Salt Flats!
In September 2008, I participated in the USFRA's "World of Speed '08" on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Here's sorta how that happened.
1-Golden Eagle Bike Engines
In 2007, when I was still exploring & learning about this new & exciting THING called Motorized-Bicycling, and I was still at the epicenter, I was approached by a company I was only barely aware of...a little family-run operation out of Lansing Michigan named Golden Eagle Bike Engines.
GEBE sent me a sample of its' offering, which is a rear-mounted centrifugal-clutch belt-drive arrangement of their own design. I instantly fell in love with the setup, which came to me with the Tanaka "Pure Fire" 32cc 2-stroke option.
It didn't take long for me to fall in love with the GEBE people, too. They are into MB'ing and alternative-transportation, and it was clear they thoroughy enjoyed sharing their background, and nurturing a friendship, with another enthusiast.
From the GEBE website:
|The chief engineer here at Golden Eagle designed the friction drive unit that was chosen as "Official Transportation" at the Knoxville Worlds Fair in 1980. Having worked on friction drives for several years he became acutely aware of the pitfalls and drawbacks of this type of design SO it was back to the drawing board.|
The first prototype we built was made from the belt off a cloths dryer, weed trimmer engine and oyster-serving tray. Now, after years of design changes and testing, he has come up with a design we consider better then anything on the market. Better performance, better mileage, less wear on the engine and bicycle.
|At Golden Eagle it is our goal to provide the most dependable and affordable transportation for young and old alike. To continue to work on research and development of the best bicycle assist device available, and provide transportation for physically or the economically impaired.|
I spent a lot of time on the phone with Dennis & Julia, I have yet to meet them in real-life, and I learned that Den in fact hails from the good old days of 4-stroke motocross. He's a total gearhead and will happily spend hours "bench-racing" with you, whether you're a customer or not.
And then one day, he says to me "Oh yeah, when I took the new system to the Salt Flats to see what it would do..."
I broke in "Hold it! Did you say they let you run on the lake?"
"Yup," Den said, "So, anyway, about that clutch..."
"Forget the clutch! You're telling me a MB was at the Salt Flats?!"
Den, totally nonchalantly, says "Yeah, it wasn't anything official, we entered the "barstool" class, but I just had to do it."
Me, NOT so nonchalantly... "Well, if that's the case, I wanna race my MB as an official vehicle! Will you help me?"
"Yes, I will" he said.
4-At The Salt Flats
(clicking the above link will open a new window)
Check the 130 Club Runs Wed. 9/17/08...the picture there was taken by Dan Wright, USFRA Lead Tech Inspector. I think they liked the idea of using a bicycle for small-engine competition...everywhere I went, I was treated with all the respect and right-of-way any participant received. Needless to say, I had a great time.
Also if you find "Click here for some nice photos from a WOS visitor"...I'm on page 4, but this entire gallery is amazing, and a great example of the environment.
Also opens in a new window...the 3rd (Apple Quicktime) video down.
2-Utah Salt Flats Racing Association
The first thing I had to do was learn about the racing venue (and class) that would accept Motorized-Bicycles. That turned out to be the Utah Salt Flats Racing Associations' "130MPH Club"...which is more or less a proving ground for amateurs & beginners...a 1-mile course where the goal is to achieve 129MPH from a standing start.
I contacted USFRA with information about me and the MB, and learned that, yes, I could enter this class. All I had to do, to officially run my Motorized-Bicycle, was become a member of USFRA, meet the safety-requirements for motorcycle riders, and pay a full entry-fee like any other vehicle.
WOW! I was going to Bonneville!!
But, I didn't know exactly how I was gonna pull that off just yet.
5-Milestones for MB-Racing?
Milestones? Well, let's take a look, and then you decide.
As far as I know, this is the first time a 50cc/under Motorized-Bicycle had run at Bonneville with all the vehicle rights of any entrant. All that took was simply paying the full-fees for the "130MPH Club."
As Utah doesn't (or didn't at the time, you'll need to research) have any definitive laws for motor-assisted-bicycles, the Driver-License requirement was waived. Keep in mind, I was purposely way-under the 50cc ceiling for this reason, I felt I (we) needed this minor coup, and i DO consider it a coup. Nothing sneaky, or underhanded, just a good reason to stay MB.
I used both the 40cc (below, stock-engine with HP carby) and 32cc (above, stock-engine with HP carby, boost-bottle, HP pipe)...the 32cc, being broken in, outperformed the relatively new 40cc. With the 32cc Tanaka, I posted a top speed of 32.4mph...I was estatic when my speedo ticked over that 32 mark! When I returned to the Pit after this run, I rolled up to some motorcycle racers and announced "OK, anyone who's clocked 1MPH per CC, raise your hand!"...and they were estatic FOR me! Any unique statistic during a landspeed event is at least a gearhead accomplishment.
This is more of a personal milestone, but one I'm very proud of...Golden Eagle sent me a company check for riding at WOS, and in the memo it said "Racing Bonus"...well, folks, I believe that makes me the first Professional MB Racer. That's not saying much in the larger scheme of things, but doggone it I finally did something worth braggin' on, and I am one happy bubba.
Candidly, beyond braggin' rights for the accomplishment itself, the only "gain" for me to get out of this would be to see another 35cc MB run the 130MPH Club to beat my base-time and therefore set an official record. That's another MBcoup for the racing books, imo, for whoever does that.
Look, I didn't do squat performance-wise, & I don't care, but I sure did make "slow" look good...and I did a lot of positive MB representing, broke some ground, found the way in.
Five 1-Mile runs in 3 days...I'm here to tell you, it's perfect for Motorized-Bicycles.
If you wanna be the "world's fastest motorized-bicycle" first you have to define what that means. I wanted Sabrina2 to be an entirely "new" class of vehicle, and I think I pulled it off. I like "MB Mile'r" Class, myself. 50cc & 35cc subclassed. Now dig this: Every favorite supplier sells at least one option that qualifies for Milin', so everyone and every style are represented, noone's being excluded. Read on, please.
Anyone running the Salt on anything larger than a 50cc assist may find themselves being viewed (and possibly inspected) as a "motorcycle with pedals" as Motorcycles are already classed down to 50cc. This is only my gearhead conjecture, it's not a USFRA rule, but it's something to consider.
Big Engines and gears and whatnot, high-end performance stuff...USFRA won't exclude you...and all I'd say is just build it safe, and enjoy your bad-ass crazy self all you want, this is off-road racing and i will root you on. Shoot, you got the money, bring your hardcore extreme MB and a 50cc Mile'r, split your 5 runs up however you want.
NOTE: The Tech guys mentioned that if I intended to ever exceed 60MPH "on a bicycle" then they may be more stringent during the inspection process, and they will require speed-rated tires. From a standing start to the 1-Mile trap, hitting 60MPH with a 50cc "Miler" might be right at the outer-edge of doable therefore much-fun seeing how close you can get.
"Personal Safety on The Salt" is USFRA's primary concern, and full leathers and a SNELL helmet are required for all 2-wheeled racers.
I believe we have all the makings in place for a great Motorsporting Event. And if you look at the "specialty" classes that USFRA accommodates in the 130 Club, it doesn't take much to imagine achieving the same for Motorized-Bicycles...all that would be required is a willingness to accept the mechanical parameters to keep competiton level and fair, and to exhibit solidarity amongst ourselves...and of course the other requirement would be to actually do it! We'd probably need to mount a decent sized fleet for a couple of years before we'd be taken seriously, but I get the feeling we would eventually be given our slot. I like to think positive.
Running a MB at the USFRA's World of Speed isn't all that costly a vacation...camping & RV-parking is free about a mile from the gate, showers and hot food, groceries & beverages, all nearby. The USFRA membership/entry fees are reasonable for such an exciting experience. And once your project takes form, and people can see you ARE for real, you'll be astounded at the personal support that will flood in.
I see a few MB Landspeed discussions around the web but they are mostly dead-end...if anyone seriously wants to give Bonneville a serious try, and there's any way I can help, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
3-Back to Golden Eagle
Taking me at my word, and trusting my enthusiasm, GEBE sent me another system...this one powered by the Tanaka 40cc 2-stroke. I needed something to ride full-time while i re-did Sabrina2, and I cobbled together this Diamondback/GEBE/Currie Electric Hybrid. It was a fun bike, both to ride and to show off. I called it "Bluto."
One step at a time: I found a ride with another MB'er who had always wanted to go to Bonneville, I started paying off USFRA membership & entry fees, and I started rebuilding S2.
I stripped her down and bartered for a glossy Mopar-Green paintjob, donations came in for the little things like matching grips & pedals, and chrome chainring & nickel-plated chain. I saved up and ordered a custom "Velocity" wheelset through GEBE, Den liked my choices so much that he still offers this set for retail sale. A GEBE dealer in New Mexico whose primary occupation was signmaking donated the number-plate. The (in)famous stimulus payment of '08 paid for my custom full-leathers and SNELL-helmet.
And just like that, IT was REAL.
(truth be told, it wasn't as easy as i've made it sound...if details are requested, i'll happily go deeper into what it took.)